Monday, May 03, 2010
When in Rome
When we need a speedy dinner, one of our busy weeknight go-to dishes is pasta alla carbonara. Carbonara is a dish of Roman origin but it's exact history and ingredient list are, as with many of the iconic pasta dishes of Italy, often subject to debate and what is locally available.
We prefer a sauce made from eggs only (no cream), flavoured with pancetta, bacon or guanciale, a blend of pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano, fresh parsley and a good dose of freshly cracked black pepper.
The eggs are an important part of this dish. They provide the body of the sauce and should be as fresh as possible. I use whole eggs and occasionally the extra yolk if I need the white for part of another course.
Pancetta, bacon or guanciale. Pancetta makes great sauce. Bacon, being more readily available (and likely more budget friendly as well) will certainly do the job. We have, in the past few years, cured our own pork cheeks (much like Matt's at Wrightfood) and the results were pretty good. The sheer richness begs for use in carbonara or a paper thin slice, draped and melting, over warm from the oven bread - if your cholesterol levels are in need if a boost.
I usually blend the cheeses (favouring a slightly higher ratio of pecorino to Parmigiano) but my Roman friend will only use pecorino. The flavour is sharper and the results for both are delicious.
At last the pasta.. always a long pasta and, 99% of the time, that means spaghetti. Occasionally linguine makes it into the pot for carbonara but never a short pasta. For us, the whole point of this silken egg sauce is lost on penne, farfalle or the like.. those long strands are essential in allowing for the perfect amount of sauce to pasta in every bite.
For wine.. strangely enough, this dish typically seems to favour a glass of Sauvignon blanc, a Sémillon or a blend of the two. Two of my favourites are from Whitehaven and Pegasus Bay. On a weeknight, a bargain Aussie Sémillon blend (and there are many) would be a great match. If you're not totally sold on Sauvvy, preferring a fuller bodied white, try Cooper's Creek Gisborne Arneis for something different.