Pasta Carbonara is a classic. It’s super easy to make, beautiful, and can be as simple or as nuanced as you like. There’s a lot of room for playing with it. Here’s how I played with it. Big picture: same thing as normal. Pasta. Eggs. Parm. Bacon. Salt and pepper. That’s still all pretty much the same. The main differences are using pancetta instead of bacon (same cut of the pig, so it’s really not too different). Then adding in a little bit of greenery and some chanterelles. Let’s get started.
1 lb of linguine
1 c parmesan plus more for garnish
8 oz chanterelles (mine were cooked in fat and frozen)
Two cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
Two sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp butter
½ lb of pancetta, thinly sliced is preferable
Fresh ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
A few sprigs of fresh parsley, finely chopped
If your chanterelles are frozen, like mine were, pull those out at least 8 hours in advance to start to thaw. If fresh, brush clean and rinse any dirt off. Cut down any larger ones so chanterelles are around one inch tall and wide in the cap.
Meanwhile, fill 1 gallon pot with about a two quarts of water and put over high heat with lid on. Sprinkle in a generous pinch of salt and a dash of oil.
Also beat eggs in a bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese so that it is evenly distributed.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in cast iron pan on medium high. Drop in garlic. Cook until garlic is golden. Add chanterelles. Flake thyme off sprigs over mushrooms. Add butter and turn to low heat. Stir regularly.
While mushrooms are cooking heat up another pan, griddle or skillet. Whatever you would normally use for bacon. Start cooking pancetta. Do this on medium heat so it doesn’t cook too fast, you could even start on low and then turn it up when you’re getting closer to ready to serve.
Once water has come to a rolling boil, add pasta and bring heat down to medium low. Let cook to desired level of doneness. I like al dente, so typically around 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the pasta and the heat of the water.
Step Five: Once pasta is cooked, drain off all but maybe a half cup or more of the water. Turn heat off on chanterelles and drop them into the pasta. Then pour in the egg-cheese mixture and a healthy pinch of two of salt. Stir everything in. The key to this step is to make sure that the pasta, the water remaining, and then chanterelles (and accompanying oil and garlic) are all very hot, so that they immediately begin to cook the egg when it goes into the pot. So work quickly!
Spoon pasta into pasta bowls. Grind black pepper over the pasta and sprinkle some crushed red pepper over it as well. Top with parmesan. Place one or two (or three, no judgment here) of the fried pancetta disks on top of the pasta. Garnish with a sprinkling of parsley.
Enjoy! This is a family favorite for me here at the Joice household. I hope you folks love it as much as we do! Also, feel free to play with this. Try it with fennel seeds instead of thyme. Add some ricotta. Stir in some roasted broccoli or cauliflower. Do what you like. That’s what I think.