What is my “ideal” meal after a concert?
Below is the recipe for Pasta Carbonara created by one Achille Arcidiacono, which is probably the best recipe ever written by man. Even without the beautiful food it produces, it is a joy to read. In terms of following the directions, it takes some skill.
One must be able to understand the intent of the artist and not just expect a paint-by-numbers kind of recipe, because it certainly isn’t that. Over the years, I feel I have come to master this recipe, but I’m certain no one could do it quite the justice that Achille could.
For 6 normal size people.
2 Boxes (two pounds) of Pasta preferably a hollow Rigatoni or Penne Rigate, but Spaghetti is equally enjoyable.
– 1 pound even 1 and ½ pound of lean Bacon (as lean as you can find among Center Cut packages) or if you’re in Italy: Guanciale or Pancetta
– 4 Eggs – 5-6 spoons -full of grated Parmesan and 4 spoons-full of grated Romano cheese
– one bar of butter
– Three or four spoons full of Olive Oil.
– 6 or 7 peeled cloves of Garlic – 6 or 7 Red Peppers (Chile de Arbol if you can find) leave peppers whole but empty out the little white seeds. After you have done this wash your hands, please remember you must not touch your eyes or other sensitive parts of your body before washing your hands.
– 5 or 6 large spoons of Whipping Cream.
So, you come home from a concert feeling elated but your body thinks it was a boxing match, especially if the music was Le Sacre du Printemps by Stravinsky.
You start by opening a bottle of wine, preferably an Amarone, and pour yourself a glass. Pasta must be cooked in a lot of water and I mean a lot. Start by filling a large pot with water and place on high fire.
BOWL #ONE: Cut the bacon into strips about as wide as your little finger. Place the bacon in a skillet and cook over medium fire until it gets brown and crunchy. Stir every so often to be certain that bacon does not stick to the bottom. When the bacon is done place it in a small bowl, if for any chance there is some excessive grease left (there should not be much grease if you choose the very lean bacon) please dispose of excess but not all grease, place BOWL #ONE aside. This may be a good time to drink a little more wine, or vodka, or whatever you like.
BOWL #TWO: Use a large bowl to crack the whole eggs, pour the Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and the whipping cream. Mix this up with a whisk and set BOWL #TWO aside.
BOWL #THREE: (which in reality is a skillet). Use the skillet where you cooked the bacon to rosolare (this is an Italian word that means make reddish) then add garlic and peppers. Be certain not to burn the garlic, the oil gets very bitter. If you burn the garlic please throw it away and start this again. Once the garlic becomes rosolato (reddish) and you will notice also the peppers become rosolati (since the peppers are red the rosolazione is not visible) please dispose (yes throw away) the garlic and the peppers, but for Pete’s sake do not throw away the marinated olive oil as the oil and the BOWL # Three or skillet are of crucial importance.
Keep the oil warm (not hot please only warm) and place the butter to melt in the skillet with the oil so that the oil and the melted butter will be mixed and warm. The smell of this skillet is usually considered special, (wonderful!). When the water is boiling, pour in the boiling water at least a handful of salt, and then some more salt (Americans tend to be shy about the use of salt but the large amount of water requires more salt than you would ever think). At this time pour in the pasta. Make certain that the fire is high and you should stir the pasta as soon as you pour it in so it doesn’t stick together. And do not cook the past more than the amount indicated in the package. Keep the past water boiling at all times and stir the pasta ever so often, caution if you keep the cover on the past pot the water may boil over and you may mess the stove. No big deal, but it can be avoided. Drink a little more wine or whatever, because now it comes the crucial time or as Achille calls it the miracle of the carbonara.
During the last minute of cooking the pasta Achille says the Lord’s Prayer, in Italian, this to thank God, to ensure perfect cooking and to honor his mother who used to do the same. This is voluntary and you can use your own language or religion. Once the pasta is done (al dente) strain it and quickly throw it back into the pot where it has cooked over MEDIUM HIGH fire. The bold letters mean that the medium high fire is very important.
Immediately begin stirring the pasta and as soon as possible pour in the pot the contents of BOWL #THREE. Continue stirring – preferably you should have a partner to help you with this part – while someone continually stirs the pasta, slowly pour in BOWL #TWO, continue to stir and be certain that the fire is on but it can be MEDIUM LOW. As you stir it, the mixture will slowly harden if it gets to look like scrambled eggs you have stirred a little too long but is OK. (During this phase of the mixing you are cooking the eggs you do not want to have them stringy or over cooked.) Then slowly while stirring it pour in BOWL #ONE. Now you have made the miracle and Achilles’ Carbonara is ready to be served. Turn off the fire and serve immediately. Like many things in life, it is better when it is hot.
PS Historical note: Carbonara takes its name from “I Carbonari” members of a secret society formed in the early part of the nineteenth century for the liberation of Italy. Carbone means coal and the Carbonari hid in coal mines. To limit the cooking to one meal a day they created this dish that is very tasty, very filling and full of good nutrients.
PS, PS The joy of Carbonara is that left overs placed in the refrigerator last for as long as a week. When you are ready to eat the leftover carbonara, place a skillet on medium to medium low fire with a little olive oil and warm it up, it tastes terrific.
Nota bene: When you make this Carbonara, if you have heard my concert, please say a prayer for me (and my arteries). But without fail you must look towards Heaven and then Hell and announce: “All hail the great Achille who makes the best Carbonara in the whole world.”
I hope you like it.