Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pasta Carbonara - My Way

(I should point out that this was my second helping.)

This is The Girl's favorite meal.  Ever.  My second child, who has been mostly a vegetarian her entire life, LOVES bacon.  And in the US I was able to buy meat without nitrates or nitrites, so while I know bacon is loaded with heart killing saturated fat, I was glad I wasn't pumping her with known cancer causing additives.  Here in Paris I have been very unlucky in my search for nitrate and nitrite-free meat, and even the Bio (Organic) options here seem to contain nitrates.  I was very excited to find Bio Smoked Pork Belly, only to read the fine print (after I had purchased it) that told me nitrates were used for preservation.  Come on people!  Get rid of this stuff!  Unless I can find bacon without nitrates this will be the last time I make Pasta Carbonara.  Don't tell The Girl, she might cry.

Pasta Carbonara - My Way

1 pound dry spaghetti or linguine 
14 ounces Thick Cut Nitrate Free Bacon, Slab Bacon or Pork Belly
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Yes, this recipe is heavy on the bacon, plus The Girl likes it crispy, so it's a little bit different from the standard preparation.  But it's her favorite, and I'm a weenie when it comes to making my kids their favorite foods.  (Minus those darn nitrates!)

If you are using sliced bacon, slice it into lardon, or dice if you prefer.  If you are using slab bacon or pork belly, and you plan on hanging around the house for 2 hours prior to dinner, prepare your home to smell like heaven.  Preheat your oven to 200˚ F.  Slice your slab bacon or pork belly into 1/4 inch strips and place on a baking sheet.  Bake for two hours, turning once.  Allow to cool, discard any rind that is too hard, and slice into lardon, or dice.  

In a bowl, combine the egg yolks, heavy cream and cheese.

Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large enough skillet to handle the cooked pasta later.  Add the bacon or precooked slab bacon or pork belly to the skillet and cook until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered.  I do this low and slow to get the crispest bacon possible.  Bacon fat is delicious, I know, but I do think you can go overboard.  I usually spoon out most of the rendered fat leaving only about 2 tablespoons.  Do what you like.  

Once the bacon is almost at the level of crispiness you desire, bring a pot of well salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the package instructions.  I suggest checking for the perfect al dente at about 2 minutes before the end of the recommended cooking time.

A minute before the pasta is done toss the chopped garlic in with the bacon, and sauté for just a minute or two to soften.  

Before draining the pasta reserve 1 cup of the pasta water to thin the sauce as needed.  Drain the pasta and add to the skillet, tossing it well with the bacon fat.  Take the pan off the heat and stir in the reserved egg, cream and cheese mixture, tossing everything together.  Add pasta water a few tablespoons at a time until the sauce reaches a nice creamy consistency.  Season the mixture with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt.  Mound into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese to those who love it super cheesy.  Try hard not to come back for seconds.  


Michelle@ Simplifiy, Live, Love said...

Yum!! I'm making this! Nitrates or no nitrates! :-)

Anonymous said...

Instead of bacon, you could try pancetta. Might be more available than nitrate free bacon there in Paris.

Paris? Really??? said...

Thanks for the suggestion anonymous, I have had luck with pancetta. Luckily for me I have found fresh pork belly that I've been cubing and rendering slowly over low heat. It's a big hit with The Girl. I'm getting hungry!