Ah, Carbonara! A favorite pasta dish at my home. Not only is this dish delicious with its blending of bacon, onions, Parmesan cheese, and coarsely ground pepper, but it’s a simple and inexpensive meal you can make for your family or for guests.
I first made this dish a few years ago using a recipe from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen. Now, Lidia’s recipe calls for linguine, which I used the first few times I made this dish. But I later discovered by accident (isn’t that how great discoveries usually happen :0) that I prefer rigatoni over linguine. It’s easier to eat, and the ridges in the rigatoni sop up the sauce nicely.
Okay, let me quickly share a few cooking notes with you. When I make this dish, I usually prepare all the ingredients (e.g., cut the bacon, slice the onions, grate the cheese) before I begin cooking. This is one of those dishes where timing is important. Once everything’s prepped, I start heating the pot with the water for the pasta, and then begin cooking the bacon. Just follow the directions from there. :0)
One more important thing . . . For the best flavor, you’ll want to make sure the pepper is coarsely ground. If you don’t have a peppermill or your mill doesn’t ground coarsely, you can easily improvise. Lidia suggests using a heavy skillet to crush the peppercorns.
Oh, and don’t forget to serve with a loaf of Italian or rustic bread, which is perfect for dipping in the pasta sauce.
Rigatoni Alla Carbonara
From Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen with modifications
8 ounces thickly sliced bacon
2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed.
1½ cups canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 pound rigatoni
3 egg yolks
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Coarsely ground black pepper
1. Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot.
2. Cut the bacon in ¼-inch slices, then cut the slices crosswise in ¼-inch strips. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring until the bacon is lightly browned but still soft in the center, about 6 minutes.
3. The amount of fat in the skillet will vary depending on the bacon. If there is more than 3 to 4 tablespoons of fat in the pan, pour off the excess. If there is less, add enough olive oil to measure that amount. Add the onions and cook until wilted but still crunchy, about 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and adjust the heat to a lively simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
6. Ladle off about a cup of the pasta-cooking water and set aside. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large slotted spoon and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce.
7. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary. Add as much chicken stock or reserved pasta-cooking water as needed to make enough sauce to coat the pasta generously.
8. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks one at a time, tossing well after each. Add the grated cheese, then the black pepper, tossing well. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.