Last week I got a shipment of cured meats — pancetta, guanciale, prosciutto and speck — from La Quercia. While enjoyed cooking with the pancetta for last week’s root source, I was most excited to get into the guanciale, which is hard to find locally.
I had seen Mario Batali (whose dad makes guanciale) make classic Spaghetti Alla Carbonara with guanciale on Molto Mario a while back. Since then I’ve been looking forward to making the classic version. Yesterday I finally did.
Here’s how it went:
I started with a recipe from Batali’s book Molto Italiano. I was surprised that the recipe didn’t describe how to cut the guanciale. But since I had seen him make it (and knew I wanted the little pieces to fit in my mouth), I knew to dice it.
First I cut a few slices of guanciale crosswise.
Then I rotated the slices 90 degrees and cut across them to finish the dice.
Spaghetti is the classic carbonara noodle, but I used fettuccine instead because I thought it would make a nice silky medium to hold up the sauce. I dropped the fettuccine in the water and cooked it until it not quite al dente, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Meanwhile, I heated the olive oil and guanciale in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
I cooked the guanciale until it rendered most of its fat and turned crisp, then set the pan aside to cool some.
Batali says that when finishing the sauce, he likes to separate the eggs and whites, toss the whites with the pasta, and serve the pasta with the yolk nestled in the noodles. I wanted a creamier, more homogenous sauce, so when the fettucine was almost done, I whisked the eggs together until smooth. Working quickly, I drained the pasta and stirred a ladleful of the hot pasta water into the eggs to temper them.
The fettuccine was drained but still moist and steamy. I added it to the pan with the crisp guanciale and its rendered fat.
Drooling, I poured the tempered eggs right over the noodles.
I tossed the pasta to distribute the eggs, then immediately poured it all into a warm bowl so the eggs wouldn’t scramble on the bottom of the pan. I tossed again so the fettuccine’s heat would cook the eggs as much as possible. The eggs started to turn creamy.
I added lots of fresh ground black pepper and freshly grated parmesan, tossed it again, and then ate. (I may or may not have sat down first.)