By Chef-Owner at Model Milk, Justin Leboe
The first time I cooked dinner for my family, I was eight years old.
The dish was fettuccine carbonara. I must have found the recipe in one of my mother’s magazines. I remember thinking it looked good: pasta, eggs, bacon—who didn’t like those things? I announced my plan to my indulgent parents, and got to work on what I would much later in life learn to call my mise-en-place. Very carefully, I set about cutting, cracking, grating, chopping and all the other techniques required, as faithfully as my eight-yearold brain and hands could manage. Finally I was done, my family lovingly ate all of it, and praised it. Me, I didn’t get it. Why would anyone want to eat a plate of pasta with overdone scrambled eggs mixed in, and dry, grainy, parmesan out of a shaker dumped on top? I decided on the spot that this so-called Italian classic called fettuccine carbonara was seriously over-rated. And I put it out of my mind until seven years later, when I was starting out as a (very) young chef at Umberto Menghi’s Il Giardino. One day there, under the watchful eye of one of the restaurant’s most trusted pasta cooks, I was coaxed step-by-step through putting that same dish together, but properly. With it, I arrived at an epiphany, one of my most important discoveries as a young chef. The dish was creamy, silky, peppery, rich and otherworldly. It wasn’t fettuccine carbonara that sucked—it was eight-year-old me!
– Justin Leboe
- 175 g (6 oz) dry fettuccine
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- 2 slices of good pancetta (or bacon), cut into lardons
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 tsp minced parsley
- ½ tsp cracked black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the fettuccine. Heat the oil in a skillet, add the pancetta, and cook until golden and crisp— then remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, half the cheese, the parsley and pepper, and beat lightly with a fork. When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain, reserving ¼ cup pasta water. Return pasta to the pot, fold in the pancetta (along with the fat in the skillet), and moisten with a little of the reserved pasta water. Transfer the pasta to the mixing bowl and toss with the egg mixture until it coats the pasta like thick glistening cream. At this point, do not keep stirring or you will make scrambled eggs (trust me). Serve at once, on warm pasta bowls, topped with the reserved cheese.