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Recipe: A Perfect Carbonara from Lucky Peach’s ‘All About Eggs’

Master a classic

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Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford

Here’s a recipe you should keep around for when you don’t know what to make for dinner. Carbonara, a Roman dish of pasta and bits of smokey pork coated in a creamy sauce thickened with eggs, can be particularly tricky to master, but this version makes it easy. It’s from All About Eggs: Everything We Know About the World's Most Important Food, the latest and last ever book from the publishers of Lucky Peach, that gonzo-great food magazine that died too soon.

Written by Rachel Khong, with the editorial staff of Lucky Peach providing recipe support and a few contributors adding stories and tips, All About Eggs is a fun read and resource. It contains all sorts of interesting odes to one of the world’s most perfect foods; its recipe for carbonara is a must-have.

The trouble with carbonara is that it’s extremely time and temperature sensitive. If the pasta or sauce are overheated — even by a couple of degrees! — at any point in the preparation, instead of a silky sauce over slippery pasta noodles you’ll have curdled egg chunks in an oily puddle. But if you follow a good formula, like the one below — which instructs cooks to stir the sauce and hot pasta together in a bowl off the stove — you win dinner. No spaghetti on hand? Any dried pasta will work. No guanciale? Bacon makes a fine substitution; cubes of ham work in a pinch. Bonus: Carbonara takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, from start to finish.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This is pasta that’s been made with egg and sauced in egg, so it was more or less mandatory in this egg book. Carbone, Italy, has nothing to do with carbonara—this is a Roman dish. It’s possible that carbonara did come from a restaurant called La Carbonara in Rome, but we can’t be 100 percent sure. What we do know is that carbonara (a spaghetti dish that’s finished with a mixture of beaten eggs, pecorino, and bacon or guanicale or pancetta) didn’t become internationally popular until after World War II. Historians speculate that the original pasta carbonara was a modernized version made by foodstrapped cooks with leftover American war rations (in which bacon and powdered egg yolks would have been bountiful). The original was a dish endemic to central and southern Italy, and consisted, simply, of pasta dressed with melted lard and beaten eggs and cheese. Carbonara is simple to put together—provided you temper the eggs, warming them up with the pasta water a little at a time so they don’t curdle—and best eaten within a few minutes of cooking.

Makes 4 servings

4 oz guanciale, finely diced
+ salt
12 oz spaghetti
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup finely grated pecorino cheese
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the guanciale in a large cold skillet and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until the guanciale is crisp and rendered, about 12 minutes. Remove the meat to a bowl and reserve the drippings.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it well, then add the spaghetti. Cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the whole eggs and the yolks, pecorino, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the guanciale drippings together in a large heatproof bowl. Gradually temper the mixture with 1⁄3 cup pasta water. Reserve in a warm spot.

4. When the spaghetti is al dente, lift it with tongs from the pot directly into the bowl with the egg mixture and toss it vigorously in the sauce until the sauce thickens and clings to the noodles, about 30 seconds, adding splashes of pasta water if necessary. Add the guanciale and toss again.

5. Divide among 4 warm bowls and serve immediately.

Reprinted from All About Eggs: Everything We Know About the World’s Most Important Food. Copyright © 2017 by Lucky Peach, LLC. Photographs and illustrations copyright © 2017 by Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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