Monday, June 05, 2006

Culinary Challenge: Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

When I'm not freeloading my colleague's dinner table (95% of the time), I attempt to cook (5% of the time). I'm not an experienced cook so most of my cooking usually ends up OK and in need of a little fine-tuning.

My Plan: Making Spaghetti Alla Carbonara for dinner...

The Ingredients:
1/4 pound (100 g) pancetta or bacon
1/2 cup (25 g) grated Pecorino Romano
4 egg yolks and 2 egg whites
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream (optional)
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
A pound (400 g) of spaghetti

Serves 4
(source -

What I Did?

1. Reduce the measurement of the available ingredients for 4 to 1 by guess-timation...

2. Boil the pasta with salt.

3. In a bowl, mix egg and cheese. I had substituted the grated Pecorino Romano with Kraft's grated Parmesian cheese for the simple reason that Pecorino Romano costs 20 times more. (Yes, I'm not yet ready to invest in myself as a cook!). Into the mixture also add salt and pepper. Heavy cream was not an option to me because it sounds like a lot of fat.

4. Dice and saute bacon in some olive oil (I only use extra virrrrgin) until crispy.

5. When the pasta was done, drain and transfer pasta to a plate. Pour in the egg/cheese mixture, stir and expect the heat of the pasta to do the cooking. Add bacon crisp and serve

Reality Check and The Verdict

The pasta was perfectly al dente. A marked improvement in my history of cooking pasta.

Well, the heat from the pasta didn't cook the eggs or melt the cheese completely as the recipe intended. In my hurry to transfer the pasta to avoid losing heat, I failed to completely drain the pasta. Some residue water evidently went on to the plate. Hence, the pasta was slightly "soupy". Finally, I had to put it into the microwave for several minutes to complete the cooking process.

Result: As Joey Tribianni will say, Eggs good! Cheese good! Bacon Good! Pasta Gooood!!!! What's not to like about it?

While most commercial carbonaras are way too creamy for my taste, my home-made pasta was eggy and cheesy, which was more suited for my taste buds. Since the cheese didn't melt well from the onset and there was a little bit of "gravy" due to incomplete draining, the taste wasn't as rich as I'd like. This was easily resolved by adding more cheese to the pasta.

As for my next attempt, I believe that sauteing the pasta in a pan will greatly enrich the taste because it will bring out the flavour of cheese and egg even more. Now I will need to find a "guinea pig"...