Last night I made Penne a la Carbonara, from Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis. I really wasn't expecting the boys to like it at all. They don't think they like eggs and are not really big fans of pasta. I know kids who don't like pasta, weird but true. Anyway, Bubba, the six year old, was through his portion before I had gotten a couple bites myself. He wanted seconds. And he is adamant that he doesn't like eggs. Even after I told him about the eggs he was still digging in. So this one is definitely a keeper.
I do have a problem with this recipe though. I just can't find pancetta at any of the local grocery stores. But probably 10 years ago when we first learned about Spaghetti Carbonara, there was a hint from Biba (sorry I don't remember the last name but she had a cooking show back then) to use regular bacon and blanch it in water to remove some of the smoke flavor of the bacon. And it really works. Although if given the choice, it is probably preferable to use thick cut bacon. But I just used what I had on hand and sliced it 1/2 to 3/4 inch before separating it and blanching. Then I drained it and put it back in the skillet to brown. That's really the only change I made to the recipe and it turned out really well. I was going to use wheat pasta this time but was afraid that the sauce would be to delicate to handle it. But I think next time I'll try it with wheat pasta. The sauce is hearty enough to handle it.
(I made this again today and have a couple edits. I used evaporated milk today instead of heavy cream and it worked flawlessly. I also simmer the sauce at the end before serving. The eggs don't seem to be cooked enough otherwise. I added a bit of the pasta water while it simmered so the eggs didn't curdle. Oh, I didn't have fresh parsley so I just left it out. No one noticed. 11/25/12)
Penne a la Carbonara
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
1 pound pancetta, diced into 1-inch cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 pound dried penne
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Heat a large saute pan, until hot. Add pancetta and saute until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Season with black pepper and remove pan from heat.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and cream. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan, reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish.
In a large pot, boil 6 quarts of salted boiling water. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse with water; you want to retain the pasta's natural starches so that the sauce will stick. While the pasta is still hot, return it back to the pot. Add the browned pancetta and mix well. Add the cream mixture and coat the pasta completely. It's important to work quickly while the pasta is still warm so that the cream mixture will cook, but not curdle. Add remaining Parmesan and chopped parsley.