Quarantine Carbonara Recipe
There have been lots of jokes going around about "pantry recipes" promoted by news outlets and celebrities that grossly overestimate the ingredients the average stuck-at-home individual has at their disposal, but this handy 6-ingredient recipe should be able to make a tasty dinner for any non-vegan (non-dairy cheese can easily be subbed in, but I have not found an egg replacement that works for this recipe yet - shoot any suggestions my way)!
Pasta carbonara is my favorite Italian dish - it's creamy and flavorful and not nearly as intimidating to make as I thought it would be when I first started making it. I've altered and changed a base recipe a lot over the years, and often change it up based on what ingredients I have available. Unlike the science of baking, cooking is more of an art - sometimes when I make this dish, it isn't the prettiest - but it's almost always tasty! Without further ado, my recipe for college (or in this case, quarantine) carbonara!
This theoretically makes 4 servings (sometimes I eat it all in one sitting, sometimes i am smart and cut the recipe in half before cooking so that I don't eat four servings of pasta in one sitting, other times I actually successfully meal prep)
- 8 oz (eyeball half a box) pasta of your choice
- 2 tablespoons (ish) oil (veggie, olive, avocado - whatever sparks joy)
- 2+ cloves garlic, minced
- some (let's say 8 oz?) cured meat cut into bite-sized pieces - vegetarians sub. mushrooms! Non veggies, you can still throw some shrooms in there, these are lawless times. It is traditionally made with guanciale (cured pork cheek). If you have guanciale in your pantry, you're not going to like this recipe.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup shredded or grated cheese (ideally a hard cheese like pecorino romano or parmesan, but I've fully made this with shredded "mexican medley" my roommate left in the fridge while she was out of town and it still tasted good)
- salt and pepper to taste (sometimes I also add some garlic powder - feel free to have fun with seasonings if that is your vibe)
First things first, check the prep time on your pasta box! The number of grown adults who don't know that literally every pasta package has a cook time on the box is absurd to me - often times it's in big font! It's time to grow up and stop overcooking your pasta, friend. And make sure you add salt to the water! This stops the pasta from sticking to the pot, and raises the boiling point of the water to the appropriate pasta cooking temp.
Once the water comes to a boil, cook your pasta for the noted cook time - I personally like to shave off a minute of the cook time because the pasta will cook a little bit longer in the sauce and keeping it Al Dente (with a bit of bite to it) is important to me.
While your pasta is cooking, add the oil, minced garlic, and your protein (or mushrooms) to a large pan over low heat. If your meat needs to be cooked (such as raw bacon), make sure it is cooked through at this step - if you are using something like prosciutto or salami, just warm it enough to be fragrant and crispy. Sometimes I add the salt and pepper here.
When the pasta is fully cooked, use a measuring cup to grab half a cup of the pasta water and set it asside before straining the pasta (do NOT shock the pasta with cold water! I don't know why people do this! You need the starch for the pasta to stick to her sauce!) and transferring it from the strainer to your pan that is sitting over low heat. Incorporate the pasta to your garlic/oil/protein party.
Now the tricky part. Make sure you are working over VERY LOW heat in order to not scramble (but still cook) the egg. Alternate adding cheese, egg, and splashes of your saved pasta water into the pan while stirring constantly (I like to use a wooden spoon). If your egg does scramble a little bit, don't worry too much - it will still taste great. You may not use all of the 1/2 cup water you saved, but if you see clumps of cheese it means you need to add more. If you didn't add your seasonings before, do it here.
When everything is incorporated and you have a creamy but not fully liquid sauce - you're done! Plate (or just remove the pan from the heat and eat it out of that, if you're like me), sprinkle with some extra cheese, throw on your current netflix binge, and enjoy!