While all of us surely love our lobster ravioli, truffle oil, shavings of truffles encased in sheets of freshly made pasta, foie terrines, and other fussy dishes, sometimes it's hard to beat a well made, silken, custardy carbonara. The problem is, many restaurants don't seem to be able to put out a halfway decent one! Either the noodles are overcooked, the bacon's too salty, or the eggs have scrambled. Which means that whenever I want this, I tend to make it on my own. So I'm lucky that it's so ridiculously simple to make.
The basic "formula" for this is 100g of dried pasta, 1 egg yolk, 50mils of cream, and 20-30g of parmesan. And while the meat in question is usually thickly sliced bacon lardons, I'm using some chorizo here that I got from a recent trip to Barcelona, which is an intensely smoky, flavourful and fragrant dry cured sausage, to give it a slightly Spanish twist. What I love about chorizo is that the smoked paprika used in seasoning the sausage bleeds red into the oil that's rendered out as you heat it, which in turn imparts a deep orange hue to the sauce. Of course, if you don't have chorizo, bacon will do great (that's the classic way after all), otherwise another twist I love is using meatballs made from sausagemeat (a herby, garlicky one works best for me) which you sauté with the bacon until its fully cooked before adding the noodles in.
I hope you try it and love it as much as I do, 'cos that'll mean you never have to face another sad restaurant-style excuse of a carbonara again. Oh and by the way, do yourself a favour and leave out those frozen peas ;)
- Bring a deep pot of water to the boil, and salt it generously (it should taste like the sea).
- Cut the chorizo slices into quarters (alternatively you could just use very thin slices, but I like it this way cos then you have the crispy outside but chewy interior). Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat and gently fry the chorizo to render out some oil and heat it through, giving the pan a couple of good tosses.
- Cook the pasta until it's just al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the cream, egg yolks, and parmesan. Season this mix well with pepper, but leave the salting till later - the parmesan and sausages are both salty, so it's best to correct the seasoning at the end.
- When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the saucepan. Remove the saucepan from the heat, then pour in the egg mix, tossing carefully so each noodle is coated in the sauce. The residual heat from the pan and the noodles will cook the eggs but shouldn't make them curdle. Taste, correct the seasoning if necessary, then serve immediately with extra parmesan on the side and sprinkled with parsley if desired.