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A bowl of spaghetti carbonara.

Foolproof Spaghetti Carbonara

This recipe for foolproof spaghetti carbonara appears as part of the Fine Dining Lovers series, The Secrets of Italian Food, with London-based Italian chef, Danilo Cortellini

Nothing can be as potentially divisive or provocative with Italians than people altering a classic carbonara recipe. So here is the definitive recipe, using pigs' cheeks, egg yolks, black pepper and parmesan cheese, and served with spaghetti. A classic dish from the Roman tradition, known as one of Rome's 'four famous pastas', the carbonara is a simple dish that requires a very specific technique. Once you get it right though, it is easily perfected. Just don't, under any circumstances, add cream. Ever. 

Discover how to do it properly here.

07 November, 2022
Average: 4 (8 votes)

Cuisine

serves for

4

total time

0 HR 50 MIN

ingredients

For the pasta
Flour 00
300g
Semolina flour
100g (durum wheat flour)
Eggs
4, plus 1 yolk
For the carbonara
Guanciale
400g
Eggs
2
Egg yolks
4
Pecorino romano
150g grated, plus more for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
To taste

Watch the video

 

Step 01

Creating fresh pasta.

For the pasta 

Create a well on your worktop with both flours, and pour the eggs in the middle. Mix with a fork to start, then use your hands when the eggs and flour start to bind together. Knead with energy by stretching and pulling your dough back together. This will activate the gluten in the flour, giving you an elastic dough. 

Step 02

Resting the pasta.

When smooth and elastic, and all is absorbed and incorporated, wrap the dough and let it rest for about 30 minutes in the fridge. 

Step 03

Passing pasta through a pasta machine.

Slice the dough and pass it gradually in a pasta machine from the larger setting to the desired thickness, about 3 to 4mm. 

Step 04

Using a pasta cutter.

Before cutting, ensure that the sheets are well floured and not too sticky or humid. Cut using the machine’s pasta cutter, or alternatively a very sharp knife or a traditional chitarra cutter. Cut your spaghetti, dust with flour and keep them ready to cook. They can be stored in the fridge for a maximum of 2 days in a closed container, or frozen and cooked straight from the freezer.

Step 05

Cooking guanciale for carbonara.

To prepare the carbonara 

Chop and sweat the guanciale in a large pan on a low heat, so that the fat renders down slowly without overheating and burning.

When crispy and browned, remove from the fat and pat dry on kitchen paper. If there is too much fat in the pan, remove some but make sure you retain some. Do not wash the pan – this is where the flavour is and where the pasta will be dressed.

 

Step 06

Beating eggs for carbonara.

Beat the eggs in a heatproof bowl and add the grated pecorino. Season with a sprinkle of salt and abundant black pepper. Mix well.

Step 07

Cooking eggs in a bain-marie for carbonara.

Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes in a bain-marie. You are looking for a smooth, creamy consistency with no lumps, a bit like a custard. Never allow the water to boil as strong heat will scramble the egg mixture. At this stage, for an extra glossy sauce add a spoon of the retained guanciale fat. 

Step 08

Cooking pasta for carbonara.

Cook the spaghetti al dente in salted boiling water.

Step 09

Mixing pasta and egg sauce for carbonara.

Drain the spaghetti and toss straight into the pan with the guanciale fat. Do not discard the pasta water. Turn the pan heat on, add a ladle of starchy pasta water and stir and toss the pasta to make sure it is well coated with the emulsion created by the fat. 

Turn off the heat and add the egg sauce. The remaining heat will melt the egg sauce and you can still use a bit of pasta water to loosen it up. Mix well and add the crispy guanciale. 

Step 10

Adding grated pecorino romano on carbonara.

When everything is glossy and combined, check the seasoning and plate. Top with freshly-ground black pepper and grated pecorino romano.

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Chef Danilo Cortellini

Danilo Cortellini

Cortellini is the head chef at the Italian Embassy in London, and founder of Tiramisoo Events, a London-based catering and events company w

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