Weeknight Cooking: Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

plate of spaghetti carbonara
Sometimes you don't have time to put together a whole meal, but you also don't want to order from one of the same three takeout places yet again: That's when a simple meal like spaghetti alla carbonara comes into play. Most people have the ingredients for this quick, tasty dish on hand. All you need is pasta, eggs, olive oil, bacon, cheese, salt, and pepper.

If you have time to go grocery shopping or happen to keep it around, pancetta is also used instead of bacon in some recipes. I'm more likely to have a half-used package of bacon hanging around from the weekend's leisurely breakfasts.

There are a ton of recipes for spaghetti carbonara out there. I've even made one with red wine before. The thing to watch out for is any recipe calling for cream. True spaghetti carbonara is devoid of it. And to be honest, the way the cheese and egg coat the pasta, it becomes so creamy that more cream would be overkill.

I choose a version from a little booklet Saveur sent me when I became a subscriber, and I cut it down to two servings, which actually ended up being the perfect amount. No leftovers, and we were sufficiently full. I reordered the recipe a little to replicate how I made it and how I think it works best as far as timing everything so it's all done at the right time and ready to be mixed together.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (adapted from Saveur's Italian Classics, Volume 2, supplement)

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil (I never measure. Just pour a little in the pan.)
5 strips of bacon, cut into into 1/4-inch- to 1/2-inch-wide pieces
1 egg plus 1 yolk
1/2 lb of spaghetti (You can really use any pasta. I used specialty pasta called spaghettoni, which is a bit thicker than regular spaghetti.)
1/2 cup grated parm

1. Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
2. Heat the olive oil in another pan at medium-high, and add the bacon strips. Cook until almost crisp then turn off the heat and leave them in the pan.
3. Once your water is boiling, add your pasta to it. Follow the cooking time for al dente.
4. While the pasta is cooking, mix your egg and egg yolk with 1/8 cup of water (I just eyeballed half of 1/4 cup). Set this aside.
5. Remove half of the bacon to a paper towel, and set that aside.
6. When the pasta is ready, drain it, and dump it back in the pot.
7. Immediately add your eggs, half the cheese, and the bacon left in the pan with its oil and fat. Stir this around until well mixed and eggs have become creamy.
8. Divide between two plates. Sprinkle remaining cheese over each pile of spaghetti, season with salt and pepper, and top with reserved bacon.
9. Dig in!