Creamy Spaghetti Carbonara

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This classic Italian dish benefits from delicious pancetta and an apocryphal splash of cream.

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
20 mins
Yield:
4 servings

Atlanta-based restauranteur and cookbook author Anne Quatrano guilds the lily with this show-stopping, ultra-rich rendition of spaghetti carbonara. The classic Roman preparation starts by frying savory cubes of cured pork in a skillet as the pasta cooks. Al dente spaghetti is added to the pan, followed by beaten eggs, a bit of the starchy pasta cooking water, and grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan. The residual heat of the pasta then gently cooks the egg, which thickens the liquid in the pan and brings the grated cheese together in a flavorful sauce. This recipe bucks tradition by swapping whole eggs with heavy cream and beaten egg yolks, which form an especially creamy, emulsified sauce that clings to the pancetta-studded pasta. Purists may scowl at this lux variation, but we think the results speak for themselves and will quickly win over any skeptics after their first bite.

This recipe calls for pancetta, a delicious Italian variety of bacon that is subtly spiced and left unsmoked. Smoked bacon can be used in its place, as can the traditional guanciale (cured pork jowl) if you can find it. The nutty flavor of Parmesan is perfect here, but for a sharper, tangier taste, Pecorino Romano is a wonderful (and again, very traditional) alternative.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • ½ cup heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 6 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/8-inch dice

  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup (3 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and cream. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until crisp, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute.

  3. Add the spaghetti to the skillet. Cook over low heat, tossing, until coated. Slowly add the reserved pasta cooking water and beaten egg yolks. Toss until coated with a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Add the 1 cup of Parmesan and the nutmeg; season with pepper. Transfer to bowls and serve, passing extra Parmesan.

    Close-up view of a serving of creamy spaghetti carbonara plated in a white bowl.

    Tina Rupp

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