Blame for this one, quite firmly, lies with son & heir.
You see, every week we ask him whether he has any requests for the menu plan. Ordinarily, he immediately responds with "pizza", closely followed by "steak and chips". However, on this one instance, he suggested Pasta Carbonara - which was so unusual, that we just had to reward his suggestion by following through and making the dish.
Well, you couldn't not! I mean to say, we'd asked for the suggestion hadn't we? It would have been rude to have turned it down flat (much as we do for the "steak and chips" suggestion - but we'll skip lightly over that fact).
Now it had been over a year since I'd made a Carbonara - and this was because of hubby's egg sensitivity. The last one I'd made, he just couldn't cope with both the raw egg taste and the knowledge that what he was eating was basically, raw egg. Albeit raw egg mixed with cream, bacon and parmesan - and thrown over hot pasta which was supposed to cook the egg. I was always dubious about that - and hubby's reaction confirmed my suspicion that the "hot pasta" didn't do a terribly good job. Plus the fact that the cold cream/egg mixture always took the heat out of the pasta and everything wound up a little bit cool.
So, having agreed to a Carbonara, I started to worry about hubby's reaction to it - and how I might get around the raw egg problem.
Now I'm no genius, as it took a good three or four days of worrying, before I hit on the solution. A bain marie.
Using a bain marie would not only solve the raw egg problem, but also solve the cold pasta problem! Aha!
What you do - and you're probably way ahead of me now - is get the shallot and bacon cooked off in a frying pan, then when a separate pan of salted water boils, dunk in the pasta. Get a small pan going, with a little bit of water inside, simmering away. Place a large bowl over the top - making sure the water doesn't touch the bowl. Into the bowl, add the cream, eggs, parmesan and black pepper - and whisk gently but consistently while the gentle heat cooks the eggs without turning them into scrambled and the whole beautiful emulsion gets slowly warmed through. The end result is a simply gorgeous, slightly foamy, warm mixture that coats the hot pasta perfectly - and it remains that way, i.e. hot!
The worth of this new (well, it's new to me) process for making Carbonara was summed up by hubby, who declared he had never - get that, "never" - had a better tasting, more unctuous, positively sinful Carbonara. Now that, is truly high praise.
We aren't all that keen on spaghetti and, since the arrival of Mafalda Corta pasta in our local supermarket, haven't looked back. I've used this shape of pasta in lots of other dishes recently and it was most acceptable in this Carbonara. Because of the ruffles that each flat noodle length has along its edge, the pasta is able to pick up the coating sauce without leaving any behind - which makes for a very satisfying mouthful.
The dish was made all the better by our fabulous butcher's bacon. The rashers are huge - and not only that, but are thick too. Just perfectly robust for a good bacon hit in amongst the richness of the cheese, cream and egg.
If only it wasn't so
bad for you, it'd become a staple on the menu plan. However, with the
use of copious amounts of butter, cheese and cream, it can only be a "once in a
blue moon" dish. Oh, but what a dish!
I'm sure a blue moon is imminent - so stock the fridge up with bacon, cream, eggs and parmesan. You know you want to!
PASTA CARBONARA (serves 3)
375g pasta (I used Mafalda Corta)
knob of butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
9 rashers of back bacon, trimmed of fat and chopped fairly small
2 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk
220ml single cream
40g parmesan cheese, finely grated
freshly ground black pepper.
1. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the bacon pieces. Cook until the fat has rendered out, then add the butter and shallots before the bacon can brown.
2. Cook on a gentle to medium heat until the shallots are softened and transparent, but don't let them brown.
3. Set aside to keep warm, but not cook any further.
4. In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, add the pasta and cook for 9-11 minutes or until tender, with a slight bite. Once done, drain and return to the pan.
5. While the pasta cooks, heat a small amount of water in a small saucepan until simmering.
6. Into a large, preferably pyrex, bowl add the eggs, cream, parmesan (leaving a small amount to sprinkle over the finished dish) and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper.
7. Place the bowl over the simmering water in the small saucepan, making sure the water doesn't touch the underside of the bowl. Whisk and stir, whisk and stir, until the mixture is demonstrating signs that the cheese has melted into the warmth of the liquid ingredients and the whole emulsion is becoming slightly foamy.
8. Once the pasta is done, decant into a large serving bowl and add the sauce. Toss the pasta in the sauce, ensuring every piece of pasta is covered - and finish with a sprinkle of the remaining parmesan cheese.