Although it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words comfort food, pasta carbonara is one of my all-time favorite pick-me-up dishes. For a meal to be comforting it has to have an element of nostalgia and growing up whenever my dad made his pasta carbonara, I took tremendous pleasure in each delicious bite.
It’s also one of the first dishes I learned how to make. On a cold fall night eight years ago, I was homesick living in Spain, so I called my dad and asked him to send me the recipe. Since then, if I’m feeling down in the dumps or missing home, I make pasta carbonara. I’m not the only one who craves the coziness that comes with a bowl of carbonara while living in a foreign country: when my sister moved to Bolivia, she called my dad and asked him for the method to his famous carbonara, too.
Besides nostalgia, the other components that make a food comforting, carbs, cheese, and cream, can all be found in carbonara. The recipe listed here isn’t my dad’s version (he adds Italian sausage!), it’s a simplified take on the classic Italian technique with pancetta instead of guanciale. As it’s what I often make myself when I’m home alone, this recipe serves one.
A quarter sized handful of spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices cold pancetta, chopped
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Splash of white wine
Splash of cream
1/4-1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
- Fill a large pot with water and place over high heat. Season generously with salt and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook 1 minute less than the directions on the spaghetti package (which is usually about 8-10 minutes).
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium low heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the pancetta and cook slowly until it begins to render its fat, about 4 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and stir to coat. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for 4 minutes, stirring to make sure that the shallot and garlic do not burn. When things are starting to stick to the pan and brown a little, add a splash of white wine to scrape up all the browned bits.
- While the pancetta, shallots, and garlic cook, beat the egg in a small bowl. Add a splash of cream and 1/4 cup of the cheese to the bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and beat to combine.
- When the pasta is cooked transfer it with a pasta fork to the pan with the pancetta, shallots, and garlic. Add a tablespoon or 2 of the pasta water to the pan and stir the mixture to combine all the flavors. Cook 1 minute.
- Remove the pan from the heat and working quickly, add the egg mixture to the pasta. Toss the pasta stirring it until each strand is coated in a creamy sauce. Transfer to a bowl, top with more parmesan and freshly ground black pepper, if desired, and enjoy immediately.