- 1 (6-ounce) piece guanciale, finely diced
- 10 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 3/4 cup plus 2½ tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano, divided
- freshly ground black pepper
- 22 ounces extruded spaghetti
I learned to make carbonara at my first job in Emilia-Romagna. In retrospect, that makes no sense. Even though there is some debate around its origin, there is no debate that today carbonara is a dish of Lazio through and through — Rome to the bone, as one might say. It's also true that there are many different ways to make it: Pancetta or guanciale? Spaghetti or rigatoni? Whole eggs or egg yolks? Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino or both? Regardless of how you answer, there is no arguing that carbonara satisfies in its own, almost mystical way. After cooking, the pasta goes right into that bowl and gets gently tossed to marry. Finally, don't skimp on the black pepper — add a hefty amount and then add some more.
Technique tip: I recommend using both Pecorino Romano (for bite and salinity) and Parmigiano-Reggiano (for richness and nuttiness).
Swap option: In a pinch, if you can't find guanciale, you can use good, smoky, thick-cut bacon.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Salt the water (use slightly less than you might for other pastas, as the cheese and pork add quite a bit of salinity to the dish).2.
Place a large sauté pan over low heat. Add the guanciale and cook slowly until the fat has rendered and the meat parts start to get crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Line a plate with paper towels. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the crisped guanciale to the paper towels to drain. Reserve 1/4 cup of the rendered fat.3.
Add the egg yolks to a large bowl. Use a spoon or spatula to stir them into a smooth liquid. Do not whip them. Add the Parmigiano and 3/4 cup of the Pecorino and stir to make a paste. Slowly stir in the reserved rendered fat. Add a hefty amount (about 40 grinds) of pepper and half of the reserved guanciale. Stir to combine.4.
Add the spaghetti to the water and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until al dente.5.
Add 2 ladles (1/2 cup) pasta cooking water to the bowl in a slow, steady stream while stirring. This will further temper the eggs so they don't curdle and will also loosen the mixture to form your sauce.6.
Using tongs or a pasta basket, remove the spaghetti from the pot and transfer to the bowl. Quickly but gently toss the pasta and cheese-egg yolk paste. As the sauce tightens, continue to add pasta cooking water a splash at a time until you have a smooth, silky sauce coating the pasta.7.
Divide into bowls and garnish with the remaining Pecorino, the reserved guanciale and with pepper to taste.