*Mise en place is essential for this recipe. Have everything prepared before you start!
- 6 ounces pancetta or guanciale, cut into ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, beaten together with ¼ cup water
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino romano (a hard, salty goat cheese)
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 pound good-quality spaghetti -- splurge for the good stuff, and look for a rough, textured surface; the sauce will adhere better.
- Heat the oil in a high-sided skillet over medium heat and gently cook the pancetta/guanciale until the fat has fully rendered and the meat is just barely crisp but still chewy. Don't fry it until it's completely crisp! If the pancetta is done before the pasta, set it aside. DO NOT drain the rendered fat under any circumstances.
- Cook the pasta until al dente, reserving a small amount of the cooking water.
- Just before you drain the pasta, take a big sip of wine, and make sure you've got two pasta forks or other implements for tossing pasta quickly. If you took the pancetta off the heat early, put it back on the burner and heat it up so the fat is bubbling, then take it off the heat again and put it on a cutting board or other heatproof surface.
- Now, everything happens very fast; you're relying on the latent heat of the pasta and pancetta to cook the sauce. Drain the pasta in a colander and dump it into the skillet at once, while it's still hot; dump the cheese and pepper on top of that, and pour the beaten eggs over the whole mess -- one, two, three, very fast! Then, immediately, toss that pasta like you've never tossed before. You want the eggs to mix with the cheese and coat the pasta smoothly, not hit the hot fat at the bottom and turn into globs of scrambled eggs. This is where I usually drop stuff and create lots of drama.
- Serve immediately, just as soon as the eggs set on the pasta, in warmed pasta bowls, passing extra cheese and pepper as desired -- this recipe quickly congeals when cold, so scream "Mangia! Mangia!" at anybody inclined to linger over their salad. Sit back, drink wine, and enjoy the chorus of quiet, deeply moved profanity and moaning.
Quick Reference Steps:
- Sauté pancetta until just crisp but slightly chewy. Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente.
- Heat up pancetta if taken off heat, drain pasta.
- Dump pasta, cheese, egg mixture, pepper into skillet and toss with hot pancetta.
- Serve immediately.