Linguine with Bacon and Onions (Linguine alla Carbonara)
I use slab bacon here because I like large pieces that are brown on the outside but still moist in the center. If you cannot find slab bacon, use the thickest-sliced supermarket bacon you can find. Just be sure not to overcook it. If you prefer, you can pour off all the bacon fat after browning the bacon and replace it with an equal amount of olive oil, but remember, the bacon fat has a much more pronounced flavor. If you don’t have the stock called for in the recipe, just use water from the pasta pot.
Often you will see this dish prepared with cream. It’s not the traditional style, but that’s not to say it doesn’t taste good. But I prefer my carbonara made this way, the sauce thickened lightly with egg yolk. The heat of the pasta is enough to cook the egg yolks, but if you like, you may bring a small saucepan of boiling water to a simmer and, about a minute before draining the pasta, slip the yolks into a small sieve placed in the simmering water, to coddle them for a minute. Carefully lift the sieve from the water and add the coddled yolks to the pasta as described below.
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to the boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.
Remove the rind, if necessary, from the bacon. Cut the bacon into 1/4-inch slices, then cut the slices crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until the bacon is lightly browned but still soft in the center, about 6 minutes.
The amount of fat in the skillet will vary depending on the bacon. If there is more than 3 to 4 tablespoons of fat in the pan, pour off the excess. If there is less than 3 to 4 tablespoons, add enough olive oil to measure that amount. Add the onions and cook until wilted but still crunchy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and adjust the heat to a lively simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Meanwhile, stir the linguine into the boiling salted water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 8 minutes.
Ladle off about a cup of the pasta-cooking water. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary. If necessary, add as much chicken stock or pasta-cooking water as needed to make enough sauce to coat the pasta generously. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks one at a time, tossing well after each. (A salad fork and spoon work well for this.) Add the grated cheese, then the black pepper, tossing well, and serve immediately in warmed bowls.