Steve’s guanciale has been sectioned, sealed and frozen, but not before we put some to a very good use. We’ve long been fans of pasta carbonara, even championing Calvin Trillin’s effort to change Thanksgiving into National Pasta Carbonara Day. (Trillin seems interested in the humorous aspects of carbonara-themed parades and presidential portraits. We’re more interested in eliminating the angst and crap food found in so many “traditional Thanksgiving” meals.)
Carbonara sauce has a murky origin, but Gourmandistan is partial to the “GI Joe” creation myth, in which starved, fascist-freed Italians turned powdered eggs and Army bacon into something quite delicious. Bacon, eggs, cheese and pasta are pretty much all you need. We’re now certain, however, that guanciale is better.
In her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan writes that “in Rome, one can sometimes have the sauce … with salted pork jowl” which is “hard to get outside Italy.” She suggests using pancetta, an unsmoked Italian belly bacon, but notes that jowl “is so much sweeter than bacon.” We have to say that our guanciale isn’t as sweet as Steve’s maple-cured bacon, but Marcella has a point. Along with a novel splash of white wine, Steve’s guanciale helped make the best carbonara we’ve ever tasted. Here’s the recipe, but we can’t promise the same results—unless you come over and persuade Steve to make pasta, break out the guanciale and crack a couple of freshly laid eggs.
(adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking) (serves 4)
- 1/2 lb. guanciale (or pancetta or regular bacon), sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 TB olive oil
- 1/4 c. dry white wine
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- 2-3 TB chopped parsley
Cut bacon into thin strips, about 1/4” wide.
Mash garlic cloves with a knife. Put garlic and olive oil in a skillet and sauté until garlic is deeply colored. Discard garlic.
Put strips of bacon into the pan. Cook until crispy. Add wine and boil for a couple of minutes. Turn off heat.
Break eggs into a large bowl. Beat lightly. Add cheese, some pepper and the chopped parsley. Mix.
Cook 1-1/4 lb. pasta (either spaghetti or fettucine). Drain and add to the bowl of eggs. Toss, coating all the strands.
Reheat the bacon briefly over high heat. Then dump entire contents of the skillet into the bowl with the pasta. Toss again, and serve.