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Carbonara is one of those pasta sauces that sounds impressive (and hence strikes fear into the heart of many a cook). But really, it’s one of the simplest, quickest, and hence most rewarding, pasta sauces you can make.

Ingredients

  • 12 strips of pancetta (I used Ricomondo brand stocked at Pick ‘n Pay)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbs mascarpone
  • 8 tbs quality parmesan, very finely grated
  • black pepper
  • 1 packet (500g) spaghetti or linguini

Preparation method

  1. Whisk together the eggs, mascarpone, parmesan and a few grinds of black pepper and set aside.

  2. To make the pancetta crips, place four pancetta strips on baking paper on a baking tray. Cover with another layer of baking paper and place a heavy ovenproof dish on top.

  3. Weighing the pancetta down like this prevents it from curling up while it cooks, ensuring razor-straight crisps.

  4. Bake at 180 degree Celsius until crisp (± 10 minutes – they harden further as they cool). While the crisps are cooking, slice the remaining pancetta in 1cm slices.

  5. Fry in olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until cooked but not crisp. (The pancetta freely available in SA is sliced very thinly – dainty and fragile as the whiskers of a day-old kitten – so it takes mere seconds to cook.)

  6. Remove from the heat.

  7. Drop pasta into plenty of well-salted boiling water and cook until al dente. Keep half a cup of the pasta water.

  8. As soon as the pasta is done, drain and add to the pan of pancetta.

  9. Stir over a high heat until the pasta is well coated with the pancetta-flavoured oil. If it’s too dry and starts sticking, add a few spoons of the pasta water.

  10. Remove from the heat and pour over the egg mixture, ensuring that you toss the pasta with tongs while doing so. The heat in the pasta will cook the egg and you will end up with a smooth, velvety sauce. (Take care that you stir quickly and off the heat or you’ll end up with nasty scrambled eggs which cannot be rescued.)

  11. Serve immediately with a pancetta crisp per person and loads of extra parmesan.

  12. Serves 4

  13. Preparation time 15 minutes

  14. Cooking time 20 minutes