Legend has it that during World War II, American soldiers in Rome would bring their Italian friends eggs and bacon and ask them to make a pasta dish, thus becoming pasta alla carbonara. Another legend claims that carbonara, a derivative of the word carbon in Italian, was made for charcoal workers. Who knows how eggs and bacon became transformed into a distinctively Roman pasta dish. For sure, with the bacon grease that's used, it is undoubtedly a meal hearty enough for a soldier or charcoal worker. If you love bacon, then take my hand and let me lead you down the long path of gluttony. It's a fine journey.
In Rome, salted pork jowl is usually used, but as it's difficult to find in the States, pancetta or any smoky bacon works just as well.
I included the optional, albeit non-traditional, addition of peas. Hear me out. During my school days spent in Italy, my girlfriends and I fell in love with the little Sicilian town of Taormina. On a windy cobblestone street was a charming family-run bistro that also happened to be a favorite of the local mafioso. Regardless of our somewhat spooky fellow guests, we dined there frequently, our favorite dish being the house Spaghetti alla Carbonara served with, you got it, peas. So, to this day, for nostalgic reasons (as well as taste), I always toss in some sweet peas.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
For 6 servings
½ pound pancetta or bacon
4 garlic gloves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup dry white wine
2 large fresh eggs
¼ cup cream
¼ cup romano cheese
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 ¼ pounds of spaghetti
3/4 or 1 package peas (optional)
Cut the pancetta or bacon into ¼ wide slices.
Lightly mash the garlic with the flat end of a chef’s knife, enough to split it and loosed the skin, which you want to toss.
Put the garlic and olive oil into a small sauté pan and heat over medium high until garlic turns a deep golden brown. Remove and throw away the garlic.
Put the pancetta slices into the pan, and cook until lightly brown and crisp at the edges. Slowly add the white wine, and let it cook a minute or two until the alcohol burns off.
Break the 2 eggs into the bowl in which you will be serving. Beat them with a fork then add the grated cheeses, a healthy grinding of pepper, and the chopped parsley. Mix thoroughly.
Briefly reheat the pancetta over high heat then remove from heat.
Add a small amount of the pancetta drippings to a small amount of the just cooked spaghetti and mix well. Add to the bowl and toss rapidly, taking care not to cook the eggs. Toss in the rest of the pasta, cream (if using), pancetta with its drippings, and peas, and toss thoroughly.
Serve at once.
Note: I've never had problems using raw eggs, which can transmit salmonella, as I've always used the freshest ones I can find. But if you are concerned, or will be serving to young children, elderly people or those with a weakened immune system, you may wish to skip the raw eggs and add cream instead.