Birthday Food: Spaghetti Carbonara


It’s our boy’s birthday week! Even though he’s now fully grown with a wife, career in the Air Force, and a life of his own stationed in the desert too far away; his mother still wants him to have all of his favorite foods from childhood.

Because it’s his birthday!

So in honor of our boy and his debut in the world 27 years ago, here is the first of a week’s worth of recipes of his favorite foods.

Spaghetti Carbonara

It was the first recipe I could prepare from memory. And that is probably why when I do look at the stained photocopied sheet of paper from the early 1980s the recipe maintains almost no resemblance to the spaghetti carbonara my friends and family know today.

I have cooked this dish for large dinner parties, Thanksgiving dinners in support of Calvin Trillin’s campaign to replace traditional turkey with the pasta dish, but most importantly each year for our boy’s birthday dinner.

He remembers first requesting spaghetti carbonara on his 10th birthday when he could design the dinner menu. We were living in Washington, D.C. at the time so he also paired it with Armand’s deep dish pepperoni pizza. After we moved to Florida a few years later the he switched the beloved Chicago deep dish to basic Pizza Hut pepperoni.

Over the years, his birthday dinners have introduced countless friends of his to the amazing combination of eggs, bacon and cream saturating pasta and topped with cheese. But no celebratory dinner stands out more than his 20th when his birthday fell between two terrifying and long hospital stays. We always knew he was tough but we never knew just how tough until he drove himself hundreds of miles home from college with a ruptured appendix.

As The Old Man and I sat at the dining room table that night and watched him, surrounded by his friends, still very ill but able to eat his favorite food, we were very aware of just how lucky we were. And still are.

Spaghetti Carbonara

1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
2 eggs
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 slices of thick bacon cut crosswise into chunks
½ cup heavy cream
Fresh ground black pepper

Bring large pot of water to boil for pasta. In the meantime, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in pan.

In large serving bowl, beat eggs with half of the grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Set aside.

As pasta cooks, return the drained bacon to the pan with the 2 tablespoons of bacon grease. On low heat, add the heavy cream stirring constantly and heating through but not to a boil.

When pasta is done, drain and immediately add to the serving bowl with the egg mixture. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs. Stir completely then add the cream and bacon mixture.

Top with remaining cheese, more black pepper and chopped parsley.

It is wonderful fresh, but as our boy proclaims, “It’s even better at 2 a.m. eaten right out of the refrigerator.”


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