Here’s something quick to impress with – Spaghetti Carbonara. It’s a little bit fiddly so you ought to give it a try when no one’s looking the first time around. It takes all of 15 minutes to prepare and is probably the best store cupboard recipe I know. Extra credit if you’ve cured your own pig’s cheeks.
I can be an enormous ponce with black pepper – generic peppercorns are fine but this dish is a show case for the stuff so why not go for something fancier, I’ve used Malabar pepper which packs a woody, earthy punch.
A heavy cast iron pan makes this dish a lot easier to cook as you’re relying on residual heat to cook the egg.
Water, Oil, Salt
Guanciale, prosciutto, bacon or something similar – diced
Egg yolks, two per person
Cheese – officially pecorino, I used Berkswell because it’s local and it’s a fantastic sheeps cheese.
Black pepper corns, aim for half a tablespoon full per person, be brave.
Get your water, salt and oil on the boil then drop in the pasta.
Whilst it’s cooking, dry fry the pork products until they’re brown and give up their fat.
Beat the egg yolks and add the pepper, you can add the cheese at this point or do it at the end.
Strain the pasta, Keep The Pasta Water!
Add the pasta to the bacon pan and give it a stir.
The secret now is timing – too quick and you have scrambled egg, too slow and you have slime. Somewhere in between likes an emulsion of egg, bacon fat and cheese – a hot gorgeous mayonnaise that will stun and delight your guests.
Take the pan off the heat, add a splash of pasta water ( some people use cream here, you can if you want but I’ll never speak to you again), wait until it stops sizzling, add more if it boils away.
Grit your teeth, throw on the egg mixture and stir like your reputation as a cook depends on it ( it does, you did practice first didn’t you?).
It will look lumpy, it will look wrong, you will wonder if there’s time to phone out for pizza. Don’t panic that’s the cheese melting. Just stir, splash on more pasta water if it looks a bit thick, stir. Did I mention you should stir?
At some point magic will happen, the whole mess turns into a silky lover clinging wantonly to the pasta.
Serve it with a glass of nicely chilled dry Marsala and you might just get lucky 😉