When my kids were younger, one of my friends said to me, “You know, for the cost of sending our kids to camp, we could go to Italy for the summer.” The next summer, I went to Italy with my kids 🇮🇹, and my friend sent her kids back to camp 🤦♀️. It was an amazing summer! Andrew joined for as much time as he could, and my parents came for part of it -both to keep me company, and (I think) to make sure my kids didn’t drown under my care 🙄. I cooked with the freshest Italian ingredients in an outdoor brick oven, and we ate copious amounts of gelato 🍨 and salumi 🐷.
I was supposed to fly into Rome, but just before we left, my flight was rerouted to land in Naples. A former client/friend offered to let us stay at her apartment in Rome so we didn’t have such a long drive from Naples to San Giovanni Val d’Arno (the little town in Tuscany where we stayed). After our overnight flight and getting our luggage and rental car, we finally arrived at her apartment in the late afternoon. I was too excited to be tired, and remarkably, my kids managed to keep going too. That night my friend took us to a little, traditional Roman restaurant and insisted that we order the spaghetti carbonara. Until then, I only knew carbonara the American way -with bacon, peas, and cream. It’s rather underwhelming, and I can’t comprehend how such a delicious dish came to America and became that!! (But we’ll let it go, because there have been many successes too — Chinese food 🍜, NY pizza 🍕, and sushi 🍣 to name a few.) Anyway, traditional Roman carbonara has just eggs🥚🥚, pancetta🥓, Parmesan🧀, and a bit of garlic. I was astounded by the juxtaposition of its simplicity and deliciousness. Since that trip, spaghetti carbonara has always been a dinner staple in our house.
I have such fond memories of our time in Italy, and as I write this, I’m thinking about how it impacted my life going forward. I could have listened to that voice in my head telling me all the things that could have gone wrong with this adventure… How am I going to manage by myself with 3 little kids? What are we actually going to do each day? Am I making a mistake by taking them away from their friends? What are they going to miss out on by not being at camp? Will that put them behind? Maybe I should play it safe and stay home. What if, what if, what if?!? But I just did it, and not only did it teach me that I was capable, it also taught me to embrace adventure. It can be terrifying to take risks, but I try to live my life and teach my kids that it’s always better to go for it and fail rather than not go for it at all.Print
This is a pretty simple dish. It requires few ingredients and comes together in less than half an hour. For me, the hardest thing is getting the timing right. The challenge is to have the pancetta and garlic finish cooking at the exact time the pasta is finished cooking. The first thing I do is put my water on the stove to boil. Then, I get my Parmesan/egg mixture prepared and ready to go. And finally, I put my pancetta in the pan and then immediately throw my pasta in the boiling water. My particular brand of spaghetti cooks for 10 minutes and I find that that’s about how long it takes to cook the pancetta and garlic. If your pancetta/garlic is done before your pasta, don’t worry about it. Just turn off the heat and then about a minute before you’re going to add the pasta, turn it back on to low heat so it re-warms but you don’t burn anything. Or if the pasta is done before the pancetta is cooked, just drain it. If you’re really concerned about it sticking together, you can toss it with a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil.
- 1 pound or 500 grams spaghetti
- 75 grams freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 200 grams pancetta, lardons, or unsmoked bacon, cut into strips
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a press
- Freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper or red pepper flakes for serving
- Place a large pot of salted water on high heat and bring to a boil.
- Grate the Parmesan cheese into a medium bowl. Add the eggs, egg yolks, salt, and pepper. Stir all together and set aside.
- As soon as the water is boiling, place the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Let the pan heat up for a minute and then add the pancetta. Now add the spaghetti to your pot of boiling water and give it a stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together.
- Back to your pancetta: keep an eye on it and give it an occasional stir. I like mine browned and crispy which usually takes about 10 minutes. About a minute before the pasta is done, turn the heat on the pancetta down to low, and add the garlic.
- Drain the pasta, turn off the heat on the pancetta/garlic, add the drained pasta to the pan with pancetta and garlic, pour over the egg/Parmesan mixture and stir all together. (You can find a quick demo of this step on Instagram in the demos section of my stories.) The hot pasta will cook the eggs. If you’re worried about having raw egg, you can turn the heat back on for about 30 seconds and give everything one last stir, but I find this can dry it out so be sure to save some pasta water if you’re planning to go this route.
- Serve with fresh Parmesan, black pepper, and/or chili flakes.