Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a delicious and simple dish from Rome made with pancetta or guanciale and eggs. There should absolutely be no cream in carbonara: this is in fact a very good way to check the authenticity of Italian restaurants abroad. If the menu lists cream as part of carbonara sauce, my advice would be not to enter the restaurant but pick another one instead. I certainly do!
Having said that cream should not be part of carbonara, there is in fact not a single ‘official’ recipe for carbonara. Some recipes use white wine and some don’t. Some recipes use whole eggs, some use whole eggs as well as egg yolks. Some use pecorino, some use parmigiano, some use both. Here’s my version. I think using both cheeses gives the fullest flavor since they complement each other nicely. Instead of using white wine, you can reserve a bit of the cooking water and add some as needed when tossing the spaghetti with the egg (just make sure that the cooking water is less than 60C/140F, otherwise the egg will cook). Instead of using using dry spaghetti, this is also good with fresh home-made fettucine, but that is not like the Romans eat it.
Note: in the meantime I have posted an alternative way of preparing Carbonara.
For 2 servings
150-200 grams (0.35-0.45 lbs) of spaghetti
100-125 grams (1/4 pound) of pancetta or guanciale in thick slices
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
4 Tbsp freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
4 Tbsp freshly grated pecorino romano
freshly ground black pepper
1 glass (100 ml) dry white wine
1 Tbsp olive oil
Chop the pancetta or guanciale.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and spaghetti and cook al dente for the time indicated on the package.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add pancetta and sauté over medium heat until lightly golden. Add white wine and reduce until there is only a few tablespoons of liquid left.
Beat the egg and the egg yolk with some freshly ground black pepper. When the spaghetti is done, add it to the pancetta or guanciale, add about 2/3 of the grated cheese and turn off the heat. Now add the beaten egg and toss to mix. The trick is to get the temperature of the pan and the spaghetti just right before adding the egg. The pasta should be warm enough to slightly cook the egg so it will thicken, but should not be so hot that the egg will scramble.
Serve with the remaining grated cheese on top on warm plates (plates should not be too hot to avoid scrambling the eggs).