They say that scent is the sense most linked to memory and I think, despite not knowing who they are, that they’re right. I think about it occasionally, if a man walks by wearing Jordan’s old cologne and I get a flash in my head of his old apartment, or the way freshly cut rhubarb makes me think of my mom making pie, but never is it more obvious to me then when I smell bacon.
Bacon, which I have eaten literally hundreds of times in at least dozens of ways.
But every time I smell bacon cooking all I can think of is a pale pale yellow bowl with thin red and blue stripes around the top of the inside. I can see it vividly, sitting on top of the glass tabletop from my childhood backyard, with our neighbours overgrown shrubs turning into trees in the background. I can feel the warmth of the hot Toronto summers, but mostly what I see is the Spaghetti carbonara inside that striped bowl, and what I smell is bacon.
It was the ultimate summer meal, it took minutes to throw together, cook bacon, cook pasta, toss with eggs and pepper and parmesan, put on table. The speed of it was important not only because my Mom was a busy woman, but also so the burners wouldn’t be on and heat up the house.
For me, this pasta is the epitome of simple Italian food, and I am a snob about it. I adamantly don’t believe that there should be anything in it besides pasta, eggs, parm, pepper, bacon and salt. I don’t like cream in mine, i think it should be creamy enough as is. The crucial thing is that everything be of great quality. Using DeMecca pasta will not give you good carbonara. Using a brand, made in Italy, that has 100%duram semolina flour is important. (I have found, although I’m sure there are lots of exceptions to this rule, that the pasta in boxes is often of a lesser quality then the kind in a bag with the label stapled to the top.)
Good eggs are also crucial, and maybe most important is the parm. Try to get grana padano, or real parmesanno reggiano.
And also, don’t skip on the pepper. The name Carbonara means black, like coals, and though I don’t like quite that much pepper in mine it should have a fair bit.
10 thick slices of the best bacon you can get. Pancetta is a lovely subsistute as well.
2 Free Range Organic Eggs
3/4 cup Grated Parmesano Reggiono, or Grana Padano
1 package Very good Quality Spaghetti, or Spaghettini
Salt and Pepper
Cut the bacon into thick pieces.
Fry them on medium heat until wonderful and crispy, but with a little chew to them still.
Strain and set aside.
Get a big pot of water on high heat.
Meanwhile mix your eggs, parm and a healthy cracking of pepper.
I was a little crazy this time and added a bit of parsley. You could do that too if you wanted.
Now put that strange eggy sauce in the bottom of a large bowl.
Now, perhaps you have a good stove and your water is boiling already. In that case, throw your pasta in, give it a good stir and cook it depending on the package instructions, but basically if until it is cooked throw with a bit of bite to it yet. If you don’t have a good stove, throw on some Aretha and dance around a bit, and then add your pasta, stir it a bit and cook it by the package instructions. Whatever works for you.
Once it’s cooked strain it and then quickly put it into that big bowl with the sauce in the bottom and give it a good toss. You want to move quickly now. If you take to long the eggs with curdle, but if you move just fast enough you’ll have a wonderful silky sauce that wraps around each noodle. And it will be glorious.