Carbonara is one of those pasta dishes that need no introduction and is a classic pasta choice all over the world.
Most would know carbonara as a cream-based pasta with heaps of bacon, in actual fact – there is no cream in actual carbonara. The carbonara gets its creaminess from raw egg yolks, cheese and pasta water.
How to get Creamy Carbonara?
Real-deal carbonara do not have actual cream in it, so there shouldn’t be visible thick white cream. Instead, the pasta is covered in a silky smooth, rich sauce that makes it creamy. The carbonara gets this creaminess from egg yolks. The make-or-break moment for creamy carbonara is when you actually add the eggs.
The eggs are added right at the end of the cooking process. There should not be active heat at all when the eggs are added. The eggs cook just enough from the residual heat, but it should not be so hot that the eggs cook and scramble.
A couple of ways to do this:
- Add the eggs right when the oil or butter stops sizzling. I find that with this, sometimes the pan got too cold.
- My preferred method is to remove the pan from the heat immediately and count to five, and pour in the egg mixture.
You can use the whole egg with the whites, but I like to just use yolks for richness. You also want to use room temperature eggs. If you store your eggs in the fridge, you want to take it out much earlier to warm to room temperature.
What type of Cheese to Use?
The ingredients are minimal, but it’s crucial to use GOOD ingredients. The cheese used for carbonara would be parmesan, or pecorino or parmigiano-reggiano.
I tend to use parmesan, since it’s what I always have in my fridge. Also here in Singapore, because pecorino and parmigiano cheeses are so expensive compared to good quality parmesan cheese.
I mixed together the eggs and cheese prior to cooking for efficiency.
Alternative to Bacon
Carbonara gets a lot of flavour from bacon or pancetta. Since I do not eat pork, I get creative with my meaty flavours.
In this recipe, I used chopped up pieces of pepperoni. Pepperoni has no fat to be rendered, so I would add an extra glug of extra virgin olive oil or butter to compensate. There are also turkey or beef bacon available, although those tend to be lean with not much fat to render too.
I also like to use sausages, which tend to be made with fattier meats. Simply remove the filling from the casing and pan fry.
Don’t want meat at all? This carbonara can be vegetarian, and as delicious! It’s all about the creamy egg yolk and cheese.
How to make Creamy Carbonara with no Cream!Course: Recipes
1 bundle of Fettucine or your favourite Pasta
1 Cup of salted pasta water
2 tbsps pepperoni, sliced (or bacon/pancetta)
2tbsps of extra virgin olive oil or butter (evoo)
1 Garlic, minced
1 Egg yolk
2 tbsps Grated Parmesan Cheese, with more to serve
Ground Black Pepper
1 Thai Bird’s Eye Chillies or chilli pepper flakes (optional)
Handful of basil leaves or cilantro (optional)
- In a bowl, combine egg yolk and parmesan cheese. Add a couple tablespoons of pasta water to dilute the mixture.
- In a cold pan, add olive oil or butter and chopped garlic. Turn on heat to lowest and cook garlic until it sizzles.
- Then turn heat up to medium and add pepperoni and chillies if using. Sauté till pepperoni is fragrant.
- Add pasta, a couple tablespoons of pasta water, black pepper and basil if using, stir to combine.
- Turn off the heat, take pan off the hob, and count to 5 seconds, before adding the yolk+cheese mixture.
- Gently stir through cooked pasta. The pan should be hot enough to melt the cheese but not enough to scramble the eggs. Add pasta water if it is too thick to stir. The pasta water will also help to create a cream.
- Serve with more sprinklings of black pepper and parmesan cheese.