Recipe: proper spaghetti carbonara

 

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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. 

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A new breakfast favourite: egg mayonnaise with pancetta on toast

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Pret A Manger sells a small baguette with egg mayonnaise and bacon that I sometimes have for breakfast and that’s of course where I found the inspiration for this lovely breakfast. The crispy toast (with salted butter), smooth egg mayonnaise with plenty of flavour and savoury pancetta is such a great breakfast I’ve already had it two mornings in a row for breakfast.

NB. I prefer runny eggs in general but that doesn’t work in egg mayonnaise, therefore I boil them for seven and a half minutes so the yolks are set but still very yellow and creamy. If you prefer your eggs hardboiled please boil them for longer. Also, I prefer white pepper to black in subtle (non-Italian or meat) dishes, but again, it’s up to you to decide what you prefer. 

Egg mayonnaise, serves 3

4 medium eggs

50 ml mayonnaise (Hellman’s or homemade)

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

salt and white pepper

Bring water to the boil in the saucepan and place the eggs in the pan. Boil for seven and a half minutes. Drain and cover the eggs with very cold water. Drain once the eggs are cool and place in fridge for an hour to cool some more (makes it easier to peel them). 

Peel the eggs and chop with a sharp knife. Mix mayonnaise with mustard and add the chopped eggs. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Keep refrigerated. 

Egg mayonnaise on toast with pancetta, per serving

1 thick slice white toast

a knob of butter for the toast

2 tbsp egg mayonnaise (as above)

2 slices pancetta, fried in the oven, 15 minutes in 200C

Toast the bread and butter it. Spread the egg salad on to the bread, top with the crispy pancetta. Serve immediately. 

Gnocchi bake with pancetta

This is my second version of gnocchi bake (you find the first version here). I think gnocchi is a nice substitute for pasta. Ok, yes, technically it IS pasta, but both texture and taste is different because of the added potatoes.

Next up I want to make my own gnocchi, but lackling the time or patience, I recommend the brand Del Ugo. It is fresh gnocchi, that doesn’t need to be cooked before added to the bake.

This dish is rich and creamy, and some days call for nothing less than creamy indulgence. The recipe is very simple, but the pancetta gives the gratin all the flavour it needs. Sometimes there is no need to complicate matters.

Gnocchi bake with pancetta, serves 4

500 g fresh gnocchi

100 g pancetta cubes

200 ml creme fraiche

100 ml cream

chopped parsley

1 handful grated cheese

Fry the pancetta crispy. Drain on kitchen towel. Grease an oven dish. Add gnocchi (uncooked) and the pancetta. Mix creme fraiche and cream (+ salt and pepper) and pour into the dish.  Scatter the parsley and top with the cheese. Bake in 200C 20-30 min. 

Aubergine gratin with mozzarella and pancetta

Before I made the absolutely gorgeous aubergine lasagne, I came up with this – its predecessor. And boy, this was good too! Can it be anything but delicious when combining aubergines with buffalo mozzarella and pancetta, I wonder? NO!

I really enjoyed this calorific dish, but on its own it was not enough. At least my body was craving carbs and not just salad. I would recommend perhaps a mixed bean salad, garlic bread or rice with this, although it is lovely on its own as well.

Aubergine gratin with pancetta and mozzarella, serves 2

2 aubergines

olive oil

100 g pancetta

400 g chopped tomatoes

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

plenty of Italian herbs

a pinch of brown sugar

salt, pepper

1 buffalo mozzarella

cheddar

Peel the aubergines and slice them lengthways. Fry them until soft in plenty of olive oil. Make a tomato sauce by letting chopped tomatoes, balsamic, sugar and herbs reduce. Fry the pancetta crisp and drain on kitchen towel. Slice the mozzarella. Pour some tomato sauce into a gratin dish, place a layer of aubergines at the bottom, then mozzarella and pancetta. Continue layering, topping it with tomato sauce and cheddar. Bake for 25 mins, 200 C.