Carbonara: the best way to eat pasta?

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Pasta comes umpteen ways to your table: alfredo, arrabbiatta, con vongole and more. But a favourite of mine is carbonara.

The Roman dish traditionally consists of noodles (often spaghetti), eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano and bits of pork, either bacon, prosciutto or guanciale. The eggs and pork, to my mind, are the kicker. And the creaminess.

The ingredients are simple enough to put together — but the trick is to have a creamy, silken, eggy sauce without it becoming scrambled. The result, when executed properly, is delicious.

From an etymological perspective, “carbonara,” as it applies to food, likely comes from an Italian word for “coal” — and, hence, that the meat portion of the dish was grilled over a charcoal fire. In Italy, la carbonnade is an old and traditional dish.

Kyle Rennie, who has been chef at Waterloo’s King Street Trio since late 2017, shared his favourite carbonara recipe. Rennie puts together good menus and good dishes and has found a niche for his cooking in the downtown. He likes to experiment on the odd occasion too.

Having cooked at Auberge de Pommier, Thuet Bakery, Splendido and with Jason Parsons and David Lee, he knows his stuff and brings a solid pedigree with him.

I’ve tried several of Rennie’s dishes at the restaurant and have made his version of carbonara a few times at home. Give it try! I think you’ll enjoy it too.

Kyle Rennie’s spaghetti carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara
Serves 4

1 lb. spaghetti or other long pasta
4 large eggs
8 oz. guanciale (or bacon or pancetta), small dice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cups Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 tablespoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 half cup parsley, chopped
Lemon juice to taste

Bring 6 quarts of well-salted water to a boil.

Crack eggs into a large mixing bowl and add cheese, salt and a good helping of black pepper. Lots of pepper and cheese are key to this pasta. Beat together with a fork.

Heat olive oil on medium heat. Add diced guanciale and cook until the fat has rendered, and the guanciale is crispy. Keep fat in the pan. Add shallot and garlic clove and add a pinch of salt. Turn to low heat and cook shallot until translucent.

Add pasta to boiling water. Stir. Cook to al dente. Put your pan on medium high heat. Add a 3-oz ladle of pasta water to your pan. This starchy water will help coat sauce to your pasta. Add pasta to your pan and reduce until water is mostly evaporated away. Remove garlic clove.

Add hot pasta with bacon to your mixing bowl with your eggs. Toss vigorously. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs slightly, creating a creamy cheesy sauce as you toss in the bowl. Add parsley and a small squeeze of lemon juice.

Grate some fresh Parmigiano on top and serve.

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