I am often asked if I have a specialty dish that I make. I don't really have one that I make over and over but if I could choose a dish to be my own specialty dish it would be spaghetti carbonara. I first had carbonara at the Adventure bar in Japan just outside of Sasebo. It was an odd place to get a great plate of Italian food, it was owned by a man from Holland who had married a woman from Japan and together they served up Italian food. It was also the only place in Japan that I found to have Heineken on tap and they served it up in generous 32 ounces mugs.
The carbonara at the Adventure bar was so good that it pretty much ruined carbonara for me. Every time I ordered it after leaving Japan I was disappointed. When I started cooking I tried to make it several times, the first couple of tries ended up being more like noodles and scrambled eggs, my technique was off just a bit and I never thought I was going to get it right. I had pretty much given up on trying until I started making my own guanciale. Guanciale is the dry cured jowl of a pig that it traditionally used in making carbonara. Along with guanciale, eggs, Parmesan, pasta, salt and pepper is about all that goes into it. When done correctly the eggs and cheese for a light and beautiful creamy sauce that covers the pasta. It is a surprisingly simple dish when you look at the ingredient list but there is nothing easy about the cooking of the dish. If the eggs are added when the pan it to hot they will curdle and the texture of your dish is ruined.
When I first started making guanciale I tried the carbonara again and slowly but surely I got the hang of it and started making some pretty good carbonara. Then something happened, I made dry cured egg yolks and almost as soon as I made them I thought, I can't wait to try them in carbonara. I would have made them the day the eggs were ready but I had run out of guanciale and was waiting for my latest batch to finish drying. When that day finally came I was almost giddy and couldn't wait for lunch. As I started making the carbonara my wife asked if there was anything healthy in the dish and since I had just picked a zucchini that morning I decided to shred a zucchini and add it. I know that isn't exactly traditional but it was awesome, hands down my best carbonara so far.
My Best Carbonara Yet
4 ounces guanciale, diced(or pancetta or bacon)
2 salt cured egg yolks finely grated
1/2 cup pecorino Romano
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 lbs of spaghetti or other long noodle pasta
1 cup water reserved from cooking the pasta
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.
While the pasta is cooking, start to cook the guanciale crisping the guanciale and rendering the fat out stir in the zucchini and cook for 2-3 minutes. When the pasta is ready add the pasta to the guanciale and toss a few times to coat the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and add about half the reserved pasta water. Add the grated eggs and the cheese and toss until well combined add more water if needed.