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Chef Ben Ebbrell is the founder of SORTEDfood, the cooking YouTube channel boasting two and a half million followers. Chef Ben detailed his recipe tips for cooking the perfect carbonara.
The simple dinner typically involves spaghetti, pecorino cheese, ham, eggs, and pepper.
Ben discussed how to perfect each of these elements. He said: “One of the most important things when cooking Carbonara is choosing the right cut of pork to deliver the meaty undertones for the sauce.
“The traditional Italian recipe for Carbonara recommends using guanciale – a fatty cut of pork that comes from the jowl (cheek/jaw) of the pig, usually only found in Italian delis in the UK.”
Ben opts for more basic smoked pancetta – easy to find in most local supermarkets, and at a fraction of the cost, but delivers a similar meaty flavour.
He said: “Black pepper is, arguably the second most important flavour for the dish.
“To really make the pepper stand out and cut through the richness of the eggs and cheese, I start my Carbonara by toasting the black peppercorns in a frying pan”.
He grinds the toasted peppers up while using the same pan to cook the chopped Pancetta.
The fat from the meat should be enough without needing to add any oil to the pan.
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For the pasta, Ben recommends using basic supermarket dried spaghetti – a fraction of the cost compared to fresh pasta, but it works equally as well for the dish.
To ensure all the spaghetti cooks evenly, Ben cooks the pasta for about seven minutes in a frying pan with around 5cm of water in and a good hit of salt – this allows the strands to all fit in the pan and cook evenly.
Plus, using less water means you get more of the starch from the pasta in the water which adds to the ‘creamy’ richness of the sauce.
Ben said: “I use three eggs – one of them whole and two just the yolk.
“For me using just yolks makes the sauce too claggy, adding the whole egg gives it a looser texture to evenly coat the spaghetti.”
Ben then adds a chunk of grated Pecorino cheese and Parmesan to the eggs and mixes together with loads of the toasted ground black pepper.
He said: “If you don’t have Pecorino, you can just use Parmesan instead.”
To make the most of this water, the chef uses the pasta water for the sauce – he takes a glass of the pasta water and puts it in the pan with the cooked pancetta.
Once cooked, transfer the pasta from the frying pan to the pan with the pancetta, all the pancetta fat, and that glass of pasta water.
Then tip into the egg and cheese mix and give everything a good stir together.
Finish by cooking gently on the stove, as you stir, to get a loose custard-like consistency around the strands of spaghetti.
Always make sure you have a warm plate to serve the pasta on, so the pasta keeps warm while you eat it.
Ben said: “Don’t worry about fancy garnishes – I prefer to just add more grated cheese and a good grating of black pepper.”
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