Williamsburg, Brooklyn, before it became a hipster Mecca and shopping district, was an Italian and Puerto Rican neighborhood. Except for the Italian flag colors painted on light posts on a short strip of Lorimer Street, most of the vestiges of the former Italian residents have been erased. That includes one of the best Italian restaurants to ever grace the neighborhood. No, I’m not talking about Lilia, Missy Robbins’s restaurant with pasta that the New York Times called “a direct route to happiness,” I’m talking about the quiet A Roma Bakery, which was actually Italian, run by an Italian family and in the manner of restaurants in Italy. The service was friendly and slow, and all of the frills were reserved for the food, which was made to order. Oh, and they knew their coffee. Does any country appreciate coffee more than Italy?
The only thing A Roma got wrong was breakfast sandwiches. I do not hold that against them because breakfast is decidedly NOT Italian. From what I can gather, the Italian idea of “breakfast” is a cappuccino and maybe a biscotti? This was a problem for me because breakfast is generally my largest meal and A Roma closed at 5 p.m. sharp. To get my A Roma fix, I started ordering spaghetti alla carbonara for breakfast, which has the classic American breakfast combo of bacon, eggs, and cheese, only in creamy pasta form.
Today, A Roma is gone, but my love of carbonara for breakfast remains. Here is the recipe I have been using for forever to make carbonara at home. I think I originally got it from the New York Times, but I cannot be sure. I’ve been making it for so long that I don’t use a recipe any more, but the NYT references carbonara as a stand in for the American deli classic, bacon egg and cheese, so maybe I got the idea to order carbonara for breakfast from them too?
Do not be intimidated by the Italian name and use of raw eggs! The eggs are cooked by the heat of the pasta and turn into a rich, creamy sauce. Also, the recipe is super simple and fast. You’ll be eating in less than 30 minutes from when you start heating your pasta water. And you definitely SHOULD be eating it that quickly. Carbonara is best when it is fresh from the pan!
Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
2 egg yolks
1 Tbs Olive Oil
12 oz spaghetti
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground pepper
4 oz of pancetta, that’s one packet of the Cittero brand pancetta, which is widely available in most stores, including Target and Trader Joe’s. You can also sub regular bacon. I slice 1/4 off of the end of a 12 oz pack of bacon, then slice the slab with the bacon still stacked on top of each other, the way they come in the packet, in 1/4 inch strips.
Boil a large pot of water over high heat.
While the pot is heating, mix eggs, egg yolks, cheese, and about a tsp or more of cracked black pepper in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
Heat pancetta and olive oil on medium in a large pan or wok until fat begins to render, just before it starts to crisp. Turn off heat and set aside.
Fill a large mixing bowl with steaming hot water from the tap. Set aside.
When water is boiling, add 1 tbs salt spaghetti and cook until pasta is almost al dente, about 1 minute short of the suggested cooking time. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water from pasta, then drain pasta.
Immediately put drained pasta in pancetta pan. Turn the heat back on to medium high and thoroughly coat pasta in oil and bacon fat (yum!).
Dump hot water out of large mixing bowl and then throw your pasta into the hot bowl. Add egg and cheese mixture and toss/stir pasta, making sure all off the pasta is coated in sauce. Sauce should be creamy. If it is too thick and a little sticky, add a small amount of pasta water until the consistency is correct. Serve with pepper and more cheese if you nasty! 😉
As always, here is a pin if you would like to save this recipe for later!