The first time I had mind-blowing spaghetti carbonara was on my honeymoon in Rome, Italy. It was not the first time I ate the dish. There were variations at various American pasta spots that added heavy cream or mozzarella to the dish, making it more like Alfredo. Good, but a little heavy and lacking finesse.
J and I ordered the dish at a small sidewalk cafe after a long walk around the capital. That first bite felt like falling in love: an immediate rush to all the pleasure centers in my brain. The pasta was perfectly al dente, the parmesan salty and the guanciale lovingly enveloped in the eggy sauce. I was hooked.
The good news: you do not have to buy a plane ticket to experience this ecstasy! In fact, the four ingredients you need are probably already in your kitchen: pasta, eggs, parmesan, and bacon. That’s it. This is one of my go-to weeknight dinners. It’s also one of J’s favorite meals so cooking it for him feels very romantic, like our trip to Europe.
A note on substitutions:
Bacon: You can sub in the more traditional guanciale if you can find it. Panchetta would also be lovely.
Pasta: Spaghetti is traditional but any sturdy noodle should work fine.
Eggs and cheese: Since there are very few ingredients here, find the best quality eggs and cheese you can to make a superior carbonara.
Very Romantic Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves 2 (it’s best eaten right away so throw your carb caution to the wind)
8 oz spaghetti
2 oz grated pecorino romano or parmesan, plus more to serve (2/3 cup)
1 large egg
2 oz bacon, pancetta or guanciale chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt and bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 8 minutes or until a bit firmer than al dente.
Meanwhile, sauté the bacon in a skillet until fat is just rendered (crispy but not hard). Remove from the pan and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, cheese, a pinch of salt and a generous portion of pepper. Set aside.
Once the pasta is done, reserve a cup of pasta water and then drain. Add the pasta and reserved bacon to the hot pan and stir for one minute.
Add the hot pasta mixture to a serving bowl. Stir in cheese mixture, adding reserved pasta water if needed to make a creamy sauce. Make sure to do this step in a bowl and not the hot pan, as you will end up scrambling the eggs if there is too much heat.
Serve immediately with extra cheese and pepper on top. Eat with someone you love ❤