Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guanciale Carbonara

The Guanciale is finally done and I've taken it down from the rafters. Actually, the basement, but taking it down from the basement sounds weird. I noticed the slightest bit of mold growing right around where the string tied on the meat and decided they'd hung long enough. (The mold is easily dealt with with a quick wipe with some white wine vinegar, it won't hurt anything if you catch it early.) One will live in my fridge while the other was wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and stashed in the freezer, ready to defrost when I need it. I love the color and the marbling of it, this was a chunk off the pointy end that dried folded over the string used to hang it.

To try it out I decided to make my favorite pancetta or guanciale dish, and possibly my favorite pasta dish all around: Spaghetti ala Carbonara. The recipe I have used for the last few years is from Armandino Batali at Seattle's amazing Salumi. I have a, now quite bedraggled, copy of it that I got when I purchased some of their guanciale a couple years back. It's easy, quick and open to reasonable modification for whatever you have on hand. It's so easy that I'm able to give it off the top of my head, as I'm out writing over a pot of tea at Miro. The key is to get everything ready before you start cooking the pasta.

Armandino's Spaghetti ala Carbonara
  • 13 oz Good Spaghetti
  • 4 oz Guanciale, sliced and cut into about 1/2" squares (or just lardons)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 Pepperoncini, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 T butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 oz. Parmesan, grated
  • 2 oz. Pecorino, grated
  • Salt and pepper
Cook the spaghetti in at least a gallon of salted boiling water. Meanwhile, add the pepperoncini to the olive oil and saute guanciale until brown, then set aside at simmer. Mix the eggs and half the cheese together. Drain the pasta. In another pan (I just reuse my pasta pot) brown the butter then add the cheese/egg mix, stirring quickly till slightly creamy. Add the pasta, remaining cheese and the guanciale. Cracked black pepper to taste. You probably won't need salt. Serve right away.

That's how Armandino's recipe goes. I often tweak it, for example, this time I used farfalle because I was fresh out of any kind of long pasta. And I tend to use a full pound of pasta because that's what's in the box, though I admit it does make it dryer. Sometimes I only use Parmesan, if that's all I've got. I've added Swiss Chard in with the sauteeing guanciale to good effect. My favorite thing about this is that there is no heavy cream, which always seemed like cheating to me and makes the dish heavy. Here you can really taste the guanciale. Wild success.


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