Pasta is one of the most popular foods in the UK and, in fact, we devour around 90g of the stuff each every week, according to Statista.
And, one of the most popular Italian pasta dishes in Britain is spaghetti carbonara.
This creamy, indulgent meal uses few ingredients – pretty much eggs, guanciale, Pecorino and pasta – but is totally delicious.
However, it can still cost a fair whack if you try and source the traditional ingredients. But, not to worry as you can make a cheaper version at home too.
Chef Ben Ebbrell of SORTEDFood supplied some of his top tips for a quick and easy pasta carbonara style dish.
Using feedback from his community of over 2.5 million YouTube subscribers from around the world, his easy recipe that breaks a few of the traditional rules to create the Italian classic, but still delivers on flavour.
Ben has come up with clever hacks that deliver a great tasting carbonara without having to worry about sourcing the traditional – and often expensive – ingredients.
From toasting black peppercorns to cooking the pasta in a frying pan and using basic supermarket spaghetti, Ben’s recipe is guaranteed to impress.
Check them out below…
Use the right pork
One of the most important things when cooking carbonara is choosing the right cut of pork to deliver the meaty undertones for the sauce.
The traditional Italian recipe for carbonara recommends using guanciale – a fatty cut of pork that comes from the jowl (cheek/jaw) of the pig, usually only found in Italian delis in the UK.
Ben opts for more basic smoked pancetta – easy to find in most local supermarkets, and at a fraction of the cost, but delivers a similar meaty flavour.
Toast your peppercorns
Ben commented: “Black pepper is, arguably the second most important flavour for the dish. To really make the pepper stand out and cut through the richness of the eggs and cheese, I start my carbonara by toasting the black peppercorns in a frying pan”.
Once toasted he grinds them up whilst using the same pan to cook the chopped pancetta – the fat from the meat should be enough without needing to add any oil to the pan.
Use supermarket pasta
For the pasta Ben recommends using basic supermarket dried spaghetti – a fraction of the cost compared to fresh pasta, but it works equally as well for the dish.
To ensure all the spaghetti cooks evenly, Ben cooks the pasta for about seven minutes in a frying pan with around 5cm of water in and a good hit of salt – this allows the strands to all fit in the pan and cook evenly.
Plus, using less water means you get more of the starch from the pasta in the water which adds to the ‘creamy’ richness of the sauce.
How to use egg yolks
How many whole eggs and egg yolks to use for carbonara is key to getting the right creamy texture for the sauce.
Ben noted: “I use three eggs – one of them whole and two just the yolk. For me using just yolks makes the sauce to claggy, adding the whole egg gives it a looser texture to evenly coat the spaghetti.”
Use chunks of cheese
Ben then adds a chunk of grated Pecorino cheese and parmesan to the eggs and mixes together with loads of the toasted ground black pepper.
He commented: “If you don’t have Pecorino, you can just use parmesan instead.”
Reserve the pasta water
To make the most of this dish, Ben uses the pasta water for the sauce – he takes a glass of the pasta water and puts it in the pan with the cooked pancetta.
Once cooked, transfer the pasta from the frying pan to the pan with the pancetta, all the pancetta fat and that glass of pasta water.
Then tip into the egg and cheese mix and give everything a good stir together.
Finish by cooking gently on the stove, as you stir, to get a loose custard-like consistency around the strands of spaghetti.
Warm up your plates
Always make sure you’ve a warm plate to serve the pasta on – either heated using hot water or pop it in the oven for a few minutes so the pasta keep warm whilst you eat it.
Ben said: “Don’t worry about fancy garnishes – I prefer to just add more grated cheese and a good grating of black pepper.”
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