Carbonara with house made Tagliatelle
Itallian food is often times characterized by simplicity. Few ingredients which means every ingredient matters and should be the absolute best. Take Pizza for example. Flour, water, yeast, tomatoe and cheese. Flour has to be Tipi 00, the tomatoe can just be super ripe and pureed (though I have used a good quality canned tomato) and the cheese should be a quality Mozarella preferably Buffalo. That is the basic. Pasta is the same. Tipi 00 flour and some good Parmigiano-Reggiano is your base. Lets first take a look at the cheese.
The words Parmigiano-Reggiano stenciled on the rind mean that the cheese was produced in Italy in one of the following areas: Bologna, Mantua, Modena, or Parma (from which the name of this cheese originated).
Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labeled “Parmigiano-Reggiano,”. In Italy, DOC (Denominazione di Origine controllata) laws are meant to preserve the integrity of traditional Italian food products by ensuring the flavor and quality.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, dry cheese made from skimmed or partially skimmed cow’s milk. It has a hard pale-golden rind and a straw-colored interior with a rich, sharp flavor. Parmigiano-Reggianos are aged at least two years. Parmesan cheese labeled stravecchio has been aged three years, while stravecchiones are four or more years old.
Their complex flavor and extremely granular texture are a result of the long aging. Parmigiano-Reggiano has been called the “King of Cheeses” and Italians don’t just slap this phrase on any old cheese. There are criteria that have to be followed.
Real Roman carbonara is pasta, whole eggs, pancetta or guanciale (cured pork jowl), and pecorino romano cheese—never cream. The sauce should gild, not asphyxiate, the noodles (see the photo above). It can be enjoyed at any hour, but the ideal time is dawn, after a night of revelry.
You shoulkd take the time to make your own pasta. If you do not, this recipe will still be delicious but you will be missing out on heaven in a bowl. Home made pasta is an entirely different product than store bought. It is labor intensive. You can not use a pasta machine, it has to be done by hand. You may get a cramp in your hand during the mixing process and the kneading is around 40 minutes. So, it is a 90 minute comittment. It is more then worth it and you may never buy pasta from the store again if you do this only once. It really is that different. I have already blogged my 7 yolk pasta dough and the technique and you can find it here. From this point we continue with our Cabonara.
There are 8 ingredients in Cabonara. Pasta, egg, cheese, pancetta, garlic, white wine, olive oil and water. That is it. Notice the cheap box wine. I do not do the whole, cook with what you drink attitude. I would never put a $60 euro bottle of wine in a sauce. The pasta is left over cuts from last nights wild mushroom raviolli in a creamy pesto sauce. Again, please check out the recipe for the pasta dough above as this is very important.
Place a few cloves of garlic in some EVOO and toast to a golden brown. Don’t worry about mincing, you are simply infusing the oil and the garlic will be discarded so keeping it whole and crushed is fine. After abouit 1 minute remove garlic and keep for another use.
After removing the garlic add your pancetta and brown until crispy, about 6 minutes. Look at how lean this bacon is!
Add a cup of white wine and cook until thick, about 5 more mninutes. During this time start your pasta water.
And about that pasta water…..
In most Italian pasta recipes one main ingredient will be the pasta water. This water thickens your sauce and also makes it shiny and ‘gilded’. So season it well and this is another reason for using house made pasta. Your pasta will naturally have flour on it. Store bought does not. So the flour gets into the water and when you make a sauce it thickens it and makes it shiny. We like shiny pasta.
Finish the dish
In a large bowl place 1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 2 eggs and parsley. (you will notice the parsley in this picture is dried which is basically useless but it is a rainy sunday and the strets are flooded so I chose to stay at home). Slowly add a cup or so of pasta water and whisk to create a smooth saucee. Add the cooked pasta and the pancetta mixture, toss to combine and serve. Done. Easy yet elegant and delicious meal.