Smoked Bacon Carbonara with Parmesan Garlic Toasts

Sometimes you get an idea in your head and you run with it, no matter how strange it seems. On Sunday evening, walking home from work in the blazing sunshine, I suddenly wanted carbonara. Did I mention the sunshine? I should have bought a pack of burgers, settled down on the grass with a cheap barbeque and burnt the hell out of those things, cider in hand. But despite the sun, all I wanted was a comforting bowl of pasta, some sort of garlic-slathered bread and a glass of pinot grigio. The fact that it was the Observer Food Monthly weekend made it even better, and I nestled down with a bowl reading about Jubilee cocktails and a delicious mint frozen yoghurt that I am desperate to try.

Carbonara, I find, is a very personal thing. The internet has a vast display of recipes, ranging from full fat to skinny, unusual to the downright bizarre (courgette carbonara anyone?). For me, it has been a case of personal trial and error. The first time I ever made it, it was perfect and was something I threw together without much thought. The second time, the eggs scrambled and I was mortified. I persevered with my original method but it was never the same and thus changes had to be made. A quick Google search will tell you the main differences in most carbonara recipes are the addition of cream. Some can’t live without it; others call it a sacrilege to the original recipe. What I have found, is that by omitting the cream, I have never since scrambled my spaghetti. Which I thought called for a blog post.

I will never say my recipes are foolproof (after all, I posses an oven that is akin to the tin man on a hill), but this may be the closest yet. As long as you take your time to prep all your ingredients beforehand, leave the bacon and onions to cool slightly and have a lovely thick egg and parmesan mix, then you should be good to go.

This recipe calls for smoked streaky bacon as I love the smoky aromas, but if you are more of a back bacon person, you could switch. I’ve also tested this recipe with maple bacon, which is delicious and gives a sweet edge to your sauce. Either way, alongside these parmesan garlic toasts, which are sprinkled with a little lemon thyme and a drizzle of olive oil, your dinner will be near enough perfect. Just don’t forget the white wine; it is nearly summer after all.

 

You Will Need

For the Carbonara

2 small shallots or 1 small white onion, finely chopped

3 slices of smoked streaky bacon, chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

75-100g dried spaghetti or linguine (depending how hungry you are!)

1 egg

1 and a ½ tablespoons grated parmesan

Salt and pepper

 

For the Parmesan Garlic Toasts

1 small baguette roll, uncooked

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

A small slice of butter

A few lemon thyme leaves

A drizzle of olive oil

Salt and pepper

A small handful of grated parmesan

 

Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/Gas Mark 4. In a small ramekin, mix together the garlic, butter, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper to a thick paste. Using a bread knife, cut the baguette lengthways and spread over the herby butter. Place on a baking tray and grate over a little parmesan.

Place a large pan of salted water on to boil over a medium heat and a frying pan also over a medium heat. Once the water is boiling, add the dried pasta and using tongs, make sure each strand is covered by the water. Place the baguette slices in the oven to cook for 10 minutes, checking regularly.

Add the chopped bacon to the frying pan and fry until beginning to crisp. Add the onions and cook together until soft and the bacon crisp. Meanwhile, whisk the egg and parmesan together with a little salt and pepper until thick. Set aside.

Once the bacon and onions are cooked, add the garlic and fry for a further minute then remove from the heat and set aside. Check the baguettes, if crisp remove and set to one side. Drain the pasta once cooked and return to the pan. Stir in the bacon, onion and garlic with a wooden spoon. Then carefully pour in the egg mixture, stirring quickly all the time to coat each strand well and to prevent the egg from scrambling. Transfer to a serving bowl quickly and top with cracked black pepper and more parmesan. Place the parmesan garlic toasts on a plate and serve alongside the carbonara, with a glass of chilled white wine.

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