I have real issues with the Italian language. Its not that I don’t enjoy or appreciate it. In fact, I believe it to be beautiful. Almost as beautiful as my friend Francesca, who, yes, is Italian.
My issues stem from pure ignorance, really. All the words kind of look the same. And they don’t look they way they sound. At least not at first (native-English-speaking-and-can-get-by-in-Spanish) glance. Once I educated myself on things like the absence of the English letter ‘k’, and the fact that ‘c’ on its own can make a “cha” sound, depending on the vowel that follows it, as well as the “kah” sound, I was slightly better off.
But there are times I’m reminded that the issues run deep. Recently, a dear, new, friend celebrated her 23rd birthday. I knew what I wanted to make her for dinner, but couldn’t think of the name. I wanted to say “cacciatore”. In fact, I did say cacciatore, but that was and is not what this dish I ended up making is called.
One day, I’ll be better. In the meantime, I have to keep writing down “carbonara” to etch the sound and pronunciation in my memory. Issues indeed.
This is fairly easy to make. The first person to ever make this dish for me was my friend Maria, before she left London forever. Maria is not Italian, coincidentally. She’s actually Russian-Tanzanian by way of Sweden and Luxembourg. Since that sad time when Maria quickly whipped a carbonara up for us, I’ve experimented with a few different variations and ideas, and then came up with the below. This is super easy, and the ingredients are fairly inexpensive for stretching to feed a small crowd.
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups pecorino romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling later
1 cup diced pancetta
453 grams dried pasta*
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Freshly ground pepper
- Whisk together eggs and 2 cups of cheese. Set aside.
- Boil water. Add some salt (always salt your pasta water!). Boil for the minimum amount of time cooking to al dente.
- Warm 2 tbsp of olive oil in skillet over medium heat.
- Add pancetta, cook til browned and the fat has rendered. Add the onion, cook til softened. Add garlic.
- Drain pasta, set aside, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water to add to the sauce later.
- Add mushrooms to the pancetta and onion pan. Increase heat to medium high and cook until mushrooms brown.
- Reduce heat. Add pasta plus 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Stir until evenly mixed. Remove from heat.
- Slowly whisk the rest of the cooking water into the egg-cheese mix.
- Pour egg-cheese mixture over pasta and toss well to combine.
- Season generously with pepper. Serve immediately and with additional cheese, if desired.
* I used farfalle because I find them to be cute and beautiful. Spaghetti works so well, though, so don’t divert away if you, like many people, have that in your cupboard!