The Carbonara

Carbonara

Sometimes I read enough trending food articles and I will instantly go out and buy a series of ingredients to see if what they’re talking about it so damn true. Recently I’ve been reading a lot about A Proper Carbonara, that doesn’t GOD FORBID have a drop of cream in it. Which…is never anything I gave much thought about to be honest, who hasn’t added a bit of double cream or crème fraîche to some pasta. Isn’t that normal? Don’t people do that? Am I wrong that I think that it’s yummy? Considering I’m about to marry someone of Italian decent…this is something I should know right? Also, do you know how much pressure there is to present Italian meal made in a bit of an impromptu mad kitchen moment to an Italian and be like: “This is how it should bloody taste like!” Pressure. 

So I had one of these impromptu “I Have To Cook Now” days and this is the result of me combining a couple of things from a few recipes I was nerding out on. Essentially what we are talking about here is that you only really need 4 basic but high quality ingredients: pasta, guanciale (or pancetta), cheese, and egg yolk. The actual creaminess comes from the delicious mixture of the egg yolks, cheese and cured meat fat. If you can’t get hold of the delicious cured cheek jowls of pork required, or even pancetta, I have actually substituted this for maple smoked streaky bacon in a pinch before and it was still delicious (shhh…don’t tell).

Serves 2.

The Carbonara:
160 g linguine 
4 egg yolks (I used Burford Brown's)
1 tsp olive oil
100 g guanciale, thinly cut
40 g pecorino, grated
40 g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
freshly cracked black pepper

In a heavy bottomed pan. Place the guanciale in with a little olive oil over low heat. Allow this to render out nice and slowly until nice and crispy. Turn the stove off when done, the heavy bottomed pan should keep it all warm for you.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the egg yolks, grated cheeses, and black pepper.

Cook your pasta until al dente in salted boiling water.

Add your cooked pasta into the mixing-bowl with the egg yolks and mix straight away. The residual heat from the pasta will melt the cheese and cook the egg yolks, forming your sauce. Magic!

Now add your crispy guanciale and some of the rendered fat and keep stirring.

You can adjust the consistency of the sauce with some of the pasta water, add more of the bacon fat should you need it. Adjust your seasoning.

Serve and eat immediately with more grated cheese. I served this with a courgette salad and followed it with a Rather Boozy Tiramisu.

Carbonara prep

Basic Tomato Sauce

I go to Polpo. A lot. I like the chilled atmosphere and nice little martini bar downstairs. I love their little sharable dishes and tiny tumblers to drink wine and espressos out of…but mostly I like the small proportions because I get to eat more things. Anyway, they have a cookbook now and as well as giving away their secrets, it’s beautifully bound, filled with great pics and is fun to read. They have a good Basic Tomato Sauce recipe in it. Do you by a bottle of tomato sauce for your pasta? Why do you do that? This is much, much nicer. I’ve reduced the final amount, added booze, and more spices to this. But that’s what a good basic recipe should be: adaptable. Make this on a lazy Sunday and enjoy it throughout the week. Makes just under a litre.

Basic Tomato Sauce:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion - finely chopped
1 garlic clove - crushed
1/2 tbsp salt - scant
A good cracking of black pepper
1 small red chilli - deseeded and finely chopped
A pinch of chilli flakes
375g fresh tomatoes - really ripe and sweet
1.5 tins/cartons of crushed  tomato - about 600g
1 small handful of oregano - fresh or 1 tbsp dried
1 bay leaf
A good glug of red wine
A bit of sugar - if you want, I didn't add this

Sauce pan on stove at medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. When at heat add your garlic, onion, chilli (fresh and dried), bay leaf, black pepper and dried oregano if you’re not using fresh. Stir and sweat ’em out. When the onions are glossy and translucent, get your fresh tomatoes in with the other tablespoon of oil. Cook for 15 mins.

Now add the crushed tomatoes and glug that wine in. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, lid on, leave for an hour. In the final moments, if you’re using fresh oregano (I mean, how hard is this stuff to find? Grow some in a kitchen pot for a constant supply), roughly chop it up and stir it all in. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Add a bit of sugar if your tomatoes aren’t sweet enough.

Pan off heat. Transfer into a blender or use a stick blender to whiz it all up. Done! You can strain this mixture further and add a bit more water to make a pasata if you fancy it.

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