Carbonara is a classic Italian dish made with strands of spaghetti, pancetta, eggs, and Parmesan cheese. It is a rich, creamy pasta dish that can be served as a meal on its own or with fresh vegetables. It is a simple yet delicious dish that can be prepared in under 30 minutes.
The Difference Between Pasta Alfredo and Carbonara is Cream
Unlike pasta Alfredo, carbonara does not use heavy cream in its sauce. Instead, the creaminess comes from an emulsion of egg yolks & starchy pasta water, which creates a silky, velvety, cheesy sauce.
To make a carbonara sauce, boil al dente spaghetti (if you’re using linguine or fettucine, you may need to add a little extra cooking liquid as they cook differently). Once the pasta is cooked, drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta’s starchy water.
While the pasta is boiling, fry up a package of pancetta in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Once the pancetta is browned and crisp, remove from the skillet & set aside.
Next, in a small bowl, whisk together eggs and grated Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
The key to making a perfect carbonara is timing – the sauce needs to be cooked quickly in order for the egg yolks and pasta water to fully emulsify. If it takes too long, the egg yolks will scramble and create a lumpy sauce.
Bringing the eggs to room temperature before adding them to the sauce will help keep them from scrambling, so it is important to do this ahead of time. Once the sauce is ready, stir in the egg mixture while adding a few tablespoons of pasta water to thin out the sauce.
You can also mix a little bit of cream into the carbonara sauce for extra creaminess. This is not traditional, but it does work well for some people.
The most important thing to remember when making carbonara is to use high-quality ingredients, so be sure to only buy the best you can find. For example, don’t use pre-grated cheese because it will not give you the same texture and flavour.
It’s also a good idea to use freshly grated parmesan rather than store-bought pre-grated cheese. This is because the pre-grated cheese loses moisture and flavour when you’re cooking it, which means that it won’t be as rich and creamy as it could be!
A sprinkling of a little chopped parsley, a bit of lemon juice and some finely diced arugula can really brighten the dish. The flavour and the texture of the arugula will complement the cheese in the sauce very nicely, and you should serve your carbonara with these garnishes for a truly scrumptious dinner!
How to Store Your Carbonara
Once the sauce has cooled down, it is a good idea to transfer it to an airtight container and store in the fridge. This will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy and will help it to keep its creamy texture longer.