I was all set to write triumphantly about conquering carbonara—how I’d figured out the foolproof way to make this silky pasta dish without scrambling the eggs or ending up with slippery pasta and no flavor. I wanted to assure you that you, too, could fearlessly make carbonara and wow your friends.
Clearly, I am not writing that story.
Seriously though, I had made like six great carbonaras in the last few months. They were all amazing—simple, smooth, rich-yet-light, and full of flavor. I really thought I had it. But this week, without warning, in my best Dutch oven, using my time-tested method, and the best ingredients available, my carbonara turned out downright crappy. I mean, it was edible, but hardly awesome. The eggs scrambled, the flavor was lacking, and it was all a bit dry.
In retrospect, I was stressed, I didn’t have red pepper flakes, my onion was on its deathbed, I substituted garlic scapes for garlic cloves (a good move, but I didn’t cook them long enough), I didn’t stir the linguine as diligently as I should have so it was a bit stuck together. And finally, I used new tongs, which didn’t give me the same mobility and agility as my old ones. (Damn that sexy-sounding self-locking mechanism.) Since I couldn’t move the pasta and eggs around quickly enough, I ended up with scrambled eggs in somewhat stuck-together, and not-so-flavorful pasta. (Ugh.)
While Anthony and I ate it, I attempted a half-hearted explanation, but the only thing to say was: Hey, carbonara is a mercurial little minx. Just when you think you’ve got it, it’s slipped between your fingers (or tongs.) Tony just shrugged, knowing exactly how it goes with this dish, and graciously steered the conversation away from our bowls and on to livelier topics. The time together was great, even if the food lacked.
Though I recovered relatively quickly from this weeknight flop, I dolefully crossed carbonara off the list of things I am planning to make at my next dinner party. (And I was so excited.) I’ve decided that carbonara is one of those dishes that you can only make for people you love. It’s the kind of thing that when it goes bad, it’s so bad you’d better be with people that will eat it, forgive you, laugh it off, and love you anyway. And when it’s good, it’s so good that you’d only want to share it with your favorite people.
So here’s my recipe. Six out of seven times it’s really freaking good. Those aren’t bad odds.