Carbonara is derived from the italian word carbonaro or ‘charcoal burner’. Among many theories as to its origin, is thought to have been then name given to a hearty meal made for Italian coal miners. Carbonara is actually a relatively recent invention, originating as recently as the middle of the 20th century when Italians in Rome were gaining access to American eggs and bacon supplied by the US troops.
The ingredients are limited and the cooking method simple; hot pasta is combined with raw eggs, cheese, black pepper and rendered fat, typically from guanciale (cheek), pancetta or bacon. The result is silky and slippery, porky and flavourful.. altogether an excellent dish.
Given the limited number of ingredients, this is a great opportunity to bring together the best you can find of each. I stopped in at Claytons Butcher in South Perth and was really impressed with the quality of products, excellent knowledge and service. They’ve recently visited the farm where their pork comes from and even took a video to show customers just how ‘free range’ the farm is. Claytons make their own ham, bacon and sausages so I thought I would give some a try.
You will need:
500g premium free range bacon
5-6 large free range eggs
3 tbsp milk
Cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley (optional)
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Pasta, the best you can find
For this method you’ll need to get everything ready, as it all comes together quickly at the end. Start by setting a large saucepan of water to boil, adding a few teaspoons of salt to help it boil hotter. Meanwhile slice the bacon into generous 2cm squares or strips. Keep the fat on as the rendered fat in the pan is part of the cooking method. Cook the bacon in a
non-stick fry pan over medium heat allowing each side to sear, tilt the pan to one side to gather the rendered fat as best as you can, turn the heat off, and leave the bacon in the pan until you’re ready to use it. Slice the tomatoes into halves or quarters as you prefer, shred the parsley and put both to the side. Grate the cheese using a fine grater if you have one, though anything will do really enough for about a cup of cheese (half will be for serving).
Now add the pasta to the boiling water and reduce the heat to medium. In a mixing bowl large enough for whisking, add the six eggs, milk, a good handful of the parsley, 1tsp salt, 1tsp black pepper and whisk thoroughly for at least a minute. The ingredients need to be thoroughly combined and the egg a little frothy. Add about 1/4 cup of the cheese and whisk again. Everything is now ready save for the pasta.
I’m assuming you can tell when pasta is ready, or better yet, just about to be ready. At this point, turn the heat up once again and bring to the boil for one minute, then quickly but thoroughly strain the pasta and return it to the saucepan. Turn the stove on under the bacon to heat it up again.
Meanwhile, drizzle the egg mix over the steaming hot pasta and quickly toss it through to ensuring a good coating. The egg shouldn’t coddle but the hot pasta cooks the egg just enough to form a creamy coating on the pasta. Now it’s time to add the hot bacon and rendered fat from the pan and toss it through as well. Lastly, the tomatoes, another 1/4 cup of cheese, and if you think it needs it, a little more parsley. By this time your mouth should be watering at the surprisingly creamy-even-though-no-cream-was-needed creation before your eyes.
Transfer to a serving bowl (often all the best bits are at the bottom of the saucepan) season with a little more freshly ground black pepper and wait for the circling vultures to land.