Recipe: proper spaghetti carbonara



Recipes are not protected by copyright law, probably as they are evolving all the time. And as much as I like to keep to tradition when it comes to certain dishes I love to experiment with others.

When it comes to pasta there is no reason to always stick to the traditional recipes, but I think it’s good to try to master them first.

Growing up in Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s, we had a lot of traditional Scandinavian dishes, usually including meat and potatoes. Italian dishes then, when the world seemed a bigger place, were often (very) bastardised versions of the real thing, and therefore not of great inspiration to me. Because I only had the school dinner version of lasagne to sample I thought for a long time I didn’t like the dish. But it turned out it was just that terrible (yes, terrible) version I didn’t like. It was the same with ravioli (and other non-Italian dishes); my reference points were bad. Whereas everything my mother (or grandmothers) cooked was always delicious, but more Scandinavian in heritage.

Now my relationship with Italian food is quite different. I have been to Italy a few times and tried the real thing, and also cooked proper Italian dishes at home. And the emulsion of water and Parmesan keeps fascinating me. First of all, it’s DELICIOUS, but also, once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult at all as this recipe proves. And once and for all, you do not need cream to make a creamy carbonara, just a little patience and using the method below. But I must admit I added one tablespoon of it during my first attempt, although it’s not needed. As always Gennaro Contaldo’s recipes are spot on. Grazie.

Spaghetti Carbonara, serves 2

Adapted from Gennaro Contaldo’s for Jamie Oliver recipe.

3 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

Put the egg yolks into a bowl, finely grate in the Parmesan, season with pepper, then mix well with a fork and put to one side. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Fry the pancetta in a little oil over medium-high heat. Peel the garlic and crush it and add it to the pan for flavour – remove if it browns or when finished cooking. Reserve some cooking water and drain the pasta and add it to the pancetta pan. Toss well over the heat so it really soaks up all that lovely flavour, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pasta back to the spaghetti pan, season and add a splash of the cooking water, then pour in the egg mixture (the pan will help to cook the egg gently, rather than scrambling it). Toss well, adding more cooking water until it’s lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of Parmesan and extra pepper. 

Moist chocolate cake with frosting

I love a good chocolate cake with frosting, partyly because I (like most people) really like chocolate, but also because of a dear childhood memory.

My maternal grandmother was a good cook and baker and when it was her or granddad’s birthday they would usually celebrate it the old-fashioned Swedish way with and afternoon cake party. Normally there would be seven types of cakes and cookies, including danishes or cinnamon rolls, a sponge of some form, and a proper birthday cake as the main attraction.

Some of these cakes could be quite grown-up in taste, so to please us grandchildren she would make a chocolate sheetcake with frosting, which we loved (well, I still do). And mind you, frosting didn’t even exist in rural Sweden in the mid-eighties, so she was well before her time.

But the cake was lovely and I think about it a lot. Unfortunately I never managed to get the recipe off her before she died, but my mother think she knows how she made it. I have yet to try that method for frosting, I think I have been putting it off because I so want it to be right.

But now, I can experiment again, because even if the recipe my mother has suggested turns out wrong, this Hummingbird Bakery frosting is so close to what I remember it tasted like, although containing completely different ingredients, that I am pleased either way.

My dear mommi Edith (my nickname for her when I was a child) – this is for you.

Moist chocolate cake with frosting, serves 8-10

400 ml caster sugar

330 ml plain flour

4 tbsp cocoa

2,5 tsp vanilla sugar

2,5 tsp baking powder

135 g melted butter

3 eggs

200 ml boiling water

Mix the dry ingredients. Add eggs, butter and water, stir to incorporate. Pour into a greased springform. Bake in a low oven, 175 C for 35-45 minuten. Leave to cool completely. Cut in half with a serrated knife (bread knife).

Chocolate frosting

200 g icing sugar

75 g softened butter

30 g cocoa

150 g cream cheese, cold

Beat sugar, butter and cocoa with an electric whisk. Add the cream cheese and beat until you have a glossy and even frosting.

Divide the batch into two. Use half as filling in the middle. Use the rest to either cover the cake all around or to pipe decorations on top. Sprinkle with icing sugar (which I forgot).