Spaghetti carbonara, cheater style

I go through phases of making this pretty regularly. I was never brave enough until I got a copy of Giorgio Locatelli Made In Italy. A really great book for giving me confidence with the big “mother dishes” of Italian food – my risotto and lasagne are from here too. The techniques are great, and it’s also part biography with some fab photos.

It’s super simple in terms of ingredients – pasta, bacon, egg, cheese, pepper – and quite quick to make, once you get the knack of things.

Step one is to prepare absolutely everything in advance. The magic of this is truly in the timing, and it can turn into expensive scrambled egg pasta if temperatures are too high, or a pan is left too long.

You can use little packs of lardons, or finely chop some rashers – streaky by preference. About two rashers per person is loads. Quite a bit of grated cheese, about 25/30g per person. Usually I just grate til I’m bored. I use a microplane, but a fine grater is perfect. You want the cheese to melt almost the moment it hits the pasta.

I’ve also got a sneaky addition of 2tbsp mascarpone. It needed using up, and it really helps the sauce to come together (and reduces the scrambled egg risk). Purists will stop reading now. Purists may not be making this after work on a Tuesday with a toddler and pets demanding food.

Start the bacon on a low heat, in a knob of butter. Rendering off the fat comes first, then getting the little bits crisped up. Getting a big lump of squidgy, uncooked fat in the middle of silky, creamy pasta would not do.

While this is going on, boil pasta in lots of well salted water. I generally use 80g per person, or 100g if I’m feeling particularly hungry or greedy. I also prep my egg at this point – one whole egg and one yolk for two (and a small boy), beaten very well.

I leave the pasta quite Al dente, as it’ll get another few minutes in the pan, and overdone pasta is just sad. Before draining it, I dunk a mug into the pasta pot – the sauce usually needs a little to get the right consistency.

Pasta into pan, and remove completely from heat, while giving a good stir to get all the bacon and fat mixed through and coating all the strands.

In with everything else, a few moments of undivided attention, and a good upper arm workout. Adjust seasoning. Be very cautious about adding salt.

And there we go!

Serve immediately, possibly with more black pepper and another sprinkle of cheese. Maybe even glass of wine. Enjoy the carb slump afterwards.

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