Spring in bloom and Linguine alla Carbonara recipe

I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but this spring has run rings around other springs. All in bloom, blooms in all things, roses outdoing other roses, as if in a contest for best of show. Sparking the hillsides, the bright yellow broom also sends out a scent that Frances thinks smells like cheap barber shop hair oil, though how that scent is known to her, I don’t understand. Rampant jasmine sprawls and climbs and the hypericum, also butter-yellow, are hyped beyond hype. Intoxication deluxe. Aromatherapy without having to go to Rome. We’ve been as busy studying the bees as the bees have been busy studying the blooms. Spring is here, splashing beauty, and we’re the happy witnesses.

And in all the springtime joy, I’m trying decide what to make for lunch, in addition to what to make for dinner, and I’ve settled on a trio—pasta, risotto, pizza, not necessarily in that order. And why not start with pasta, one of my favorites. After working to fight the battalions of weeds, I often need a quick solution. That would be the rustic Carbonara, one of Italy’s most loved pastas.

Linguine alla Carbonara
Serves 4 to 6

Classic carbonara, the story goes, was invented in a trattoria in Rome when American soldiers after World War II longed for the bacon and eggs of home. Silky and unctuous, the sauce of egg yolks and cheese clings to the pasta, and the pancetta adds a robust zap of flavor. Since salt is in the pancetta, the cheese, and the pasta water, taste before adding any more. Guanciale cut into short strips, or bacon, can be substituted for the pancetta. If using those, drain away most of the fat after they’re cooked.

12 ounces (340 g) linguine
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces (140 g) pancetta, cut into small dice
5 egg yolks
½ cup (50 g) grated Parmigiano Reggiano
¼ cup (25 g) grated pecorino Romano
Freshly ground black pepper and coarse salt

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, 10 to 11 minutes. Do not drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the pancetta in the olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it is golden but not crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

While the pancetta cooks, whisk the egg yolks well in a medium bowl, then mix in the Parmigiano and 2 tablespoons plain water.

When the pasta is al dente, use tongs to transfer it directly to the skillet. Add ¼ cup (60 ml) of the pasta water and toss over medium-high heat to mix the pasta with the pancetta and oil. Add a few turns of the pepper mill. Add salt to taste. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk another ¼ cup (60 ml) of the pasta water into the egg yolks and cheese, then pour the mixture over the pasta in the skillet. Toss to coat well. Serve at once, topped with the pecorino Romano.

From Pasta Veloce: 100 Fast and Irresistible Recipes from Under the Tuscan Sun
By Frances Mayes and Susan Wyler. Photos by Steven Rothfeld