Pasta with Egg and Cheese
I started cooking this in Freshman year of college. I did not have a kitchen, but my friend who was a year ahead of me did. I would get together with her and the boy who would become my partner, and we would try to put together something dinner. The trouble was, she was a vegetarian, and he was obsessed with making sure he was getting enough protein, and none of us had much money. This dish, which is like an absurdly simple, vegetarian variation on Pasta Carbonara, served us well then, and has served me well ever since. Like many things of equal simplicity, it gets better with better ingredients.
- 1 lb long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc)
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 oz or so hard cheese (this will be grated, about 1.5 or 2 cups by volume of Asiago, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, or the like)
- Olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher Salt
- 1 large pot, preferably tall and narrow rather than short and wide - an 8 to 10 quart stock pot does well here
- 1 large bowl, big enough to fit a pound of cooked pasta, with room for stirring
- A large sieve or colander
- A box grater or microplane
- A ladle, or a mug, or other water-moving device
- Fill your pot to about 3 inches from the top with water and bring to a rolling boil. Ladle about 2 cups of water into the bowl - this will warm it up, which will be useful later on. Add salt generously - I go with a small handful, maybe 1/4 cup. This will help to season the pasta, inside and out.
- Add the pasta all at once, and stir it around with your tongs a bit to keep from sticking. Cook till al dente (the point when it no longer feels sticky in the back of your teeth). I take general guidance from the package instructions, but I usually start checking the pasta pretty frequently after about 6 minutes. It's done when it feels done.
- While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese (if you've not already done so).
- When the pasta is almost done (but still sticks just a bit in the back of the teeth) dump the water out of the bowl and crack in the eggs. Beat, together with the cheese, until they are combined and the eggs show no large striations of yoke and white.
- Place the colander in your sink (empty of dirty dishes, please!) and drain the pasta.
- Place the drained pasta in the bowl with the eggs and stir vigorously and immediately with your tongs - the heat of the pasta will cook the eggs into a sauce, but if you don't move quickly they will be less sauce and more "clumps of cooked eggs in among the pasta."
- Add olive oil - a good glug (about a tablespoon and a half to begin with, perhaps 2 tablespoons) and grind on LOTS of pepper. This is to taste, but I've seldom felt there was too much. Stir vigorously once more, and serve immediately.
This goes nicely with a simple salad. For the simplest of all, place some pre-washed baby spinach or spring-mix salad leaves into a bowl. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and a grind or two of pepper. Take a lemon and roll it on the table to get the juice flowing, slice it in half and juice 1/2 of it into a funnel placed over a small jar (a jam jar, perhaps, or a leftover caper or anchovy jar). Pick out any seeds with a fork, and add olive oil till there is just under twice as much olive oil as there is lemon juice. Screw the cap on tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Dress your salad and enjoy your meal with a glass of wine if you like that sort of thing, beer if you like that sort of thing, or water if you've got neither around or happen to be a teetotaler.