Traditionally, carbonara is pasta with egg, hard cheese, guanciale (or pancetta or prosciut-to), and black pepper. Sweet peas are a frequent addition that I chose to include here for the sweetness and freshness they add to the dish.
Because guanciale, pancetta, and prosciutto are pork products, of course, traditional carbonara is not kosher. But when you look at the role guanciale plays in the dish, it really comes down to one word—umami. There are other ways to get the sort of umami those pork products bring to the party, one of the best being oven-dried tomatoes, which bring a similar depth of flavor and a similar savory profile as the cured pork.
Carbonara is classically made with bucatini or spaghetti, but I love making it with penne pasta. Why? Because the little bits—the peas and oven-dried tomatoes in this recipe—get stuck in the tubes of penne. But you can use whichever shape you prefer.
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 1 pound dry penne
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ pound Oven-Dried Tomatoes, sliced into small strips
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (plus more for serving)
- 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, to the point that the pasta is aldente. Drain the pasta well, reserving at least ½ cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the oven-dried tomatoes to the pan, increase the heat to high, and cook for about 2 minutes, until the tomatoes are slightly caramelized. Turn the heat down to medium, add the garlic and sweet peas, and cook for another 2 minutes.
3. Beat the eggs and cheese together in a medium bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Add the hot, drained pasta to the pan along with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat the pasta. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and pour the egg mixture into the pasta, mixing quickly until the eggs thicken but do not scramble (it is lower risk to do this off the heat, but the results will never be as good). Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it just clings to the pasta. Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning.
4. Divide the carbonara among plates and garnish with the parsley.