Fr. Z’s Kitchen: Roman comfort food on a chilly, rainy, depressing evening

Reading the news and my email can get to me once in a while. Like many of the denizens of your planet I, too, will occasionally have some comfort food. For example, I may have breakfast in the evening: a couple of eggs, toast, bacon.  That’s a good one.

However, this time I decided to do a variation of eggs, carbs and bacon.

Since I am pining a bit for Rome I made Rigatoni alla carbonara. This is one of the classic Roman dishes, pre-Columban, tried and true and not the easiest to make well.

The problem with working with eggs in hot preparations is to keep them from simply turning into scrambled eggs, with hard curd, rather than staying creamy as a sauce.

Today’s variations included, elicoidali instead of rigatoni, pancetta instead of guanciale.  I used what I had.  I keep some pancetta in slices in the freezer, very carefully wrapped and sealed with olive oil to prevent any burn.

Get your salted water going for the pasta and get the pasta cooking.  You will want it al dente.

Timing is important for this dish.  Lots of things happen in a short period of time.

Get your guanciale/pancetta going in a little oil.  Tastes vary, but just short of crunchy is standard.  Get it to the right point and take the pan off the heat.  It has to cook so that the eggs don’t harden.

When you are ready to rock and roll – sorry, I could do photos – save a bit of water from your pasta and drain.  Put a dash of the cooking water into the pan with the guanciale give it a tap of heat.  Put in the pasta, give it a little stir about and a tap of heat and let it rest a moment off the heat.

Beat together your grated pecorino and, perhaps, grana, with your egg yolks.  I use 2 yolks of small eggs per person and about 15-16 g of grated cheese along with fresh ground pepper.   If you have some cream or panna or crème fraîche handy, you might add a touch, but that’s either cheating or a rescue strategy, when people are at the table.

Add your egg and cheese mix to your pan with the guanciale, pasta and cooking water and start blending – quickly.  You have to work fast, perhaps giving it a tap of heat if it is too loose or a dash of the cooking water if too thick.

You are aiming for a creamy texture, not scrambled eggs.   You might have to do this a few times to get your own technique down.    It is also easier to make about 4 portions than 1.  A lot easier.

More fresh ground pepper and parsley.

This is such a simple preparation that, apart from the timing of your blending the ingredients and your control of heat, everything… everything… depends on the quality of your pig product (true guanciale is optimal but you can work with other things so long as they are truly flavorful) and your cheeses.   In these USA it is hard to get that Roman flavor just right because of the ingredients available here.  They are not the same.  They almost always disappoint, once you have Rome in your marrow.

In any event, I thought it would be good to have some “bacon and eggs” yesterday, to raise my spirits as I read one dreadful thing after another.  And, I must say, it was pretty darn good, for being domestic.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been some company to cook for.

No, wait.  The other thing that would have made it better: a white wine that wasn’t worthy only of being used to clean bug debris off the grill of my car.   Kenwood – Sonoma – Sauv Blanc… just say, “No! Per l’amor del cielo!”  Uck.  One sip and I was done.  I now am trying to think of something other than bug part removal for it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z's Kitchen and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Charles E Flynn says:

    For an inexpensive white wine, try Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc 2016:

    I do not have a car, so my bottle of Cupcake wine went down the bathroom sink. I wanted to see what the cheapest wine tasted like, and now I know.

  2. APX says:

    I’d rather have rain than the 12 inches (and falling) snow we got today in southern Alberta. That looks delicious, btw. Much better than macaroni and cheez whiz.

  3. David says:

    A warm recommendation, Rev Fr, for the Vivino iPhone app. It could have saved you at the store from that sauvignon blanc. I avoid anything under 3.8.

  4. VP says:

    Try a Falanghina.

    [’cause they’re really easy to find here. Right.]

  5. Kathleen10 says:

    Oh my gosh, that looks EXCELLENT.

  6. Charles E Flynn says:

    XI: Thou Shalt Not Suggest Practically Unobtainable Fruits of the Vine.

    On the other hand, I did learn something:

  7. robtbrown says:

    APX says:

    I’d rather have rain than the 12 inches (and falling) snow we got today in southern Alberta.

    Banff and the Fairmont, on my list, seem more than compensatory.

  8. Gregg the Obscure says:

    there are some better-than-ok sauvignon blancs from New Zealand at reasonable prices. since my wife loves pinot grigio, we always have that on hand and it seems like a drier pinot grigio would go well with that dish. to say nothing of the wonderfully named Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio

  9. Try a good Grechetto!

    Or Greco di tuffo!

  10. Man-o-words says:

    A well deserved meal, Father. Dont let things get you down, we are sure glad to have you.

  11. JonPatrick says:

    Ah Cupcake. As Donald Pleasance says in one of my favorite Columbo episodes (“Any old Port in a Storm”) “that wouldn’t even make good mouthwash”.

    For a nice dry Sauvignon Blanc equivalent I suggest Dry Creek Fume Blanc which seems to be readily available.

  12. teomatteo says:

    I made the same ‘dish’ last night. I used ‘square’ pasta though. and i prefer regular applewood thick sliced bacon (seems to stick to the pasta better for a more efficiency stuffing in ones mouth) Pedestrian maybe.

  13. CasaSanBruno says:

    Thanks for sharing the recipe, Fr. Z!

    I look forward to making my own. I used to cook my own version while in the seminary (very large quantities), but it wasn’t anything close to this.

  14. JustaSinner says:

    Use the skunky wine to strip the road grime/rust off the lug nolts of your SLK55 AMG!

    [It wasn’t skunky. It was just bad wine. And I don’t have an SLK55 AMG.]

  15. jjbulano says:

    This looks divine!!! Nothing like a properly made (no shortcuts, please) carbonara!!! I will try your recipe!! Thanks for sharing!!

Comments are closed.