Spaghetti in a rich, creamy sauce made from beaten eggs, freshly grated cheese, and chopped bacon. It’s a simple, quick, easy-to-make meal, but luscious and sophisticated all at the same time.
In downtown Salt Lake City there’s a restaurant, The Copper Onion, that makes the best Pasta Carbonara I’ve ever eaten. Since I don’t make it downtown for dinner very often, I decided to make it at home. Traditionally, carbonara is made with pancetta, but I prefer it with bacon, and used a thick slice peppered bacon.
While researching recipes for pasta carbonara, I stumbled on David Leite’s charming Spaghetti alla Carbonara post where he recounts his quest for finding the best carbonara in Italy. He explains the origins of this popular dish:
Alla carbonara,” the menu said, means “in the manner of the coal miners.” (Carbonara and carbone, the Italian word for coal, both derive from the Latin word carbo.) According to this legend, the dish was popular with miners because the few ingredients could easily be carried or, in the case of eggs, pocketed from henhouses on the way to work. When appetites knocked, a simple campfire in the woods was all that was needed to make an elegant meal. The liberal use of pepper is considered a modern-day metaphor for the specks of coal that would inevitably drop from the miners’ clothing onto the plates of pasta. Others say the name comes from the carbon that rose from cooking the dish over a charcoal fire.
I’ve never made pasta carbonara over a campfire, but it sounds like a fun idea. Maybe one day I’ll have to give it a try.
There was so much pasta in the skillet that it was difficult to mix, so I dumped the pasta in to the empty pot I cooked the pasta in to finish mixing the pasta and thin the sauce with the reserved pasta water. You’ll want to mix at least some of the spaghetti in the hot skillet first though, so you get all the flavorful bits from frying the bacon mixed in to the pasta sauce.
Costco sells a grated four cheese Italian blend that I usually keep in the fridge, and that’s what I used in this recipe. Don’t skip reserving the pasta water. I used the entire cup of reserved water to thin the sauce.
My pasta carbonara isn’t quite as rich as the carbonara at The Copper Onion, but I think I enjoyed it even more.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 8 slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Cook pasta according to package directions.
While the pasta is cooking, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from the skillet and pour off all but two tablespoons of bacon grease.
Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for one minute on low heat. Remove from heat.
In a large serving bowl, mix together eggs and Parmesan. Set aside.
When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain well.
Add 1/4 cup hot pasta water and drained pasta to the skillet with the bacon grease. Add bacon and gently toss to combine, and cook 1 minute over low heat. Add hot pasta to the egg/cheese mixture in the bowl and stir quickly to coat pasta. Stir in additional pasta water a little at a time until a creamy consistency is achieved. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and additional Parmesan, if desired.