It is my understanding the the spring issue of Teton Family Magazine is being distributed in Jackson and Teton Valley today. This issue is the local foods issue. I was lucky enough to get an article published in this issue…although I was only allowed 300 words plus the recipe. (I am the article on the very last page called Parting Shots). The article was my attempt to go as local and from scratch as possible. I promised to post more pictures and the recipes for the pasta and guanciale here. So with no further ado…

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara Teton Valley Style

Making things from scratch gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I rarely buy bottled dressings or sauces. Growing up, my family called me Martha (as in Stewart) because I decided my hot chocolate needed fresh marshmallows. Last year I even attempted homemade organic Twinkies. I failed.

Recently, the ultimate “from scratch” recipe dropped into my lap, home cured guanciale. I had never before heard of guanciale (cured pig cheeks), but soon discovered that everyone I knew who had eaten it, was smitten. I was told that guanciale melted in your mouth and made pasta carbonara that was to die for.

Pasta carbonara is a staple in our home. Its beauty is in its simplicity; pasta, egg, cheese, and bacon. I became obsessed with the idea of making guanciale for my carbonara. This proved a bit more difficult than I expected. Instead of jowls, I was given two intact pig’s heads. I set about clumsily cutting into their flesh and ended up with three slabs of cheek meat. I rubbed them with salt, sugar and spices, refrigerated them for a week and then hung the cheeks to cure in my root cellar.

I dreamed of the finished dish, made with eggs from our chickens and homemade pasta. Then the idea was given to grind local wheat berries into flour for the pasta. Now things were getting out of hand, but I couldn’t turn back.

A month later, the big day arrived. Twirling my fork around the strands of spaghetti, my mouth began to water. The pasta was nutty and tender, the egg and cheese rich, and the guanciale melted like butter…VERY salty butter. Oh well. The Martha in me is not deterred. I will try again, and next time, I’m making raw milk parmesan cheese too.

Simple Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

There are many variations to this dish, including adding vegetables, wine or cream. Growing up my dad loved to add sauteed asparagus and mushrooms. The vegetables are usually added after the pasta has been tossed with the eggs and bacon. For variations with wine or cream (though I have not tried and thus cannot vouch for either) look here or here.

Yield 4 main course portions

1 lb dried spaghetti

1/3 lb cured pork (guanciale, pancetta, prosciutto or bacon)

1 Tbs olive oil (if using pancetta or prosciutto)

3 eggs

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  • Cut cured pork into small cubes or slice into thin strips.
  • In a small bowl, whisk eggs, cheese and pepper together. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until tender, yet firm. About 8-10 minutes.
  • While pasta cooks, sauté cured pork in a 12” deep skillet over medium heat. If cooking prosciutto or pancetta, add olive oil to pan first and then put in pork. If using guanciale or bacon, add it directly to pan. Sauté until crispy, about 3 minutes. Drain all but 2-3 Tbs of oil/fat, leaving the cured pork in the pan.
  • Once pasta is cooked, strain it, reserving ½ cup pasta water. Add pasta to pan with  cooked pork. Toss to coat with the rendered fat and remove the pan from heat.
  • Add egg mixture to the pan of pasta and pork. Toss while egg and pasta mixture thickens. The hot pasta will heat the egg, but will not cook it completely. If this is a concern, set the pan back on low heat for a moment. You may add pasta water if the dish is too thick or appears dry.
  • Serve immediately with extra parmesan on top.