When considering the world’s great comfort foods, Italy’s carbonara has to be on that list. I know on my list, carbonara is right up there at the top with Chinese soup dumplings and good ol’ American country fried steak. I mean, for goodness sake, we’re talking a rich ‘n’ creamy Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese sauce with crispy pancetta that’s basically sopped up with spaghetti. There ain’t NOTHING wrong with that.
Ro Cole’s version featured in my October JONES IS HUNGRY column, keeps this classic recipe simple, which is why it’s so perfect for supper or a late-night snack. Ro avoids tramping up the sauce with green peas, sautéed onion or funky herbs. When it comes to carbonara, Ro’s a purist, and I respect him all the more for that.
But what about the wine?
The easy match is to go with a crisp Italian white like a Pinot Grigio or Gavi di Gavi to cut through the carbonara’s rich sauce…and the fact that I’m always a fan of keeping things within the country of origin.
Having said that, though, I actually prefer a slightly heftier white like an unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay. Unoaked simply means the wine doesn’t touch an oak barrel either during the fermentation or aging process.
Unoaked (or naked) Chardonnay is growing in popularity and when served alongside this hearty recipe, it’s easy to see why. Free of the heavy-handed oak often found in many California Chardonnays, natural layers of apple, pear, and lemon radiate through playing up the nutty, slightly sweet Parmigiano-Reggiano. Yet there’s still plenty of heft to karate chop through the creamy sauce and crispy pancetta.
A few of my favs you can find in and around Birmingham:
- Toad Hallow, Francine’s Selection Unoaked Chardonnay, California
- Novellum, Chardonnay, France
- Laetitia, Chardonnay, California (lightly oaked)
- Four Vines, Naked Chardonnay, California
- Marcel Servin, Chablis, France
“It’s mission critical to cook the pancetta and garlic while the spaghetti boils,” Cole stresses. This ensures the heat of the spaghetti cooks the raw eggs and melts the cheese creating a rich, creamy sauce.”
Prep: 15 min., Cook: 10 min., Makes: 4 servings
4 large farm-fresh eggs
1 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 (16-oz) package spaghetti noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz pancetta or slab bacon, sliced into small strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Whisk eggs and cheese together in a large mixing bowl.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (what the Italians call al dente). Drain the pasta, reserving about 3/4 cup of the cooking water.
- In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pancetta, and cook for about 5 minutes or until crisp and the fat is rendered. Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, scraping up any brown bits in skillet. Add pasta; toss to coat with pan drippings. Remove pan from heat.
- Pour the egg mixture over the hot pasta; stir constantly until sauce thickens. Thin sauce to desired consistency, if needed, with remaining cooking water. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with more cheese, if desired.
Recipe courtesy of Ro Cole