When I think of comfort food, I typically think of Asian foods like curry or miyeokguk or pho … and then there’s carbonara.
I got back from Alaska a week ago, and it’s been a quiet week. We’ve been texting, calling, Facetiming as often as we can, but tonight’s been a silent night — you have an event in New York tonight, some fancy benefit at the NYPL — and I’m feeling blue. It’s been a few weeks since you were here, and I miss you. I miss touching you, kissing you, being held by you.
The thing about carbonara is that it’s simple, that it requires a handful of ingredients that are usually always in my fridge — eggs, parmesan, pancetta, though I often just use regular old bacon instead. I like using linguine because I like linguine and linguine is easily found everywhere, though, if I can find bucatini, I might opt for that instead. I like my pasta to come in long strands, and I like it to come in long, fat strands, because the thicker the pasta, the more texture there is.
At least, so I opine.
(I despise angel hair pasta. And cappellini. I’m also not the biggest fan of stuffed pastas, though you swear you’ll change my mind about that.)
Carbonara is simple but requires some amount of care so the eggs don’t scramble, turn silky smooth instead, and the key is to have everything prepped so you can move quickly. While my pasta is cooking, I fry my bacon on low in a pan, and I crack my eggs into a 6-cup Pyrex measuring cup and break them apart with chopsticks until they’re a pale yellow sludge. I grate my Parmesan cheese (always grate your own cheese), and, once my pasta is ready, I reserve a cup of pasta water, quickly drain the noodles, and return them to the pot while everything’s still hot. I grab fistfuls of cheese and toss them into my egg slurry, give that a quick little stir, and pour the mix over the hot noodles without turning the heat back on, mixing the eggs and cheese and noodles quickly with my chopsticks so the cheese will melt and the eggs cook just so slightly. I dump the cooked bacon on with its melted fat, dump in more cheese, dump in some red pepper flakes. If my carbonara’s looking too dry, I add some of the reserved pasta water for moisture.
If I’ve done it all correctly, I’ve got a pot of creamy, rich carbonara that isn’t greasy, heavy, or scrambled, comfort in a bowl. On nights like tonight, it’s exactly what I need.