Need a last-minute meal for Valentine’s Day that’s both romantic and easy to make? Pasta carbonara is the perfect meal for an intimate date night in!
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If you want date night to have an interactive part, try your hand at making your own pasta! It’s surprisingly simple to do, so long as you plan in the time for the dough to rest. But if that’s not your jam, this is still a fabulous meal option for a romantic dinner.
Pasta carbonara exemplifies what I love about Italian food. At its core, Italy eats quality ingredients done simply. One chef I love pointed out that this is essentially pasta with bacon and eggs – nothing complicated! But it comes together to form this creamy, velvety sauce that tastes decadent but comes together in the time it takes for the pasta to boil.
Italians simply don’t believe in wasting time on bad food. The best illustration of this comes from when my husband deployed. He ended up working a lot with the Italian military during his time overseas – strange coincidence that we ended up moving here less than a year after! -and he told me that in their dining facilities, they ship everything from Italy. This means that while certain things couldn’t be shipped and therefore they couldn’t eat while deployed, what they did eat was always GOOD. A far cry from the American options, ranging from cafeteria food to MRE’s.
Pasta carbonara has very specific traditional ingredients. Pecorino is the usual cheese, and it’s perfection. If you can’t find it where you live, you can sub parmesan, but pecorino is better.
Spaghetti is the traditional choice for making carbonara. You can use whatever you want, but there’s something so perfect about the way the sauce coats the long noodles, so I rarely mix it up on that front.
Traditionally pasta carbonara doesn’t have peas in it, but it’s a pop of color and adds vegetables, so I usually toss some in there for good measure. But if you want the purest version, skip them.
Speaking of the purest version, the meat choice is guanciale. It’s cured pork cheeks, and it’s delicious. I know that it’s a little more difficult to find, but it’s 100% worth it. Again, if you can’t find it, you can substitute pancetta.
I will point that carbonara doesn’t sit very well, so this is the type of meal you can half prep beforehand and then finish cooking while you chat with your significant other over a glass of wine.
Serve with a big salad and lovely dessert like chocolate fondue and you’ve got yourself an elegant yet simple Valentine’s Day dinner!
- 300 grams spaghetti
- 4 eggs
- 110 grams Pecorino cheese plus more for topping
- black pepper to taste
- 200 grams guanciale
- Get everything prepped: grate the cheese and slice the guanciale into strips. Heat the water for cooking pasta. Beat the eggs and cheese together and set aside.
- Cook the guanciale in a pan or skillet, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. When the fat is rendered but it's not yet crispy, remove the pan from heat. If the guanciale is swimming in grease, remove a little.
- Cook the pasta to al dente (check the package for exact timing). When it's done, save a cup of pasta water then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss the noodles in the guanciale fat, making sure it all gets coated.
- Slowly pour the cheese mixture over the pasta, tossing as you go. It's important to keep the pasta moving so the sauce coats instead of scrambles. Continue tossing, lifting up out of the pan to continue moving everything until it looks even.
- Serve and top with extra cheese!