When Aziz Ansari’s character Dev on Master of None mastered a perfect Spaghetti Carbonara, our collective mouths watered for just one bite. A good plate of pasta is a something most of us are familiar with. A great plate of pasta is life-changing. The difference between a hand-kneaded pasta dough and a dried, store-bought pasta is akin to the difference between hearing Beethoven play live in his heyday compared to having to sit through a second-grade class recital in a gym with a busted air-conditioner. And that’s before we even get to what sauce is dressing that pasta.
Our old friend Binging with Babish, Andrew Rea, tackled Dev’s Carbonara from Master of None this week to help us all make this stellar dish. Carbonara is one of those deceptively simple plates of pasta. It’s cured fatty pork (usually Guanciale) with pasta that’s coated in an egg and cheese mix which creates a velvety sauce when you add a little of that pasta water. No cream is ever needed. The difficulty comes in the technique and timing to make sure you don’t scramble the eggs when they hit the heat or let everything congeal by waiting too long to serve.
Check out Rea’s take.
Before we go on, we have to ding Babish on a few techniques. One, Carbonara doesn’t call for garlic, and Dev doesn’t use it in his recipe on the show. We went back and checked the tape from the episode. We also checked in with Mario Batali and couldn’t find any garlic in his recipe either. Just sayin’.
Secondly, Rea doesn’t mix the egg with the grated cheese — he adds them separately. This is … odd. The crux of a classic and luscious Carbonara is the grated pecorino and scrambled egg sauce that’s pre-mixed. You add that to the pasta with a few spoonfuls of pasta water. As you toss, this creates the magical emulsion you’re looking for where the egg is cooking as the cheese is melting and the pasta water is making everything silky smooth. We have to dock Rea a few points here. Dev gets it right for what it’s worth.
If you stick around, Rea then makes a vegetarian version out of some nice looking mushrooms. But we can’t image it tastes nearly as amazing the same without that fatty salty Guanciale. After all, Guanciale is cured pig jowl that’s mostly fat. Mushrooms are awesome and all … but, come on.