Spaghetti carbonara: Post-adventure satisfaction

We wrestled our feisty little one into his snow gear Sunday morning for our weekly family adventure in the wild. We skied down the icy road, past Grandma’s greenhouse already packed with sprouting starters, past the little cabin we used to call home, and down onto the windswept lake — the perfect trail for practicing on tiny skis.

We zipped him up (through ample protests) into his sled and pulled him quickly over crusty snow. We waved our poles to the neighbors as we passed, as we always do, and continued to the frozen swamp to take a break and play on the icy dunes at the edge of the lake.

Our little explorer charged up the hills, urging us to follow — but not too close — as he forged a path to the top, and once he found the tallest spot, he plopped down to slide at full speed to the bottom, screaming giggles all the way.

When his cheeks were cherry red and his eyes watered from the wind, we pulled him over to a sheltered spot for our hot cocoa break. His father had told me stories of his mom taking him out on the frozen lake as a child, to climb through the trees and to explore the dilapidated cabin on the far side, often with hot cocoa packed to warm them before heading home.

As we sat there on the ice sipping cocoa and munching on the ever-present goldfish crackers, he told me how happy it made him to re-create those memories with his own son, then told us to smile for a picture before we started back toward home.

I was chilly and honestly a little unmotivated to cook after our adventure, so I thought of a satisfying dinner I could make in the time it takes to boil noodles. This peppery spaghetti carbonara is quick but refined and comes together in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients for two dinner portions:

½ pound spaghetti

3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped into small pieces

¼ cup heavy whipping cream (I know it’s not traditional to add cream, but I like it this way. Omit if you are a purist.)

3 large egg yolks

1/3 cup grated pecorino/romano or parmesan (plus some for garnish)

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper (more or less to taste)

Salt to taste


Set your pasta water on to boil. No need to add salt to the water for this one— the sauce will be salty enough.

Grind your pepper into a fine meshed strainer and sift out the husks. This isn’t totally necessary but will prevent any crunchy pepper bits from ruining the silky texture of the finished sauce.

Whisk your yolks, cream, pepper and cheese in a bowl until smooth and set aside.

When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the instructions to al dente.

In a large saucepan (I used a wok … I use my wok a lot) cook your meat until crispy.

By the time the meat is cooked, the noodles should be ready.

Turn the heat off on the saucepan then, using tongs, pull the noodles out of the water and transfer directly into the pan, ensuring plenty of water comes with them. Do not strain the noodles before adding to the pan — you need the water to dilute and cool down the fat in the pan so the eggs won’t fry in the next step.

After all the noodles have been added, drizzle in the egg mixture, tossing or stirring constantly, until the cheese melts and the sauce is smooth.

Taste and season with extra salt and pepper if desired.

Top with extra cheese.