Pasta Carbonara is probably the most authentic and easiest Italian dish you will ever be able to cook. Its quite simple, just boil a pot of water and add salt. In a different pan add a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil and add in your diced pancetta (Italian bacon, unsmoked) or your American slab bacon which is usually smoked. Dice it up as fine as you can and add into the pan. Allow to get as crisp as you like it, I like it very crispy. For me, its only natural to use egg pasta, fresh or dried, they both work. 9 minutes to cook a “bird nest” egg pasta in boiling salted water, probably half that time for fresh egg pasta. IN any case, when the bacon or pancetta is nice and crispy, time to add some of the starchy pasta water to deglaze and make a sauce, This is also time to grind in as much cracked black pepper as you can. After all, this is how this dish gets its name… carbonara is “coal” and the coal miners would come home to a hearty dinner of a hearty egg pasta and bacon pasta dinner with tons of black pepper topped with an egg.
Now, some people get freaked out by the egg because of salmonella. But keep in mind, that you would have to eat 30,000 eggs to get sick from just one egg. If you cook them yourself, you would have to cook and eat 4 eggs every day for 20 years to even get sick once. THe problem diners and breakfast places make is that they prepare scrambled eggs in a big vat, so even one can spoil the other 1000 eggs and servings. So, if you are out at a diner, order your eggs NOT scrambled but cooked over easy or hard.
That being said, you can do without it, but the fact is, the egg, with whites removed, creates the sauce, especially when you have already tempered and “cooked” it with boiled pasta water, allowed it to cook another 2 minutes in the sauce, then you serve it with grated cheese and more cracked black pepper. A dollop of butter to toss in the final sauce is optional. Grate in some good parmesan cheese or pecorino romano, and its delicious.
It simple, its appetizing, its satisfying and there is no reason not to try it. Of course to make the vegetarian version, use no bacon or pancetta, simple use equal parts of olive oil and butter, plenty of cracked black pepper, and you have another dish commonly served in Italy for lunch.