Chef John's Spaghetti alla Carbonara: No bacon shortage here!

Kuldse Notsu Korse, a restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia. Photos by Sue Frause.

Farmer Bob wasn't aware of the dire predictions of a bacon shortage potentially looming in our larders. When he came home from the Star Store with fixin's for dinner the other night, I assumed he was stocking up on bacon, as he had a huge pack of the pork product in his bag. Nope, he was oblivious to the global problem, until we watched NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. The predicted shortage is being blamed on the drought, but the story that aired Wednesday night was actually quite funny, with such phrases as A-Pork-Alpyse and other playfully porky words. And there is no shortage of opinions on the topic, from NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer talking on CNBC about the global bacon shortage to an online story with the headline, Hogwash! 'Bacon shortage' is a load of bull.

I admit to being a bacon lover. Not one of those fanatics who craves it laced on maple bars, buried in ice cream or sprinkled on microwave popcorn. I like bacon for breakfast on the weekends, or for lunch in my favorite sandwich -- a BLT. No avocados or Ciabatta bread, just a simple bacon-lettuce-tomato on sourdough toast with mayonnaise, please.

Chef John's Spaghetti alla Carbonara served with tomatoes. Photo by Sue Frause.

Another dish I crave now and again is Spaghetti Carbonara. For years, we've been using James Beard's recipe from his 1983 cookbook, Beard on Pasta. It's simple to make and fairly light in the cream department, using only two tablespoons. But recently I bumped Chef Beard out of the top position with an online recipe I found, Chef John's Spaghetti alla Carbonara (click on to print out the recipe). Farmer Bob made it last night, and it was delish. I'm sure we'll be enjoying it again -- as long as there's bacon in the fridge. 

Chef John's Spaghetti alla Carbonara
"Spaghetti alla carbonara in its authentic form: peppery, creamy without using cream, cheesy and delicious."

Ingredients (Serves 2)

4 ozs. guanciale*, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground black papper, or to taste
2 eggs
3 Tbsps. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3 Tbsps. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
6 ozs. spaghetti
1 cup reserved pasta water
3 Tbsps. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
3 Tbsps. grated Pecorino Romano cheese

*Guanciale is unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig's jowl or cheek. We substituted regular bacon.


1. Cook guanciale (bacon) with olive oil and 1 tsp. ground black pepper in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until almost crisp, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low.

2. Whisk eggs, 3 Tbsps. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, 3 Tbsps. Pecorino Romano cheese and 1 tsp. ground black pepper in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, 10-12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. 
4. Pour reserved pasta water and drained spaghetti into the bacon-pepper mixture; stir to combine.
5. Slowly pour egg mixture into the pasta mixture; cook, stirring constantly until the egg mixture forms a thick sauce, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. 
6. Stir remaining 3 Tbsps. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and 3 Tbsps. Pecorino Romano cheese into the pasta mixture and serve. 

Notes: In addition to using regular bacon, we substituted capellini noodles for spaghetti noodles. And since we didn't have any Pecorino Romano cheese, we used all Parmigiano Reggiano. Bob suggests reducing the reserved pasta water from 1 cup to 3/4 cup. He served it in a large pasta bowl with fresh tomatoes from his garden, as pictured above.


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