This is a simple pasta dish that can be ready in the time it takes for the spaghetti to cook. The original Roman version uses guanciale (cured pork jowl), Pecorino-Romano cheese and raw eggs. You may substitute pancetta (Italian bacon) or bacon for the pork and Parmigiano Reggiano for the the Pecorino. By mixing the eggs, cheese and pasta water you’ll create a smooth and creamy sauce even though cream is never used.
This is one of those dishes that is not time-specific, meaning it is as enjoyable for breakfast as it is for dinner. And, if you keep some pancetta in the freezer (Pasta, olive oil, cheese and eggs are generally staples), on a moments notice, you can whip up a satisfying meal morning, noon or night any time of the year. To me, this is perfect “jet-lag” food, after I’ve returned home from travelling and I don’t know which time-zone I’m in and my brain and stomach are in conflict as to if it’s time to eat … my stomach always wins!
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), diced
- 8 ounces spaghetti
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Using a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and add the pancetta. Cook until browned and crispy. Remove from heat but, cover the pan to keep warm.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and cook the pasta.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, parsley and cheese. Just before the pasta is done, remove about 1 cup of the pasta water. Whisk in a couple of tablespoons to the egg mixture (this helps temper the eggs).
- Here comes the tricky part because it is the hot pasta that will gently cook the egg, rather than the heat from the stove top burner (which would scramble them instead of creating a sauce). When the pasta is done, drain and add immediately to the saute pan with the pancetta. Using tongs or a pasta fork, quickly add the egg mixture and toss well, adding additional pasta water as necessary to create a velvety sauce. Season with several grinds of black pepper and taste before you add salt because both the bacon and Pecorino are salty.
- To serve, transfer to individual bowls and top with grated cheese if desired. Serve with some bruschette.