This is the first dish I ever learned how to make! I don’t even remember how old I was, but it was well before high school, because I would make carbonara when I was a student at boarding school in New Hampshire. I was constantly missing the pasta dishes I grew up with in Italy, so I’d go to the general store, buy the ingredients, and make this over the two little hotplates in our communal room. Those hotplates served me and my friends well: I used to make carbonara for everyone in the dorm! Then, my senior year, after I got kicked out of that school and went to another one, I made pasta carbonara at my then girlfriend’s house to feed all my friends before going to our senior prom. I kept hearing all this talk about drinking at the prom, and I thought to myself, What better way to prepare for a night of drinking than a bowl of hearty pasta? It turned out to be the perfect fuel for the night—and it was great to put my cooking skills to good use!
1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook until it is browned and the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and keep warm.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, cheese, and pepper until uniform. Set aside.
3. Fill a large pot with water and add enough salt so the water tastes like seawater. Bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package until al dente. Drain and transfer pasta to the bowl with the egg mixture and add the pancetta, along with all the fat from the pan. Toss the pasta with the egg-cheese mixture and the pancetta until the eggs are cooked and the pasta is coated and creamy, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.
Tip: If, when you’re tossing the pasta in the bowl, it looks a little dry, add a bit of the reserved pasta water to help create an emulsion.
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