I recently did a wedding for an Italian couple, I and learnt a fair bit about how they like their pasta in the process. The main things I learnt were that one, they like a lot of it and two, they like it super al dente. I am of course judging an entire people on the tastes of two of their number. But that’s good. I like generalisations. They make things easier.
Anyway, I thought I liked it al dente but it’s nothing compared to how they like it. These guys wanted it crunchy – so much so that when you bite into it, it has that white centred bit that it does when you are trying it for doneness towards the end of cooking time (you know what I mean right?). To achieve this it was drained three minutes before the specified 14 and then finished in a pan with lobster, tomato and basil. Jolly nice, I must say. If a little crunchy…
But that’s all by the by really ‘cos what I’m writing about is with bacon and eggs: AKA carbonara. A good carbonara is heavenly and damn difficult to find. A bit of cream and a bit of bacon chucked into any old pasta – don’t cut it! Once I ordered it in it in that restaurant by the Formentera boat. Bovril had been stirred into it. Yes, Bovril. Disgusting. Can you imagine how stoned the chef must have been to think that was a good idea?
Anyway! It is important to use a pasta with a lot of surface area so the sauce can stick to it, hence the Paccheri, my favourite of all pastas (after spaghetti of course). Paccheri means a little smack. I don’t think it refers to the sort of smack Sick Boy enjoyed, more the kind of back hander used for kid control. Be that as it may, they are short, Phat (yes with a capital P!), round tubes of thick pasta and are nothing short of dreamy. They are dusted in flour and make the cooking water starchy and therefore perfect for finishing the dish with. Gives it that silken texture I love so much. Try it – you will love it too.
Ingredients: Serves four
- 400g paccheri (the best brand it is ‘e Paccheri di Gragnano’ and you get it at Meneghello’s Italian deli on the San An road)
- 6 rashers of Oscar Meyer bacon chopped up
- 4 egg yolks
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- I cup reserved cooking water
- Bring four litres of water to the boil in a big pan with a goodly amount of salt. Don’t skimp – Paccheri is expensive so you must do it justice.
- When it’s boiling, add the pasta and set the timer to the specified amount of time on the pack. Stir it gently a few times in the first few minutes. This stops it from sticking to the bottom of the pan – but go gently, you don’t want to bust the tubes.
- Meanwhile fry the bacon in the olive oil and separate the egg yolks from the whites and set aside. Grate a handful of Parmesan.
- As the timer goes off, take a cup of the cooking liquid and reserve. Drain the pasta and pour it back into the pot. Stir in the Parmesan then the bacon and then the egg yolks. Keep stirring gently. Add a little of the pasta water, stir once more and serve on warmed plates. Eat it, then get butt neked and roll around. Carbonara.