Growing up, I couldn't fathom why friends would forgo slumber parties for their dad's deep dish lasagna, I didn't understand perpetual arguments over whose grandmother made better sauce and I felt utterly betrayed by my sister when she chose The Old Spaghetti Factory (every time!) on family trips for dinner. It's not that I didn't like pasta; it's just that I could easily deliver a list longer than linguine of many more mouthwatering meals.
|spaghetti in waiting|
Noodles, to me, equalled nothing; yet I loved when my mom would make them. On those days it seemed as our house had been transformed into a real-life Play-Doh pasta plant. Floury rounds were fed through smooth, shiny rollers and squished into pancake-ish form; perfect scarves of pasta then carried from the kitchen and draped over every chair to wait for their noodle evolution. With a crank of the handle, golden strands of fresh fettuccine were magically extruded by the pound, then returned to their rows where they'd dangle to dry like a doughy dining room car wash. It was impossible not to touch. And they smelled good.
|photos (and pasta) courtesy of my mom|
Today, instead of the backs of her chairs, Mom has a nice wooden hanger and I've grown up to fully enjoy a good plate. When she forwarded the photos I requested for this story (thank you Mom), she mentioned making a modified alfredo sauce rather than the usual meat/tomato to avoid covering the pasta taste with such a dominant flavour. This brings up the reason I passed on pasta as a kid; I like my noodles naked.
|pancetta, garlic, onions|
Cover the bottom of a sauté pan (to about 1 cm depth) with the absolute best quality extra virgin olive oil you can afford, heating over medium heat, until an onion piece added will sizzle. Add one large diced onion, 2 or 4 minced garlic cloves, and two handfuls of chopped pancetta. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Keep an eye on the heat, reducing to low if necessary; you do not want the oil to boil or smoke - but you want your stuff to cook.
|olive oil simmer|
After 20 minutes of simmer, add a sprinkle of crushed red peppers. As much as I love heat; here less is more - don't get carried away as those who wish can add more later. Continue to simmer and stir, now adding one package (500g) of spaghetti noodles to a large pot of (already) boiling salted water you have on the stove.
|eggs, salt, pepper|
In a small cup, whisk 2 eggs with a little salt and a lot of fresh ground pepper. When the spaghetti is cooked al dente, quickly drain and return to the pot (keeping the noodles as hot as possible is a must). Add the eggs and stir madly; the heat of the noodles will cook the eggs and the stirring will distribute them evenly (as shown in photo below). When you are certain the eggs are done, add your olive oil/onion/garlic/pancetta mixture and stir well again. Place spaghetti in bowls and top with a generous spoonful of fresh grated parmesan cheese.
|eggs cooked by noodles|
Don't be fooled by the nudity; the beauty of this dish comes through it's simplicity. Simmering the onion, garlic, pancetta and peppers for a good length of time allows for the flavours to fully develop and you can taste each ingredient (including the noodles) without any overpowering the others.
While easily adaptable to accommodate more, the amounts here are perfect for two. With no rush in the kitchen and no mess to clean up, pour some wine and prepare this for your partner. It takes less than an hour to put on the table (leaving more time for naked beyond noodles).
Learn more about Spaghetti Carbonara @ Wikipedia
Learn more about heating olive oil @ The Olive Oil Source