The Nigella Diaries – Spaghetti Carbonara, and other pasta suppers for hungry people

If you’ve read Escape To Curlew Cottage, you’d know that I featured Nigella Spaghetti Carbonara in that novel. 

‘Are you hungry?’ she asked, her mouth suddenly dry.

‘Yes, but somehow I don’t think what I really want is on offer at the moment.’

Claire’s breath caught. She opened the fridge to look inside, even though she knew the contents by heart. ‘No, but I can do you a pasta. Carbonara alright with you?’

‘Sounds good. You’re not a cream-in-your-carbonara woman though, are you?’

‘No. Would that be a deal-breaker?’

‘No, but it would mean that carbonara making duties would fall to me.’

‘God, Gallagher, you’re such a chef.’

Escape to curlew cottage, by Joanne Tracey

You might have guessed from this passage that like my fictional characters, I’m also a no-cream-in-the-carbonara sort of woman. All a good carbonara needs is pasta, eggs, bacon and parmesan – although the vermouth and grating of nutmeg Nigella uses adds a certain something to it too.

Recently, while up in Cairns, I went to a fabulous Italian Restaurant, Piccolo Cucina. (if you’re ever up there you can’t go wrong with this place.)

I asked whether the carbonara was made with cream and the server answered in the affirmative. When she saw my face fall though, an apologetic look came over hers. ‘We used to do it without,’ she said, 

‘The Italian way,’ I added.

‘Exactly, but we got too many complaints.’ She went on to explain that for some reason, most Australian and American tourists (back in pre-covid days when Cairns got international tourists) were used to having it with cream so that’s how they sell it.

‘We can do it the proper way for you though…’ she said. 

The carbonara was exactly as it should be, and the server was thrilled when I recognised the guanciale (cured pork cheek – another traditional ingredient) instead of bacon. ‘I thought you’d like that,’ she said. I did. very much.

Unfortunately, guanciale is difficult to get in south-east Queensland, as is the sort of pancetta that Nigella uses in her recipe – the closest we can get is speck, a sort of cured ham. You can, of course, use 3 or 4 rashers of streaky bacon.

Anyways, the recipe is quick, easy and ticks all the comfort food boxes. You’ll find it here.

On the subject of bacon and pasta, this recipe – linguine with lardons – is, Nigella suggests, is so simple it can be prepared while your bath water is running, and cooks while you’re in the bath.

She puts some lardons (pancetta, speck or thick-cut streaky bacon) onto a baking tray with a few cloves of garlic (peeled and roughly chopped) and tips about a tablespoon of olive oil over it and cooks in in a hot oven (210C). In the meantime put your pasta water on to boil.

When the water’s boiling, add salt and throw in the pasta – linguine or spaghetti – and run up to your bath, taking with you the timer, set for 10 minutes (the pasta should take about 12 minutes). When the timer goes off, rush down in your towel, taste the pasta and, when it’s ready, drain it, reserving a coffeecupful of water. Take the lardons out of the oven and toss the pasta in them, adding a drop or two of the cooking water if you think it needs lubrication. Decant into a bowl and, if you like, take it back up to the bath with you.

how to eat, nigella lawson

Another quick and easy pasta dish in How To Eat is Spaghetti Aglio Olio. It’s so simple Nigella doesn’t even give us a proper recipe:

Just spaghetti, or spaghettini, turned in some olive oil, in which some fat clones of garlic have been turned till golden then discarded, with maybe a sprinkling of dried red chilli pepper…If you are so exhausted you want an even easier version, I suggest you buy a bottle of garlic-infused olive oil.

How to eat, nigella lawson

I did.

There’s lots more we can talk about regarding pasta in this book, but let’s leave it there for now.

I’ve taken on the challenge to cook my way through Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. You can find other episodes here.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

4 thoughts

  1. This is my Older Daughter’s all-time favourite pasta. She had it with guanciale once before but unfortuntately, it’s not easy to come by in Singapore either. So, we just use regular chopped up bacon to make it.

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