Banting/paleo/LCHF – call it what you like – question is, with all this bad-bad-naughty-carbs hoopla, do endurance athletes still carbo load at all? If so, this one is for all you mad bunnies doing the Argus Cycle Tour this Sunday.
Carbonara is one of those pasta sauces that sounds impressive (and hence strikes fear into the heart of many a cook). But really, it’s one of the simplest, quickest, and hence most rewarding, pasta sauces you can make.
I always have bacon in the freezer and aged parmesan and eggs in the fridge. They’re the base for so many an instant dinner. Think cheese soufflé, omelettes, frittata, Welsh rarebit of sorts… But by far my favourite has to be carbonara. Many add cream, but this is not traditional – at least not according to my semi Italian gran (she married a Van der Merwe, what more can I say?). I wouldn’t buy cream specially, but if you happen to have some, it doesn’t hurt. Or go bonkers and use deeply earthy pancetta instead of bacon, and add a generous dollop of mascarpone.
All you need is…
12 strips of pancetta (I used Ricomondo brand stocked at Pick ‘n Pay)
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs mascarpone
8 tbs quality parmesan, very finely grated
1 packet (500g) spaghetti or linguini
Whisk together the eggs, mascarpone, parmesan and a few grinds of black pepper and set aside.
To make the pancetta crips, place four pancetta strips on baking paper on a baking tray. Cover with another layer of baking paper and place a heavy ovenproof dish on top. Weighing the pancetta down like this prevents it from curling up while it cooks, ensuring razor-straight crisps. Bake at 180 degree Celsius until crisp (± 10 minutes – they harden further as they cool). While the crisps are cooking, slice the remaining pancetta in 1cm slices. Fry in olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until cooked but not crisp. (The pancetta freely available in SA is sliced very thinly – dainty and fragile as the whiskers of a day-old kitten – so it takes mere seconds to cook.) Remove from the heat.
Drop pasta into plenty of well-salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Keep half a cup of the pasta water. As soon as the pasta is done, drain and add to the pan of pancetta. Stir over a high heat until the pasta is well coated with the pancetta-flavoured oil. If it’s too dry and starts sticking, add a few spoons of the pasta water. Remove from the heat and pour over the egg mixture, ensuring that you toss the pasta with tongs while doing so. The heat in the pasta will cook the egg and you will end up with a smooth, velvety sauce. (Take care that you stir quickly and off the heat or you’ll end up with nasty scrambled eggs which cannot be rescued.)
Serve immediately with a pancetta crisp per person and loads of extra parmesan.