Carbonara. Ish.

Want to get a reaction? Announce your playing around with a recipe for Carbonara on Twitter. Apparently "playing around" and an established classic Italian dish are not phrases that sit well together. I can sort of see the point: there are a few dishes pretty much set in stone and, let's face it, generations of Italians can't be wrong. 

So, after an admittedly tongue-in-cheek discussion, I'm going to start this next Prosciutto di San Daniele / Grana Padano Cheese post with a few disclaimers and explanations. The recipe to be tested - or, indeed, played around with - comes from Giancarlo Caldesi who, ironically, is the man who taught me to make pasta. He might have been slightly disappointed then that this interpretation didn't involve handmade fresh pasta but I suspect he'd also appreciate that, once you've gone past the strict original recipe (and there's a great piece on that here at The Epicurean) that anything goes. Well, within reason. And when you're on a mission to clear a ridiculously overstocked kitchen of half and quarter-finished bags of dried pasta, that's reason enough to my mind if, as agreed with Dino, provided you call it Carbonara-esque or take the Russell Norman approach and name it "Carbonara of Sorts".

Essentially, you're looking at bits of pig and egg to create this... well, it's not a sauce really, more of an emulsion perhaps? It is, in any of its forms, as perfect a comfort meal as you can find and - whisper it soft lest Dino hears - the Caldesi "twist" is utterly delicious. 

Carbonara (of sorts) con prosciutto di San Daniele e formaggio Grana Padano

Serves six. Or fewer greedy people. 

20ml Olive Oil
350g Prosciutto di San Daniele
100ml white wine
500g dried pasta, such as bucatini or penne
Five eggs
6g black peppercorns, crushed in pestle and mortar or coarsely ground in a mill
100g Grana Padano Cheese, freshly grated

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and, when hot, add the sliced Prosciutto di San Daniele and fry until crispy. Add the wine and reduce for a couple of minutes. Set aside. If you can. I'd never thought of frying prosciutto before and some will no doubt declare it sacrilege but oh my it works. The melting fat crisps brilliantly and the smell... if you can resist that, you're doing better than me. I had to go and buy more Prosciutto di San Daniele after picking at the pan rather too long. 

As for the wine, it's a great touch. It stops the prosciutto overcooking and as it reduces, it also effectively deglazes the pan, bringing together all that lovely melted fat, as well as providing a thick base for the rest of the sauce / emulsion / whatever. 

Now put the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Beat the eggs and black pepper together. Drain the cooked pasta in a colander, return it to the pan off the heat and add the beaten egg, the crispy fried Prosciutto di San Daniele and wine reduction and lots of the Grana Padano Cheese; stir well to combine. Serve on warm plates with more Grana Padano Cheese scattered over the top and - assuming you've still got "spares", a slice of Prosciutto di San Daniele.

 As agreed, traditional Carbonara it's not. It's a tribute. An utterly delicious, virtually irresistible tribute. That serves six thing? Yeah, I'd ignore that. I'd go with two, because you're going to keep sneaking back into the kitchen to get another forkful. If you do resist any, it also reheats rather brilliantly with a splash of wine in the saucepan. 


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