Spaghetti carbonara has humble roots in the Apennine hills of central Italy, not far from Rome, and was the shepherds’ favorite as they roamed the hilly pastures following the movement of flocks, a practice known as the transumanza. They carried with them some bacon, and made the cheese as they went along. Eggs were used only if available; of course they render the dish richer and creamier, but it is delicious with or without them. Of all of the pasta recipes that I have served in my restaurants throughout the years (starting with Buonavia in 1971, to today’s Felidia, Becco, Lidia’s KC, and Lidia’s Pittsburgh), spaghetti carbonara is definitely the crowd pleaser. It has some of the flavors loved most by Americans: bacon, eggs, cheese, and of course pasta. I’ve added some chopped scallions for freshness; I hope you like it.
- kosher salt
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 6 ounces bacon, chopped
- Extra-virgin olive oil, if needed
- 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1⁄3 cup parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When the sauce made in the steps below is about halfway cooked (about 6 to 7 minutes), drop the spaghetti into the boiling pasta water and stir.
2. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until the fat has mostly rendered, about 4 to 5 minutes. (If your bacon is very lean, you can add a drizzle of oil to help start the rendering of the fat.) Push the bacon to one side of the pan, and add the onion. Let both cook separately until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes, then mix the two back together. (If you like, you can drain off the excess bacon fat here and replace it with oil.) Ladle 2 cups pasta water into the skillet with the bacon and onion, bring to a rapid boil, and quickly reduce the sauce.
3. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with 1/4 cup hot pasta water in a small bowl. When the sauce has reduced by about half and the spaghetti is al dente, scoop the pasta into the sauce with tongs or a spider. Add the chopped parsley, pepper, and salt to taste. Toss the pasta until it is coated in the sauce.
4. Remove the pan from the fire, and quickly mix in the egg yolks and water mixture, stirring until creamy. Toss the pasta with the grated cheese, and serve immediately.
Watch me make this dish here: