Note: about three years ago, I wrote this recipe on a forum that is no longer public. But it’s so frickin’ good, I had to publish it somewhere!
Ideally, you start with guanciale. I don’t think I’ve ever found it, though, so I use pancetta. (Edit: These days I use a local, organic smoked bacon, which I get in big chunks.) They’re very similar: unsmoked, salted bacon. Guaciale is cheeks (in Italian, it means “Cheeks”), pancetta is belly (in Italian, it means “Belly”. I think the separation of meat from animal in our language is very interesting, but a discussion for another thread).
You’re going to need a bunch of parsley, too. The fluffy part of the parsley is maybe 15cm in diameter. You might not need that much, but parsley is good, so use it in something else.
You’ll need a lot of black pepper. If you don’t have a pepper mill, you’re going to need one. I recommend one of these. If you can’t get a peppermill, make something that doesn’t require pepper. I don’t know any recipes like that, so you’ll have to ask someone else what to make for dinner.
You’ll need two to three cloves of garlic. Ideally, of course, they’re fresh, but whatever.
You need less olive oil than you might think. The bacon fat will provide a fair amount of fat, and even though it’s not an excellent frying oil, it’s very tasty and you’re stuck with it anyway.
You’re gonna need two eggs. Sometimes, that’s too much egg, so select some smallish ones. If you can, get ones from up the street. They’re tastier, better for you, and you’re more likely to find eggs the size you want.
You need a fresh hunk of parmegiano and a cheese grater. If you don’t have one (this is mine), you might be able to get the Count of Cheese (that is the guy at the cheese counter) to grind it for you. Go for the gusto. Grind up a quarter pound. Or grind up more and eat a lot of pasta in the next couple of days.
You’ll need a bottle of dry white to deglaze. I think pinot grigio is probably the way to go. This part of the experiment is ongoing for me since I don’t know much about white wines (headache, you dig.)
… and you’re going to need a pound (or 500g) of spaghetti. Linguine are OK, but spaghetti is both traditional and strong enough to not break up when it’s in a thick sauce.
So here’s what you do.
- Boil the water. If you’re at my house and the landlord won’t fix the stove, grumble about it while the pot takes 45 minutes to boil.
- Salt the water heavily. It should taste salty. I cup my hand and pour a pile in until it might fall out of my hand. Your hand is a different size from mine, so next time we meet, we’ll compare hand volume and compensate appropriately.
- While the pasta is boiling, slice up the pancetta. You want the chunks of meat to be about 5mm in cross section, so cut accordingly. If your pancetta is sliced thinly, you’ll have to stay on your toes. You don’t want it getting crispy.
- Put just a touch of olive oil in the skillet. Enough so that it transmits the heat to the pancetta you’re about to put in.
- Sauté the pancetta and crushed garlic. Make sure it’s not crispy! Grind a bunch of pepper in. The oil holds the flavor better than just putting it on later. Degalze a couple of times. This keeps the pancetta from getting sharp and the garlic from getting sticky. Also, yum.
- When that’s all done, put it in your serving bowl. Use a rubber spatula to get out all the goodies.
- When the oil isn’t hot enough to cook eggs anymore, break your eggs into the serving bowl and mix thoroughly with a whisk. If you’re not squeamish about raw eggs, snitch some. Man, that stuff’s good.
- Take a cup of the pasta water, boiling along happily, and mix it into the serving bowl. This is the crazy part! I know! But it makes a huge difference. Make sure you stir with the whisk while you’re doing this. Otherwise, you can cook it.
- Put enough cheese in so that, if you added more, it would actually start to get thick. You don’t really want thick, just a lot of cheese. Mmmm.
- Chop up the parsley pretty fine and add in maybe three quarters of it.
- Hey, I bet the pasta’s done! Dump it into the colander, then put it immediately into the serving bowl, stirring it all together. After a while, you’ll notice that the liquid is just disappearing. Where’s it going? The pasta’s cooking it right onto itself! It’s like magic!
- Dust with the remaining parsley.
- Eat it. Maybe you eat a little too much, like I do most of the time.