Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

When cooking spaghetti carbonara, I mix the pasta, bacon, cheese and egg yolks together with a scoop. This technique frequently results in mashed spaghetti as well as bacon clustering.

What could I do different?

share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

In addition to the tips from Joe's great grandmother, you might want to try and rinse the pasta thoroughly with some lukewarm water after cooking it al dente. That way you rinse off the remaining starch and you prevent the pasta from cooking any further. Rinsing results in firmer pasta that is silky smooth and doesn't clump together or get mashed up. Your scoop or tongs will slither right through without damaging the pasta. :)

share|improve this answer
    
+1, I usually rinse pasta to stop the cooking if I don't plan to eat it immediately, but didn't know of the effect of rinsing on starch. –  Tim Feb 6 '11 at 21:46
1  
Do you find that the cheese melts and eggs coagulate well when they are added after a cooling rinse? –  Tim Feb 6 '11 at 21:56
    
Yes, if using just a bit of lukewarm water. The pasta will still be warm. After draining and rinsing I toss the spaghetti together with the rest of the ingredients in the pan which is still hot from cooking the pasta, so there's enough heat for the eggs to turn in to a lovely soft sauce, but not so much heat that you end up with bits of scrambled egg. –  ilonavg Feb 6 '11 at 23:55
2  
Of course, if you're going with residual heat, I'm assuming it's a heavier pan, so it's possible this might not be enough if you have really thin pans. –  Joe Feb 7 '11 at 1:04

Here's how I learned from my great grandmother:

  • cook the bacon/salt pork/home/whatever 'til crispy
  • beat the eggs (she used whole eggs) with a little black pepper
  • drain the cooked pasta, and immediately mix the pasta with the eggs; if it's too dry, add some of the pasta water.
  • Add fried pork product and mix a litle more.
  • sprinkle cheese on top while serving.

...

But I've also been known to mix everything but the pasta together (maybe not the pork if it's still too hot), and then toss it all together while the pasta's still hot, kinda like if you were tossing to mix the dressing on a salad. (tongs work really well)

...

Either way, you do end up with the fried pork bits at the bottom of the pot you were mixing in. The easy way around this is to save 1/3 to 1/2 of it, and sprinkle it over the top when serving.

share|improve this answer
2  
I hadn't thought of using salad tongs for preserving the pasta shape. Thanks! –  Tim Feb 6 '11 at 20:48
    
What's the problem with mixing the pork in if it's hot? The eggs are going to coagulate anyway. –  Tim Feb 6 '11 at 20:52
2  
@Tim : because you want the egg mixture to stick to the pasta; if it sets up too much because you've heated it, it won't coat the pasta as evenly ... which could explain why you've having to mix it too much. –  Joe Feb 6 '11 at 22:16
    
Agree, apart from the bacon being crispy. Mind you, you might mean american bacon. –  Orbling Feb 7 '11 at 0:23

You could try replacing spaghetti with rigatoni pasta. In this way it is a lot easier to mix and you'll end up with a dish much closer to the authentic Italian carbonara recipe.

share|improve this answer
    
I've tried lots of different pastas, but never rigatoni. It feels like the sauce should stick in the holes. I'll try it. –  Tim Feb 11 '11 at 9:59

The key is water. Use the pasta water for the best flavor. This dish is mostly about timing. Do not ever rinse the pasta with water!

Also, if you are making Carbonara with anything other than Guanciale (pork cheek)--Shame on you!

http://www.italianfoodnet.com/eng/ricette/spaghetti-carbonara-spaghetti-alla-carbonara

Also contained is the video of the recipe. The man is the real deal (with the real Roman accent to match the dish). Notice how often he uses the water.

share|improve this answer
    
I usually rinse the pasta. What's the difference? Also, why would it not be OK to use other pig parts? –  Tim Mar 25 '11 at 0:16
    
Don't rinse the pasta with water, there is good flavor in that pasta water. Most of the time I keep a little pasta water to mix with the sauce to add flavor. Also, I was giving you a bit of a hard time about other pig parts.. in the USA it's almost impossible to find guanciale so I usually make it with pancetta (I actually made it last night because your post had me thinking!). I've never tried it with "normal" american bacon however. –  devnull Mar 28 '11 at 23:17

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.