Back in February, Nathan and I had a California vacation planned. I had a conference in LA and he was going to meet me at the end of it for a road trip from Southern CA to San Francisco. Well, it snowed in DC and Nathan’s flight was cancelled so we had to cancel our vacation. I flew back to dreary, cold DC soon after the conference ended and Nathan picked me up from the airport. We were both beyond disappointed but Nathan did the best possible thing under the circumstances…he had all the ingredients for Spaghetti Carbonara ready and waiting for us when we got home. This dish is literally that good…it has the power to soften disappointment, warm the body, and uplift the soul; it essentially epitomizes Italian comfort food. The crazy thing is how easy it is and how few ingredients it requires. The ‘sauce’ is only egg and parmesan and the majority of the flavor comes from savory bacon and a healthy amount of garlic. There are a ton of Spaghetti Carbonara recipes out there but ours is a little different. Basically, I use roughly half the amount of pasta that most recipes call for but make the same amount of sauce. The danger with spaghetti carbonara is that it can be dry and lacking in flavor and my strategy solves this problem…there’s just enough sauce to fully coat the pasta and the dish is bursting with flavor.
This wine (and the pairing) were just OK. We were looking for a light and dry red wine to balance the richness of the Spaghetti Carbonara and this was just a little too juicy, spicy, and full. It seemed discordant when paired with the dish. I think a more simple and ‘one dimensional’ table wine would work much better…maybe a Chianti, Malbec, or Pinot Noir?
Sculpin IPA is a prime example of what an IPA should be! It pours copper in color with floral and citrus hoppy aromas of grapefruit and pine resin. The flavor continues the with strong bitter hop flavors but are well balanced by smooth malt and a crisp finish. A good IPA, such as Sculpin, is a perfect pairing for a rich dish like Carbonara. The floral hops completely wash away the egg, cheese, and bacon from your palate and prepare your taste buds for a tasty bite all over again.
Adapted from this recipe
½ pound dry spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces thick cut bacon, sliced into small strips
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup frozen petite peas
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1. Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to make sure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 10-11 minutes or until al dente. Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce as needed.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute for about 3-5 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften. Add the peas and saute for about 30 seconds.
4. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Top with more parm!