First there was candied bacon, then there was corn chowder with salt pork, and now Pete Marczyk has gotten us all in a tizzy over his spaghetti alla carbonara with guanciale.
"This pasta dish is considered Roman," Pete says. "It's said to have gained popularity in Italy after World War II, when American soldiers missed their bacon and eggs." Or their pork jowl, in this case; although you can make this carbonara with pancetta, "guanciale is the bomb."
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
½ pound Guanciale - Niman Ranch's pork jowl with rosemary, coriander and bay leaf 3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley 4-5 cloves garlic, squashed ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese ¼ cup Romano 3 fresh eggs (the freshest, most beautiful you can find) 1/3 cup white wine ¼ cup olive oil salt and pepper Asparagus, cut into one-inch pieces (or peas, or anything fresh and green from the garden) 500 grams of spaghetti or any other really good dried pasta, like Rustichella d'abruzzo
1) Blanch the guanciale, then render it in the olive oil with garlic until the garlic is golden brown. Remove garlic and guanciale. Add wine until the fat mixture is reduced by half. Reserve.
2) Grind the cheese, which is the binder for this dish.
3) Salt the water for the pasta. "This is one of the few dishes that I really don't salt much until the end, because the cheese is so salty," Pete says. Put the asparagus (or any other vegetable) in a sieve, and then in the pasta water. Take vegetables out when cooked perfectly and the color has brightened, and rinse in cold water, "to lock in color."
4) In a "big-ass bowl," blend the eggs with a little pepper. Add grated cheese and half of the parsley. "Magic happens in the bowl," Pete says, as everything goes to room temperature.
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5) Cook the pasta -- and Pete is no fan of al dente. "The quality of the pasta really matters, we can taste it," he says.
6) Off heat, take about a quarter of the pasta from the pan with tongs, drain, and put in the big-ass bowl -- "We're going to bomb this thing together," he says. Mix, add some rendered fat/wine mix, taste, mix in more pasta, season. "Bacon and eggs needs what?" Pete asks. "Salt and pepper." When all the pasta and fat are in the bowl, pop in the asparagus and the bacon.
"By being gentle, you create a nice texture," Pete concludes. "You don't want to scramble the eggs."
For more on Marczyk Fine Foods, visit the market web site here.