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Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Only pancetta, the cured but unsmoked Italian bacon, should be used in this famous pasta dish from Rome. Pancetta is made from the same cut, pork belly, as the more common bacon, but it is salt-cured instead of smoked, giving it a subtler taste. Smoked bacon will overpower the delicate flavors of this dish. Look for good domestic brands of pancetta at delicatessens and Italian markets.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4-lb. piece pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Coarsely ground pepper, to taste
  • Generous handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Break the eggs into a warmed large, shallow bowl, add both cheeses and whisk to blend well. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, 7 to 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the pancetta and sauté until just starting to become crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half.

Drain the pasta, leaving a bit of water clinging to it, and add it to the bowl with the eggs and cheeses. Toss quickly (this will heat the eggs and leave a creamy coating on each strand of pasta). Add the pancetta with all of the pan juices. Season with salt and a generous amount of pepper. Add the parsley and toss again. Serve immediately. Makes 4 main-course or 6 first-course servings.

Note: This recipe contains eggs that are only partially cooked. They run a risk of being infected with salmonella or other bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning. This risk is of most concern to small children, older people, pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system. If you have health and safety concerns, do not consume raw eggs, or seek out a pasteurized egg product to replace it.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Pasta, by Erica de Mane (Simon & Schuster, 2001).