Carbonara is the Italian work for coal miner. This dish is called called carbonara because of the specks of black pepper are reminiscent of coal dust. Aaron Rocchino, co-founder and former co-owner of The Local Butcher Shop, shares his recipe for this very rich dish, featuring The Local Butcher Shop’s housemade guanciale.
A note from Aaron: A server I used to worked with would get this every time we served it on the menu, and he would always ask for a poached egg on top too. He made sure to let us know that he will not be telling his wife or doctor about that meal. It’s a really rich dish—great with a bright chicory salad or something light and refreshing.
- 1/3 lb guanciale, sliced into flags (you can use pancetta, but guanciale is better)
- olive oil, just a touch for the pan
- 1 red onion, sliced into half moons (cut onion in half from root end then cut each half in half along the equator. Leave flat on the cutting board, then turn onion to make slices)
- 6 to 8 egg yolks
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated (plus more if needed)
- 1 cup pecorino cheese, freshly grated (plus more if needed)
- fresh black pepper (It must be freshly ground, medium to course grind)
- 12 oz dried bucatini pasta (bucatini is ideal, or you can substitute another long pasta)
- sea salt to taste
- Get a big pot of water heating for the pasta. Do not add as much salt as you normally would to taste like the sea, add just slightly less. Taste. Make sure not to add any more salt anywhere else. You will get enough salt from the guanciale and cheeses.
- In a sauté pan, put guanciale, a touch of olive oil and a splash of water. Turn heat on high to start cooking the guanciale. The water and a little oil will help get everything started and soften up before rendering. Let water cook off then turn heat down to medium-low to start rendering the guanciale. Fry it until nicely crisped. Taste. Remove guanciale with slotted spoon or tongs and set aside.
- Add red onion and sweat it down in the rendered fat on low-medium heat until fully cooked and soft. Taste. Remove from heat to allow them to cool. DO NOT DISCARD ANY FAT FROM THE PAN; you’ll need it all.
- While you’re waiting for the guanciale and onion to cook, get your yolks, cheese, and black pepper ready.
- In a large bowl, place yolks, 1 cup of each cheese (reserve a ½ cup of each to add later if needed), and lots of fresh cracked black pepper. Thoroughly mix everything together. It will be the consistency of a very thick paste. That’s okay for now. Taste it. You might need to add more cheese and/or more black pepper. The flavor should be strong because you soon dilute it with pasta water to turn it into a sauce once the pasta is done cooking.
- Drop your pasta into the boiling water, prepare according the package. Once pasta is cooked, strain and reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid. (It works well to have a pot with a perforated strainer in it so you can just raise the pasta out of the water to drain, simultaneously reserving the pasta water).
- Add cooked guanciale, and the cooled onions, and fat, to the yolk, cheese, and black pepper mixture. Incorporate really well. Taste.
- Slowly add hot pasta water to temper the yolk mixture – This helps to not cook or curdle the eggs and turns the mixture into a very creamy and silky sauce. Add enough pasta water and mix thoroughly to get it slightly looser than sauce consistency. Taste. Then add the cooked pasta and stir vigorously to help work the starch, incorporate the sauce, and to help it get into the holes of the pasta too. Taste.
- Add more cheese and black pepper if you think it needs more. Just remember that you should add some cheese and black pepper on top as a garnish when serving.
- Once it tastes good and the consistency is right, then plate it up. Make sure it is juicy and not thick and gloppy.
- Garnish with a little sprinkle of more cheese and black pepper.