Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a classic Roman pasta dish, that has become a standard on menus in Italian restaurants around the world. As with any dish that becomes this ubiquitous, many variations tend to crop up, with people adding different ingredients along the way. One addition that pops up frequently is cream. While I am not typically a staunch traditionalist, and our recipe even demonstrates this with ingredients that some may argue with, I do believe strongly, as all Romans would agree, that cream has no place in a real carbonara sauce.
The ingredients that most agree are contained in a traditional carbonara sauce are guanciale(cured pork jowel), eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly ground black pepper. Since, guanciale is an ingredient that is not that easy to get your hands on, pancetta is often substituted. This recipe is how my father served carbonara in his restaurant for years, and it includes shallots and white wine. Those ingredients may not be considered traditional, but they really do work in this dish because they enhance the dish by subtly complementing rather than taking away from the main ingredients.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 shallots, chopped fine
- 4 ounces guanciale or pancetta, chopped coarsely
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 4 large egg yolks
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil and butter in a large sautè pan over medium-high heat. Add the guanciale or pancetta and cook until the fat starts to render about 3 minutes. Then add the shallots and continue to cook until the shallots are translucent and the guanciale is browned and crispy, 3-4 minutes.
- Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat while you cook the pasta.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook uncovered over high heat until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain and add the pasta to the sautè pan and place it back over medium heat.
- Add the egg yolks, Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and reserved pasta water, and stir vigorously until pasta is well coated and creamy. Transfer to individual pasta dishes and serve with extra Pecorino Romano cheese on the side.