Pasta carbonara is one of our staple weekday meals. It’s quick (it will be ready in the time it takes to boil the pasta), easy (the main techniques here are boiling, frying and mixing) and uses mostly store cupboard ingredients (dried pasta, dried chilli flakes, frozen peas). It’s also a handy meal to make after the weekend when you might have some extra bacon or eggs lying around that need using up.
We were taught this recipe by close family friends and have stuck incredibly faithfully to it ever since. This is a no-cream carbonara, which I gather is a more traditional Italian method (though please do correct me if I’m wrong). The sauce is made purely from beaten eggs, which do not require heating over the stove, but simply cook enough from the residual heat of the bacon and pasta. The only alteration we’ve made to the recipe is to add peas to the pasta water near the end of cooking – a suggestion by Jamie Oliver in one of his books (I forget which one!). The sweet peas are a lovely addition to the salty, creamy pasta and a good excuse to get some extra veggies in.
Ingredients (serves 2)
200g dried spaghetti or linguine
4-6 slices of streaky bacon
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
Small handful of frozen peas
A large handful of grated parmesan
2 eggs, well beaten
Salt and pepper
1. Put a pan of water on to boil and season generously with salt. Cook the pasta according to the pack instructions (if you’re using fresh pasta then leave this until the last five minutes).
2. Chop the bacon into small pieces. You can use a sharp knife, but kitchen scissors make the job much quicker and easier.
3. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and a pinch of chilli. Mix in the hot oil for a few seconds.
4. Add the bacon and continue to cook until crisp. Turn the heat to low, or even off, once the bacon is cooked to your liking, to avoid burning while the pasta finishes boiling.
5. Add the peas to the pasta water for the final 3 minutes of cooking.
6. Drain the pasta and return to the pan, adding the bacon and a handful of grated parmesan. Mix well.
7. Slowly add the egg, mixing as you go – a helper in the kitchen is useful at this point! Season to taste with a little salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with a green salad or some steamed vegetables, or if you’re having one of those days when only double-carbs will do then some garlic bread might be required. A little extra grated parmesan for sprinkling on top is nice too.
Once you’ve got to grips with this recipe, which I guarantee won’t take long, you can adjust the taste to suit your preferences. Use smoky bacon instead of regular, add extra chilli or garlic, or throw in some sliced mushrooms that are lurking in the fridge. A perfect weeknight dinner.