For many years, Marcella Hazan has been cooking, teaching and writing about traditional Italian cooking–mainly for an American audience. It was not the need to earn a living or an early passion for the subject that first brought Mrs. Hazan into the kitchen. It was love. Mrs. Hazan didn’t know how to cook when she married her husband Victor in 1955. “There I was”, she recalls in the introduction to Marcella Cucina, “Having to feed a young, hard-working husband who could deal cheerfully with most of life’s ups and downs, but not with an indifferent meal.” Using books and memories of family recipes as guides, she set about learning to make good Italian food and succeeded very well. Anyone looking for a clear discussion about Italian cuisine and the ingredients for making it (as well as recipes that give sound results) might like to try Mrs. Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (1992). (It is a collection drawn from her first two books The Classic Italian Cookbook (1973) and More Classic Italian Cooking (1978).)
This is a roundabout way of saying that Mrs. Hazan’s views on the uncertain origins of Carbonara Sauce are worth considering. Bacon, eggs, garlic, and white wine are the essential ingredients for Carbonara. One Italian food historian claims (according to Mrs. Hazan) that it was a sauce invented in Rome at the end of World War II by Romans at the behest of American soldiers bearing gifts…of bacon and eggs.
This Eggs Carbonara recipe (authentically good and not authentically Italian) contains all the ingredients of the sauce, but puts them into a breakfast dish. It is suited to serving a large number of guests, where passing eggs, bacon, and toast separately would be inconvenient and likely to result in cold food. As a further, and better recommendation for the dish there is this remark by a reader who asked Gourmet Magazine to get the recipe for her. “The best eggs I have ever tasted,” she said.
Note about the Quantities of the Ingredients: The total amounts of the ingredients are listed below along with half quantities in parentheses. The eggs are best if the egg mixture is divided between two bowls and cooked in two separate pans. Cooking half the egg mixture in each pan is a less unwieldy enterprise and overcooking is less likely.
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Ingredients: The total of each ingredient required for 10 servings is given first. If you are cooking the eggs in two pans, as suggested above, use the amount listed in parentheses for each pan of Eggs Carbonara. The cooking directions describe making the eggs in two pans.
- 12 thin-cut slices of Bacon (6 thin-cut slices)
- 24 Eggs (12 Eggs)
- 2 ounces or about 1 cup of grated, fresh Parmesan (1 ounce or about 1/2 cup grated, fresh Parmesan)
- 1/2 cup of Heavy Cream (1/4 cup of Heavy Cream)
- 2 Tablespoons of fresh Basil, cut in small pieces with scissors (1 Tablespoon of fresh Basil, cut in small pieces with scissors)
- 2 Tablespoons of flat-leaf Parsley, chopped…curly Parsley would be fine, too (1 Tablespoon of Parsley)
- 1 teaspoon of Salt (1/2 teaspoon of Salt)
- 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground Black Pepper (1/2 teaspoon of coarsely ground Black Pepper)
- 2 Tablespoons of Butter (1 Tablespoon of Butter)
- 4 teaspoons of Garlic, minced (2 teaspoons of Garlic, minced)
- 4 Tablespoons of Green Onion, chopped (2 Tablespoons of Green Onion, chopped
- 10 large-ish slices of Bread for Toast (1 slice for each plate)
- Butter at room temperature
- 5 or 6 fresh Basil Leaves, stacked, rolled up together, and sliced in thin shreds, mixed with 4 Tablespoons of chopped Green Onion
- 10 small branches of fresh Basil
- a Baking Sheet for oven-grilling the toast
- 2 wide, heavy-bottomed Frying Pans (with bases between 10 and 12-inches)
- 2 small Bowls or Custard Cups to hold the fried chopped bacon
- 2 large Bowls
- a Whisk, Egg Beater or Hand-held Mixer
- a Spatula
- 2 sheets of Aluminum Foil, large enough to lightly cover the pans of Eggs Carbonara while the toast is grilling
- a Knife and Cutting Board
1. Butter both sides of the slices of bread and arrange them on the baking sheet. Adjust the oven rack so that the bread will be about 4 -inches from the heat and preheat the top grill or broiler on the high setting.
2. In each pan fry 6 slices of bacon, drain the slices, and, when they are cool, chop them–6 slices for each pan of eggs. Reserve the chopped bacon in two small bowls. (American bacon renders more fat than European Breakfast Bacon. Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of the rendered fat or, if the bacon hasn’t given off that much fat, add a little extra butter to the pan to make up the difference before cooking the eggs.)
2. Crack 12 eggs into each of two bowls. Beat them well. Add to each bowl the amount of each of the following ingredients given in parentheses and mix them well with the eggs: Parmesan, heavy cream, fresh basil, parsley, salt and black pepper.
3. Place a Tablespoon of butter in each pan and heat the pans over medium heat to melt the butter. Add the garlic and green onion to each pan and cook, stirring each pan now and then just to soften the onion and cook the garlic a little without browning it. Shift one of the pans off the heat and cook one pan of eggs at a time. Place the two small bowls of chopped bacon within easy reach.
4. Turn the burner heat to medium low and pour into the first pan one of the bowls of egg mixture. Cook the eggs gently, stirring with the spatula and shaking the pan occasionally.
5. When the eggs begin to form curds, sprinkle in the chopped bacon from one of the small bowls and blend it in as you continue to stir the eggs and shake the pan until the eggs are just cooked, still moist but not runny.
6. Place the pan of eggs on the back of the stove and cover them lightly with a piece of aluminum foil. Make the second pan of eggs in the same way. Cover them loosely with foil as well and grill the toast.
7. Slide the baking sheet of toast under the preheated broiler and grill the slices of bread on the first side until they are golden. Turn them and grill on the second side just to color the toast, but not long enough for the toast to become too crisp to cut in triangles.
8. Cut each slice of toast in 4 pieces, on the diagonal, to make 4 triangles.
9. The eggs–left in the pans on the back of the stove and loosely covered–should still be warm. Divide the Eggs Carbonara among the plates, and sprinkle each plate of eggs with the slivered basil and chopped green onion. Arrange 4 toast triangles on each plate, with a small branch of fresh basil at the side.
A Second Note: In December of 2010 NPR did an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Hazan which you can listen to on NPR’s site. A recent newspaper interview with Marcella Hazan, who is now 88, is here on the Miami Tribune‘s site.