I like pasta. I love bacon. There’s not much else, apart from a few basics that you probably already have in the kitchen, that goes into making a yummy pasta carbonara. Coming home late yesterday evening from work, I knew there wasn’t much in the fridge or cupboards for anything too fancy but I knew there was bacon. The following ingredients pertain to a pasta carbonara and are items you should always have in your kitchen stock: Pasta. Eggs. Milk. Butter. Flour. Onions. Garlic. Salt. Pepper. Not a lot is needed to make this meal, and happily, most of the aforementioned things are sold in large packages and will keep for long enough periods of time without spoiling. Don’t be fooled by the use-by date on egg cartons: although I generally dislike storing them in the fridge because I hate to cook with cold eggs, they will keep for almost forever if you refridgerate them. My old chef Jack told me that when I asked nervously about eggs going out of date, and he should know, he used to serve up sweet treats to two of the world’s most powerful men – Barack Obama and George W. Bush (whose favourite dessert is chocolate cake by the way) – when he worked in the White House pastry kitchen. But don’t tell anyone I told you that, it’s a matter of national security!!
But back to the pasta carbonara. Apart from cooked pasta and bacon, you’ll need to make a roux sauce, which is super easy provided you have a whisk and a brain. Take the few minutes to get it right from the beginning and you’ll have a lovely, thick, creamy white sauce. I always add a dash or two of nutmeg to my white sauce because I love it. I never use a recipe these days, thanks to learning the simplicity of this sauce back in my school days: I just melt a big knob of butter, whisk in enough flour to make a thick paste and then whisk in a shedload of milk, season and cook down to a creamy sauce.
I made this recipe from memory so excuse the lack of precise ingredients. I am the worst at portion control so, if cooking for more than myself without a recipe, I’ll usually end up making loads rather than risk serving up teeny portions. This recipe will serve 4 people quite handsomely, especially if there’s garlic bread. Nom nom nom. I like to add green beans to mine, and toasted walnuts if there are any hanging around. Totally your call.
I’ll be honest, there was a lot going on in the kitchen last night, what with all the pans going on the hob and the oven on for the garlic bread. There’ll be a lot of washing up too so try to rope in a buddy to help out, especially when it comes to making the roux sauce and keeping an eye on the frying pan. However I find the work is totally worth it; there’s nothing nicer than a rich, creamy pasta sauce with bacon and garlic bread. Big Brother hoovered it up and said it was very nice indeed.
Pasta CarbonaraEnough pasta to feed four people. I used a smidgen tagliatelle and the rest was fusilli 4-6 rashers, cut into chunks. Or you can pick up a pack of pre-cut lardons which will probably give a better taste and texture ½ onion, chopped 2-3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped Approx 100g / 2 oz butter Approx ¼ cup of flour Approx 1½-2 cups milk Salt and freshly ground black pepper Approx ½tsp nutmeg (optional) 1 egg yolk Green beans + 1-2 cloves of garlic + Jamie Oliver’s Hot & Smoky Chilli Salt Grinder (or just use chilli flakes and salt) Handful of chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
Turn on the oven to 180C. Place a sheet of foil on a baking tray, if you so wish, and scatter the chopped walnuts. Toast in the oven for a maximum 10mins. Set aside for serving. Get the grill/broiler going if you’re going to make garlic bread.
In a pan with a smidgen of oil, fry up the chunks of bacon over a medium heat until browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Throw the onion straight into the pan and fry til golden. Add the garlic, stir it up and cook for 20-30 seconds, until the garlic begins to become fragrant.
While the bacon is cooking, start the roux sauce: In a smallish saucepan over a low heat, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk it up immediately to make a thick paste. Pour in the milk gradually, whisking well after each addition to keep the mixture smooth and silky. Once all the milk is added, season with salt and pepper, and nutmeg if using. Bring barely to the boil, whisking regularly, then lower the heat. Allow the milk to reduce to make a thick, pourable sauce. If it goes a little past thick (like mine did because I wasn’t watching) add more milk, and/or if you’re feeling gluttonous, a dash of cream, and whisk back to a thick, creamy sauce.
Add the onions and garlic to the sauce, shaking the pan to get as much of the flavourful oil in as possible. Add the cooked bacon and stir.
Meanwhile, top and tail the green beans if using. Chop them in half. Throw them in a pot of boiling water, turn the heat off and allow them to cook for 3-4 mins. Drain. In a pan with a little oil, fry up the garlic over a low-medium heat for 20-30 seconds then add the parboiled green beans. Toss them around to coat in oil and garlic then season with the salt and chilli (or Chilli Grinder). Allow to cook for another 5 mins or so, keeping the heat low. If you’re making garlic bread, now would be a decent time to put it under the grill! (Garlic butter is butter @ room temp + 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic + hefty pinch of salt (or garlic salt if you have it) + pinch of parsley, mushed together).
Pour the cream sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Add in the egg yolk and stir well.
To serve, throw the cooked green beans and a scattering of toasted walnuts on top. The textures are ohmygodfabulous! Where’s your garlic bread? Serve that up too.