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By Doreen Colondres

You need to know two things about the traditional carbonara sauce. First of all, carbonara has no cream, milk or butter. And second, the secret of the authentic flavor is called: guanciale or at least, a good pancetta, which is not the same as American or Canadian bacon.

Bacon is made with the pork belly, is cured, smoked and seasoned with spices, sugar and herbs. The Italian guanciale, is made from the pork jowl and cheeks, is cured with salt and herbs and never smoked. That’s why it tastes different, the flavor is more similar to a salted-cured fat that my grandma used to call tocino. Guanciale comes in one piece, not in slices, usually square or rectangular. But, if you can’t find it, don’t worry, you can buy Italian pancetta, which comes in thin round slices or in one big piece (rounded). If you are buying it in a store per oz. ask for a thicker cut for this recipe. Your last option should be the bacon, but try a mild one, not sweet, and unsmoked even better.

Sometimes people add a pinch of garlic or onions, that is optional but not traditional. In this dish and in most of the traditional Italian recipes, quality is more important, than quantity of ingredients. If you want to add vegetables, add some broccoli, cauliflower or sweet peas.

What you need:

  • 1 pound spaghetti or similar
  • 4 medium-sized eggs, preferably organic, free range (good quality)
  • 6-7 oz. guanciale or pancetta, small or medium diced
  • 1 1/4 cup Parmegiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup of the pasta water

What you have to do:

  1. In a deep pot, bring water to boil, add salt, then the pasta and cook for one minute less than the package indicates. It has to be al dente.
  2. When the pasta is ready, strain and set aside, but reserve a cup of the water.
  3. Meanwhile, pour olive oil in a large sauté pan or large pot and cook the guanciale or pancetta for about 2-3 minutes over medium heat, without burning it.
  4. Then lower the temperature, add half the water and simmer one more minute (do not drain the fat).
  5. Mix the pasta with the guanciale, add the remaining water, toss and remove from the heat.
  6. In a bowl, pour eggs and mix with 1 cup of cheese, but mix very gently without whipping.
  7. Then slowly, pour the egg mixture into the pasta and toss well. This step has to be little by little, so you can temper the eggs and create a creamy sauce, you don’t want to cook the eggs.
  8. Serve immediately, sprinkle pepper and the remaining cheese.

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