You may recall a few posts back that I suffered a little cringe during the movie Eat, Pray, Love when the voice-over was speaking about pasta alla carbonara, and the image showed noodles in a tomato sauce. I said at the time that we'd deal with that in another post. Well, here we are!
By the way, this is a perfect opportuntiy to offer my profound thanks to Charles, the proprietor of Canvas restaurant in Ottawa. The other day, I booked in a date with my youngest daughter for a birthday lunch (I had to be out of town on the real birthday, so this was a please-forgive-me meal.) Charles pulled out all the stops: he had the yellow chair reserved for us and even put spaghetti alla carbonara on as the pasta special for the day (my little angel happens to love carbonara, and the cooks did a bang-up job). So cheers, Charles!
This recipe is very similar to cacio e pepe, except that it has extra ingredients (viz: bacon, AND eggs). This tells you that it can only be better than cacio e pepe (if you happen to have bacon and eggs on hand). If you don't, then I am reminded of a song on my Bing Crosby Christmas CD that goes:
Christmas is a coming, the cider's in the keg.
If I had a mug of cider I wouldn't have to beg.
If you haven't got a mug of cider, half a mug will do.
If you haven't got half a mug, may God bless you!
So, if you don't have eggs and bacon, may God bless you! (But cacio e pepe is wonderful if you don't.)
Piggy Market in Ottawa, and get it by the slab rather than sliced. This lets me slice it if I want (for brekkie with oatmeal cooked with a wee splash of Scotch), or I can cut it into chunks if I'm making something that calls for lardons like a Flamm. Guanciale is made from a different part of the hog, but it seems close enough to bacon that if you don't have any you should feel free to substitute (Carol may disagree with me here, and she's welcome to weigh in, but this recipe came out aces as far as I'm concerned!)
Now, start heating the water to boil your pasta. Starting this now ensures that the oil and bacon can cool before you need them for the sauce. This is important because you need to add eggs to this stuff. If it's too hot, the eggs will cook and curdle too early leaving you with a lumpy carbonara instead of a nice, smooth, creamy one. This is also why you mix all this stuff in a bowl, rather than in a skillet -- it too will cook the eggs before they combine properly.