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Love Letter to Rome Part 1 - Instant Pot Carbonara

So, we just got back from a trip to Paris and Rome and my head is so full of recipes that I want to replicate that I almost don't know where to start. Keep any eye for all of my upcoming posts about the trip so I can share all of the great things we ate and the fun stuff we did, but for now, here is my first recipe inspired by our travels.

I bet this guy could use a good carbonara

You can't go to Rome and not binge on carbonara and even though that is exactly what we did,  here we are, needing more.

We make carbonara all the time and I can't believe that I haven't used the Instant Pot to cook the pasta all this time. I am the first person to lecture about adapting EVERYTHING to the pressure cooker, whether it's suited to it or not, but because this dish relies on the starchy pasta cooking water,  it makes even more sense to cook the pasta in the pressure cooker. When you pressure cook pasta, you are always left with this thick, starchy water that makes the finished sauce so silky and creamy and that is just what you need for carbonara.

Traditionally, this is made with spaghetti but I don't like the way spaghetti cooks under pressure, so I used rigatoni and it worked perfectly. Any other hearty pasta shape will work just as well, so feel free to sub in something like cavatappi or penne.

A couple tips:

If you can get your hands on some guanciale, this is the most traditional but if you can't, make with pancetta as your second and then bacon as your third. It's not that it is bad with bacon, because NOTHING is bad with bacon, it's just different.

Do NOT add the egg/cheese mixture to the pasta when it's on the heat or you will end up with a big bowl of pasta with scrambled egg. Don't worry about uncooked egg because the residual heat from the pasta and the pancetta fat will cook it while the starchy water will incorporate into it and turn the whole thing into a creamy, decadent sauce.

Carbonara is a simple dish that depends on the right technique to elevate into something magical. It contains nothing but the pancetta (or bacon/guanciale), eggs, cheese, pasta and the miraculous starchy cooking water with lots of black pepper.

Pressure Cooker Pasta Carbonara 

serves 4 as a main dish and six as a pasta course

1 lb dried pasta - I like rigatoni
4 cups of water
pinch kosher salt
4 large eggs
8 ounces bacon, pancetta or guanciale
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (you can use freshly grated parmesan if like too)
lots of freshly ground black pepper

Put the pasta and the water, with a pinch of kosher salt, in the pressure cooker and program it for 5 minutes at high pressure.

While the pressure cooker heats up, crack the eggs in a bowl, add in the cheese and the black pepper , whisk it until it's all mixed together and put aside until you need it.

Cook the bacon, pancetta or, if you can find it, the guanciale in a frying pan over mediuum heat for a few minutes until it's crispy and has rendered lots of fat and then remove the pan from the heat.

When the time on the pressure cooker is up, do a controlled quick release. Pasta can foam up so release with small spurts until you are sure it's not going to spew all over the place and then release it all at once.

Put the pan with the bacon/pancetta back on the heat and dump in the pasta and any liquid left in the pot, wait for the water to come to a fierce bubbling up and cook for about 30 seconds until there is just a bit of water left. You want to see some liquid but you don't it to be all soupy.

Now, remove the pan from the heat again so that you can add in the eggs/cheese and quickly stir it all together until the eggs thicken into a sauce.

If you like it super peppery, season with a bit more, more grated cheese if you like and serve right away.

Don't have an Instant Pot yet? Check them out here!

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