Try these tips with this asparagus & pancetta carbonara recipe
PREP TIME: 5 mins
COOKING TIME: 20 mins
IDEAL FOR: family meal, mid-week meal
I have two go-to recipes when the cupboards are barren.
The first one is my pasta with peas, bacon and chilli – it’s super simple and actually really delicious.
And the second go-to has now become carbonara.
And I have to thank Jamie Oliver for that one as he showed how simple and how tasty it is.
Carbonara. An Italian favourite
As always, there are many stories of its origin.
But the one I like reflects the meaning of alla carbonara
Which means ‘charcoal burners‘ spaghetti in Italian.
This dish was supposedly eaten by coal workers and the large amount of ground black pepper used in the recipe resembles coal flakes.
Four main ingredients; it’s a no-brainer right?
I mean all you need is pasta, guanciale (pork jowl) but (we usually can find some bacon or pancetta), an egg and pecorino (or parmesan, usually sitting in the fridge).
Having said that, it’s also a recipe that you can get very wrong.
Mess up your timings with the heat and adding the egg and et voila, you’ll achieve pasta and scrambled eggs.
Then there is the cheats version where people add cream instead. DO NOT ADD CREAM.
You only get one chance to get it right
So, here is a quick top 5 tips on how to whip up carbonara to delight your tastes buds with its silky creamy sauce.
- Use room temperature eggs
- Add Parmesan to your whisked eggs at the very beginning of the recipe. This helps the distinctive salty cheese infuse the whole dish, giving it an intense richness for a truly perfect carbonara.
- Flavour your pancetta (or bacon) with garlic while it fries, but take the cloves out before adding your pasta. This way you get the sweet tang of garlic, without overpowering the final dish.
- Black pepper: use more than you think!
Also, and this is a little faffy, I’ll admit – use a pestle and mortar to grind the peppercorns then sieve it so you get the fine pepper to add to your dish – it’s much punchier than the peppercorn shells left in your sieve and gives the dish a real depth. Try it, it’s amazing.
5. Take your pan off the heat! Add a little of the pasta cooking water when you bring the spaghetti into the pan with the pancetta/bacon.
The water is starchy, so acts as a natural thickener, making the dish extra silky.
It’s also taking some of that sting out of the pan heat so you can add the eggs and cheese without scrambling.
Enjoy a lovely smooth, rich sauce… and no scrambled eggs to cry over 😉
Asparagus and Pancetta/bacon carbonara
- 400 g spaghetti or linguine (or whatever is in the cupboard!)
- 4 eggs, whisked
- 4-5 tsp Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated (and a bit more for serving)
- 150 g pancetta or streaky bacon, cut into 2 cm chunks
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 250 g asparagus, cut into 2 cm chunks
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and grated Parmesan. Set aside.
- Put the pasta on according to the directions on the packet.While the pasta is cooking, cut the pancetta/bacon into small chunks and cook in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat (don’t worry about oil as the fat will render out). Add the crushed garlic clove as well.
- Cut the asparagus into 2 cm pieces (break off and discard any woody stalk) and add to the bacon.Cook until the pancetta/bacon goes a bit crispy – approx 5 mins.
- Add the ground pepper and give a stir.Take out the garlic clove and turn of the heat.
- Using tongs, add the spaghetti to the frying pan and let some of the pasta water come into the pan. The pan should sizzle as you add the spaghetti and the water. (*This helps coat the spaghetti and gives a creaminess. It also cools the pan down so you won't get scrambled eggs in the next steps).
- Add the whisked egg and cheese and gently stir in to get a lovely creamy texture.