Spaghetti Carbonara

carbonaraIts very rare that I crave something in the true sense of the word and I am almost never an emotional eater, but very rarely — usually when something is just “off” about my day and I’m not quite where I should be in my spirit—I develop an intense gut-wrenching need to have a bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara. In those moments I never want to go out and get it at a restaurant (though I do enjoy ordering it every once in a while). What I really want is to go home, pour myself a giant glass of wine, put on TLCs  “Crazy Sexy Cool” album, perfectly salt my boiling water, whisk egg yolks until they become creamy buttery ribbons, grate a wedge of pecorino romano onto a wooden cutting board and pretend its falling snow, and sneak bites of pancetta as my onions melt over medium-low heat. That ritual calms my spirit and fills my soul.  Then, by the time I’ve stirred the creamy eggs into the warm pasta and created the most luscious sauce imaginable, my whole being is reset back into a place of peace.  Sometimes I curl up on the couch and tuck into that delicious bowl of pasta, and sometimes I just finish my wine, knowing that the process was all I really needed.

carbonara 4This recipe is my most personal and my most important — not because it is delicious (which it is) but because it is the only thing that I make that I hold private and that I hold dear.

One of my best friends has been asking me to post the recipe for months and even after I made it a few weeks ago and photographed the dish,  I couldn’t quite bring myself to put it on this blog for all to see.  This week that same friend went through a terribly scary and sad time with her family and I sat at work, praying for them—something not quite right in my spirit. I came home late on Monday, cracked my eggs, grated the cheese, boiled the pasta, and as the dish came together all I wanted to do was bring it to her — hoping that it would calm her spirit a tiny bit, the way it does mine.


Spaghetti Carbonara
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 2
  • ½ pound of pasta
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 4-6 ounces of pancetta (cubed in ¼ inch pieces)
  • ½ onion, very finely diced (optional)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 cup of Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • grated black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil
  1. In a large pot bring water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple of large pinches of salt. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. When the pasta is done, save a ½ cup of pasta water before draining.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, saute the onions over medium-low heat until they begin to get soft and translucent (about 2-3 minutes). Raise the heat to medium and add the pancetta and continue to cook until the pancetta is crisp (4-5 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Remove the pan from heat and move to a cool burner. Add the warm pasta to the pan and toss to coat the pasta.
  4. Beat the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl for 1 minute until they become a light creamy color. Add the cheese and about ½ a teaspoon of black pepper and whisk until incorporated.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into the warm pan of spaghetti and pancetta, stirring quickly with tongs as the eggs thicken*. Taste for seasoning and add more pepper and salt if necessary.
The pan should be off the heat for about 1-2 minutes before you add the eggs --- everything it it, as well as the pan itself, should still very warm but not scalding hot. At that temperature, when the eggs are poured in and stirred immediately and constantly, they should thicken as they are cooked but will not scramble.



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