Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti (Chronicle 2011)

serves 4 to 6

One might say I'm a tweaker by nature when it comes to cooking. While that is true, my changes to Domenica's recipe were simply because I knew I could swap in acceptable substitutions. I'm including her recipe as-is here for you. I didn't have pancetta in the house, so used a smoky bacon I'd bought at the Italian market instead. And while she calls for two types of grated cheese—Parmagianno-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano, I'm sure Domenica will forgive us all if we decided to just use all of one or the other (I just used Pecorino-Romano).

Whatever you do, don't skip the wine! I'm an avid carbonara maker, and this was an eye-opening addition. It adds a fruity undertone that helps to cut through the pontential heaviness of the sauce. And in case you're wondering, Isabella loved this dish. There is hope for her yet!

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

2 large cloves garlic, lightly crushed

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (55 g) freshly grated Parmagianno-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup (55 g) freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese

4 to 5 ounces (115 to 140 g) guanciale or pancetta, cut into strips

1/3 cup (75 ml) dry white wine

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons heavy/double cream

1 pound (455 g) uncooked dry spaghetti

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously.

While the water is heating, warm the olive oil and garlic in a large frying pan placed over medium heat. Saute for 5 minutes, pressing down on the garlic occasionally to extract its flavor. Remove the garlic as soon as it begins to brown and discard it. Add the guanciale and cook, stirring from time to time, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until it has rendered some of its fat and is slightly crisp. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine. Let it bubble for a minute. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, and lots of pepper. Stir in both cheeses and the parsley.

Add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup (250 ml) of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot and place it on the burner, but do not turn it on. Slowly pour in the egg mixture, stirring vigorously with a wooden or metal serving fork as you pour. Don't let up, as the stirring will ensure a creamy, rather than scrambled, sauce. Add a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Add the guanciale, along with any drippings in the pan. Toss the spaghetti to incorporate the ingredients. Transfer the pasta to a warmed serving bowl or shallow individual bowls and serve immediately.