The Time I Was Stubborn About Pasta


This is pasta carbonara with extra smokey bacon and extra garlic. I guessed at the proportions of the ingredients, as I often do, so I have no idea how true to form it turned out. It was perfect in my book, but I have very low standards of myself for this dish since the last time I was trying so hard to perfect it was a nightmare.

To give you some context, I had just graduated college and was cooking basically everything out of a skillet so I spent a lot of time with recipes that required only one pan. I also hadn’t yet figured out how a person shops for only one person, so I was still doing that thing where you buy a gallon of milk, two pounds of pasta, 18 eggs, and more bacon than any single girl could possibly consume before reaching food-borne illness stages.

All of this being mapped out at is it, I imagine you’ve figured out that pasta carbonara was for some reason my go-to-meal for a number of evenings alone in my apartment.

This is no simple task.

My First Attempt

My first few tries at this recipe (I was eternally hopeful) were doomed from the beginning. It was the recipe I used today with great success, but along with only owning one shallow skillet, I also only owned a small set of flatware. And wasn’t sure how to properly cook bacon. This recipe required you to strain the pasta (which I sort of managed to do), scoop it out with tongs (which I did not manage to do), and then “toss it vigorously and non-stop” until the “heat of the cooked pasta turned the eggs into a silky sauce”. Garlic factors in there somewhere, but I didn’t have the nerves to give it a go.

I think it’s safe to say I sloshed the pasta around in the egg until it got clumpy and then garnished it with soggy bacon chunks.

My Second Attempt

Having procured a gallon of whole milk (what was I thinking), I set out looking for a recipe that involved cream. Yes, I planned to use whole milk in place of cream. Yes, my mother is French and I know better. I know better now, anyway. I did not know better than. This experience was not dissimilar to attempts prior, but more blatant butchering of the dish took place. I had missed, not only all of the motherly teachings about how to make sauces, I had also magically missed that part about not straight out boiling dairy.

This dish wasn’t even carbonara. It was spaghetti in a weird parmesan, cheese curd sauce, only without the bacon. I was determined to have something tasty to eat and I just ate that on its own.

My Third and Final Attempt

By this point I had, probably, called my mother for advice. To this day I don’t know if she makes this dish, but she’s a great cook in general so the skills are relevant. I don’t remember very, very much about the actual conversation, but I do remember that I managed to strain my pasta. I also remember that I didn’t ask how high one should have the heat when “sautéing garlic until fragrant”. Not very high at all, is the answer, but I was sort of a high-heat-or-no-heat sort of chef at the time and charred the ever loving health benefits out of it. Then threw it all into the pot with the rest of the ingredients without so much as a “my doesn’t that smell bitter?” and mixed it really well.

This was my final and least edible try at the dish. I vowed never to make it again.

Don’t worry, I’ve got this

The biggest lesson I learned from this misadventure is that “one pot” is not synonymous with “simple”. Now that I actually know how to cook, it clearly went just fine. Silky sauce, no dairy, slightly eggy, with a salty touch of bacon.

Fourth time (and many years’ worth of time) is the charm.

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