We all know what pasta embodies, but have you ever wondered what “carbonara” means? Carbonaro means charcoal in Italian, but to this day, the connection to this savory, flavorsome dish remains uncertain. Some food historians believe this pasta may have been popular among charcoal makers working in the Apennine Mountains; or perhaps it is called carbonara simply because of the specks of black pepper it is seasoned with. I’ve turned this delectable northern Italian fare into an “Una Pentola” version for ease of preparation and have added some appealing new additions for an explosion of flavors!
8 ounces of dry spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons, pine nuts; pignoli (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped capers (optional)
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel (optional)
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup white wine or water
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add pancetta or bacon and pignoli; sauté for 3-4 minutes, until bacon is crisp, fat is rendered and pignoli are golden. Toss in garlic, sauté for less than 1 minute to soften. For more intense flavor, remove from heat and allow flavors to mingle as the ingredients slightly cool, about 10-15 minutes.
Add chicken broth, water and 1 teaspoon of salt to the mixture. Bring to a full boil and add uncooked pasta. Turn heat to low and simmer according to package directions, stirring occasionally. Simmer a few more minutes and add a little more water if you prefer your pasta less al dente. As the liquid reduces in the skillet, a small amount of sauce will form.
Beat eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stir well to prevent lumps. Remove pan from heat and pour egg/cheese mixture into pasta, tossing quickly until eggs thicken, but do not scramble. The heat of the pasta will cook the eggs while you stir. Thin out sauce with a bit of hot water or chicken broth until it reaches desired consistency. Add the capers, parsley and lemon zest (if using). Alter seasoning with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl or divide amongst 2 to 4 dishes. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, if desired. Bellissima!