Having some trouble with Spaghetti Carbonara...can I get some help?

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Hello. This is my first post on this forum (apart from my introduction), so if I need to provide more (or less) detail, please advise. Help me help you help me!! lol

So I'm on my fifth or sixth day in a row of trying to nail a carbonara. I'm trying to do it real simple with these three videos that seem pretty similar in process and technique.




So my ingredients are bacon, spaghetti, salt, egg, and parmesan.
First I salt the water nice and heavy then get it to a boil (I let it sit boiling until I can time it so the pasta timer hits done right as the bacon is cooked)
I place the bacon in the pan and let the pan warm up with the bacon in it then add the pasta to the water
Then I mix 2-3 egg yolks and parmesan and pepper in a cup and stir
I cook the pasta for about 4 min and then place it in the pan with the bacon and add a good bit of water.
I turn the heat off and let the pasta finish cooking for another minute or so as everything is cooling.
Then I add the egg mixture and stir into the pasta and give a good toss with tongs
Then plate it and add pepper.

I'm happy with the texture of the noodles (its pretty thin spaghetti) but I can't figure out how to get the extra bacon grease to turn into a creamy gravy like the videos. I'm pretty sure the pasta is picking up the grease because there's very little left in the pan when I plate it.

What do I need to do different or better?
 

phatch

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You're still a limited member as you're so new so that feature is disabled. Let me see if I can tweak your account a bit. The joys of spam control.
 

phatch

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Can't find what I was looking for. Theres an icon that looks like a postcard with a mountain on it. That's the interface for posting a picture
 
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Try cooking the egg/parm mixture with some of the pasta water GENTLY over the heat...you want the egg mixture to thicken slightly and turn creamy (think like a custard or liason) and coat the pasta. If you fail to properly thicken the sauce you get either watery sauce that won't cling to the noodles. I don't think that the noodles are "absorbing" the bacon fat since pasta won't absorb fat.

I don't know what else to tell you...in all 3 of those videos they seem to make what I would consider a proper carbonara so all you really have to do is follow the directions they give you. The only thing I didn't see you mention is the final cooking/thickening part of the process. If you don't have much sauce try adding a bit more pasta water.

How much pasta are you using?
 
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Try cooking the egg/parm mixture with some of the pasta water GENTLY over the heat...you want the egg mixture to thicken slightly and turn creamy (think like a custard or liason) and coat the pasta. If you fail to properly thicken the sauce you get either watery sauce that won't cling to the noodles. I don't think that the noodles are "absorbing" the bacon fat since pasta won't absorb fat.

I don't know what else to tell you...in all 3 of those videos they seem to make what I would consider a proper carbonara so all you really have to do is follow the directions they give you. The only thing I didn't see you mention is the final cooking/thickening part of the process. If you don't have much sauce try adding a bit more pasta water.

How much pasta are you using?

So do I need to try taking taking the heat to low instead of turning it completely off before the egg goes in?

Silly me...I assumed the pasta was absorbing the fat since all of it seems to leave the pan when I move it to a dish. Wow...I really don't know what's going on haha. But yes, if I add too much water I certainly get a watery sauce that won't cling to noodles (it was more like a soup the first time). If I don't add enough water...well...I don't get a sauce lol.

Hmmmm. I keep the back on on medium heat until the fat renders off, but then I turn the heat off after the pastas added. Should I try switching it to low instead of turning it off? I'm using a Red Copper brand pan. Is that ok? If not, tell me what else to buy.

To answer your question about the pasta, I'm not sure how to measure it. I've tried all different amounts. Do I want to match the ratio of the weight of the pasta to the ounces of bacon and eggs?

Thanks sooooo much for helping me out with this!!
 
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I think the challenge to giving a good answer to your problem is that you don’t say what the proportions are for the recipe that isn’t working for you. Are you using a recipe? Or are you going fast-and-loose? Generally it is best to master a recipe - a specific combination of ingredients, amounts, and technique - before adapting.

Hence the question about amount of pasta. The only quantity you’ve mentioned is egg.

Pasta is often measured by dry weight of the uncooked product. Are you using a 16 oz box, or a 12 oz box or just grabbing a fistful?

I’d suggest watching the videos for technique And to see what the finished product should look like but follow a trusted recipe... like one by Marcella Hazan. You’ll probably nail the dish a lot faster. You can also calculate the proportions from a valid and proven recipe. Then adapt. :)
 
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And what pasta are you using. You say “thin spaghetti “ but a 4-minute cook will be insufficient for anything but the thinnest vermicelli... unless you are using a fresh pasta. Suggest a dry pasta, number12 spaghetti.
 
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Yay! Thanks Phatch for removing the block on my picture uploads. Pictures worth 1000 words....right!? :)
 

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That stuff is largely water, and won't render like real bacon (or pancetta). How much liquid fat do you have in the pan when it's cooked?
Ugh! I had no idea. I'll go to a specialty meat market and try this again with better bacon. Ill see if I can get them to cut me a block with extra fat left on. They don't have Pancetta...I called ahead and asked.

The reason I assumed the amount bacon was sufficient was because the bacon flavor was already kind of overpowering. But that makes sense! It seems totally logical that it isn't turning to gravy because there isn't enough liquid fat in the pan. Maybe I can try a less processed and not overly salty bacon and see if I get my gravy :)
 
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And what pasta are you using. You say “thin spaghetti “ but a 4-minute cook will be insufficient for anything but the thinnest vermicelli... unless you are using a fresh pasta. Suggest a dry pasta, number12 spaghetti.
Hi Brian! :) Thanks for chiming in. The labels on the box say:

Muellers Pot Sized Thin Spaghetti - An enriched spaghetti product.
1 pound! Half length! No need to break!
"Yes, its a POUND!"

I don't see a number on 12 on it or anything. I can certainly try a different noodle, I was using this stuff to practice with because it was 50 cents per box at Dollar General. ...I'm guessing I'm gonna have to practice with something different.
 
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Are you using a recipe? Or are you adapting for, say, a serving size for one or two?
I was trying to eyeball the same amount they're using in the videos. The recipes on the videos seemed really way off from the amounts they clearly have in their pans. I heard these can be pretty loose with online cooking. If you can recommend some ratios, I'll give them a shot. And when they were spooning water in, they don't even say how much. They just seem to go by feel.
 
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Here are some tips that are not mentioned in the videos. Btw, you choice of pan is fine. There's no need to run out and spend extra money on a more expensive pan.

1. 700g of pasta is about 7oz. Pasta sold in grocery stores typically comes in 16oz boxes or packages. The volume of pasta used in relation to the other ingredients, especially the rendered fat, is crucial. Too much pasta + too little fat = bad results. You also want to be careful not to use too much salt in the pasta water. You want the water salty, but, later on, that water will reduce and the salt from the water will combine with the salt from the pork, not to mention the saltiness of the cheese. Too much salt in the pasta water and you could end up with an end product that is too salty to eat. Like the guy said in the first video, a pinch of salt per liter of water. Four liters is a hair over 1 gallon.

2. Your ingredients should be room temperature before being used, especially the eggs. Unless specifically called for, you generally want to use room temp ingredients whenever possible (of course, taking care not to let room temp ingredients sit for too long at room temperature :) ).

3. Unlike video #2, there is no need to add olive oil to the pan (or to the pasta water). The only reason you would ever have to add extra fat (oil) to the pan is if you don't have enough pork fat. Otherwise, the rendered fat from the pork will be plenty.

4. Here is where the dish lives and breathes. When you add the pasta to the pan with the rendered fat and pork, the pasta will begin to absorb the fat. You want this to happen. But, pasta is a greedy ingredient. Toss the pasta around until it thoroughly coated with the fat. Don't let it sit in the fat or the pasta will absorb too much of it and not leave enough to form the "cream." Once coated with fat, add about 1 ladle (or less) of pasta water to the pan. Reduce the heat. Toss the pasta in the pasta water. The pasta will also start to absorb the water and the water will pull more starch out of the pasta. This is a good thing. But most importantly, the water will begin to reduce leaving behind the starch and the salt. As this process unfolds, the starch will combine with the remaining fat in the pan and on the pasta. This will happen rather quickly so, don't walk away. When the water has reduced to about half of its original volume, remove the pan from the heat complete and toss some more. This will help dissipate some of the remaining heat in the pan. Add the room temp egg yolk and cheese mixture. Stir! Stir! Stir! You don't want the eggs to scramble. If done right, the egg yolks will combine with the fat and starch to form the "cream". Presto! Your're done!

Like anything else, it takes practice. You'll get it.

Good luck! :)
 
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The pasta you’re using is fine. #12 is the next size up... generally just called “spaghetti “. I prefer DeCecco or Barilla for (often) better taste and texture. Your pic looks light on the meat but otherwise not too bad. A bit dry but I’d eat it. :)

Try the recipe I linked. Just once follow it and see if your end-product is more to your expectations.

Maybe I forgot the link so here:
https://www.google.com/search?clien...0.125.231.0j2......0....1.......3.gi0wXUDO9y4

But where in the world are you that is deprived of Italian meats like pancetta?
 
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