EPISODE 602: “Settling the Score”
COMPETITOR: Bruce Kalman
DISH: Pasta carbonara
WINNER: Bruce Kalman
This classic dish is found in every great trattoria in Rome. In my house, I think it’s fabulous as a midnight snack after a few Negronis. Think about it this way: It’s like bacon and eggs, but on noodles—and with lots of cheese. I like to use grated Grana Padano for the sauce, since it melts better into the egg yolks and makes for a creamier texture, but I finish the dish with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. The tricky part is emulsifying the eggs and cheese, but the starchy pasta water is the big helper there, and the payoff is definitely worth the challenge.
This one is also known as the great “knife in the pasta roller” episode that Sunny Anderson has never let me live down.
4 ounces guanciale, cut into ¼-inch dice
4 ounces slab bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice
½ cup canola oil
¾ cup packed fresh parsley leaves
6 large egg yolks
2 ounces Grana Padano cheese, finely grated (about ¾ cup)
2 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Black Pepper Pasta, cut into fettuccine, or store-bought fresh or dried fettuccine
2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about ¾ cup)
1 Combine the guanciale and bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Slowly cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the meat is golden brown and crispy, about 12 minutes. Remove the pork to a plated lined with paper towels to drain. Pour the rendered fat into a small bowl and reserve.
2 Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add ¼ cup of the parsley leaves and fry until just crispy, about 1 minute. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Season with a pinch of salt, if desired. Coarsely chop the remaining ½ cup parsley leaves and set aside.
3 Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
4 While the water is coming to a boil, in a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, Grana Padano, garlic, pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt until very smooth. Stir in three-quarters of the pork and 2 tablespoons of the reserved rendered fat.
5 Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it rises to the top, then cook for about 1 minute longer, until just al dente. (If using store-bought dried fettucine, cook until al dente according to the package directions.)
6 Reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta well. Immediately transfer the pasta to the egg mixture and, using tongs, mix quickly until the pasta is coated with the mixture. If the sauce seems too thick or dry, add a bit of the reserved pasta water a few tablespoons at a time. Stir in the chopped parsley.
7 Divide the pasta among four bowls. Garnish with the remaining pork, the Parmigiano, and the fried parsley. Serve immediately.
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