Spaghetti Ala JJ
Legend has it that Clint Eastwood first introduced spaghetti to the West, but I've been finding it hard to get anyone else to own up to believing it.
Regardless if it was Clint or (he whom most folks seem to think is the culprit) Marco Polo (circa 1295) who introduced it, the word spaghetti comes from the word italian spago (string) because of its shape.
You're going to enjoy a whole lot of practical string theory in today's culinary offering.
We've been experimenting, a la Thomas Jefferson, with using meat as a condiment, rather than the star of a dish, and this dish is a good illustration of that, as you'll see that just a small amount of the "carbonized" bacon here adds lots of flavor.
What You Need
Spaghetti - 500g 1lb
Good bacon* - 300g 1/3lb after cooking
Sea Salt - 1 tbs
Pasta Water - 250-500ml 1-2cups
Garlic- 1 head*
Olive Oil - 60ml 4 tbs
Spinach* - 400g 1lb
Parmigiano Reggiano - 200g 1/2 lb
Coarse Pepper - 1 tbs
Dry Black Olives - a few
* By "good' we mean thick cut bacon that's meaty and doesn't shrivel in gobs of its own grease when cooked.
* We love garlic and find it not only tasty, but also a potent aphrodisiac and excellent way to keep vampires at bay; so we often use two heads.
* Baby spinach tastes best.
What You Do
Fry the bacon, drain it of grease and, using a sharp knife, remove the fatty bits between the meat, dicing the bacon into small pieces (about 1/2cm 1/4" squares.
Alternatively to frying the bacon, you can roast it on high heat, turning it once or twice as it cooks. Marsha finds this produces a dryer tastier bacon that needs very little draining.
Preheat oven to 175c 350F.
Peel the garlic and cut it into thin slivers (as opposed to a rough chop) and place on baking sheet Toast the garlic until it is no darker than a light brown. you'll know it's ready if it has a little crunch to it when you try a piece.
Set bacon and garlic aside for the nonce.
Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Add 1 tsp salt to the boiling water (which is to but speed the boil and is not done for taste here), add the spaghetti and when the water comes back to the boil, cook at a constant simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until al dente (just cooked).
Finely grate both cheeses and mix them together. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, season with a little freshly grated black pepper and set everything aside.
Wash spinach, drain, and wilt it by pouring hot kettle water over it in a colander in your sink. Use a flat wooden spoon or potato masher to remove as a much water from the spinach as possible.
Into a wok or wide frying pan, add olive oil; then bacon; than spinach and fold these into each other, allowing the nuttiness of the oil to infuse. Keep the heat under the pancetta on low.
When pasta is al dente, lift it from the water with a pair of tongs and put it in the frying pan with the pancetta. Don’t worry if a little water drops in the pan as well (you want this to happen) and don’t throw the rest of the pasta water away yet. Thoroughly fold in the spaghetti to the spinach and bacon mixture.
Mix most of the cheese in with the eggs, keeping a small handful back for sprinkling over later. Take the pan of spaghetti and pancetta off the heat. Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using the tongs or a long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture, which thickens but doesn’t scramble, and everything is coated.
Add extra pasta cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it). You don’t want it wet, just moist.
Add the toasted garlic and toss the spaghetti thoroughly and serve immediately with a little sprinkling of the remaining cheese and a grating of black pepper. Garnish with pitted dried black olives.
If the dish does get a little dry before serving, splash in some more hot pasta water and the glossy sauciness will be revived.
Enjoy in large bowls with a good chianti and sing some Verdi if the spirit moves you.