“Easy Sausage Carbonara” from “5 Ingredients”

Do you know how sometimes you really enjoy a film or a book or a dish but then you go back and try it again and it’s not as good as you remember it?  That’s precisely what happened here.

The first time we had this, we all loved it. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that when I realised that I forgot to take a photo of it, I thought, “That’s not a problem. We’ll just have it again and I’ll remember to take a photo this time.” Believe me when I tell you it is *extremely rare* to have something twice in the same month from a cookbook we’re testing.

So I looked forward to this, not least because it was night that many busy families will have experienced themselves: we were scattered across London around dinner time, only getting together once we had finished our early evening appointments. So I rushed home to make this, in this case actually happy that it only takes 15 minutes, and was very much looking forward to a speedy delicious dinner.

However, I’m sad to say it just wasn’t as good this time. Despite using the always magnificent Italian sausages from Dring’s Butchers– and it definitely wasn’t the fault of the sausages– it just turned out a bit bland. I don’t think that was a criticism the first time around, but there we are.

However, I was curious how many ingredients a traditional pasta carbonara would use, because surely Jamie turned to this method because the traditional version would exceed the magic five limit. Guess what? Hold on your hats! Traditional pasta carbonara only uses five ingredients too! This even allows for the two different kinds of cheeses, though you could easily just use parmesan instead of pecorino and parmesan. (If you’d like to see the NYTimes recipe yourself, click through here to see it.)

I wish I knew why Jamie didn’t just include a traditional pasta carbonara recipe instead of this one. It’s quite possible that there’s a recipe for that in one of his 20 previous cookbooks. In fact, that’s highly likely. I just can’t be asked to go back and see for myself. So that must be why this sub-par one was included instead.

[While I was kicking around the NYTimes site, I also found this recipe for something that’s pretty similar to this, but I’m guessing, perhaps a little better.]

So would I make sausage carbonara again? Probably. But would I use this recipe? Probably not. It’s not a terrible idea, but clearly a quick Internet search showed me there were plenty of better recipes out there for a dish like this. I think I can stretch to a few more ingredients if it means it’ll taste better.

“Easy Sausage Carbonara” from “5 Ingredients”

“Carbonara” from “It’s All Easy”


Kirstin: Of course, for the ultimate carbonara recipe, you have to use the one from the Zuni cookbook, which has two kinds of cheese.

Tom: And broad beans.

Kirstin: We used to have it in San Francisco when it was broad bean season and we could buy them from Preston!

Tom: Yum!

Kirstin: Indeed. I’ve never had a bad carbonara. Have you?

Tom: Oh yes you can. It can be swimming in watery cheesey goo. This is a proper sauce. You would stick it to the wall if you threw it.

Ella: Anything you threw at a wall would stick if you threw it hard enough.

Kirstin: And what do you think of this Ella?

Ella: Edible. Kind of nice actually. You know when you eat food and it makes you feel like wow, I ate food and it made me feel full.

Tom: It is quite substantial. And probably very good food for you in the middle of the exams, no?

Ella: Also it’s CARB-onara.

Kirstin: Niiiiiice!

Tom: I like that you add the pasta water a little bit at a time.

Kirstin: Yes, I’ve had thirds. I should make this again. But not too often…

“Carbonara” from “It’s All Easy”

“Spaghetti with eggs, pancetta and pecorino romano” from “Gino’s Italian Escape”

Tom: I like this, and I particularly like that this is a purist’s interpretation of carbonara in that it has no cream.

Georgia: I like that it’s like spaghetti, but it’s not. It has extra pancetta yumminess.

Kirstin: I watched him cook this on a rooftop in Rome and he goes on about the sizzling pan and all sorts, which isn’t in the book, but is in my favourite version of this recipe from the Zuni cookbook.

Miles: I like that it’s spaghetti. But I can’t seem to twist any onto my fork`1

Tom: Look Miles. Would you like some help?


Miles: NO. I can do it!

Tom: Put more pieces on your fork, Miles. Expect half of it to escape. I’m having seconds!

Ella: What are lungfish?

Miles: They are amphibious fish. They can breathe above and under the water.

Ella: Are mermaids amphibious?

Miles: Yes.

Kirstin: And just for the record, can I say how much I dislike that I am trying to photograph food in the dark again? Grrr…

“Spaghetti with eggs, pancetta and pecorino romano” from “Gino’s Italian Escape”

“Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

Maureen: Although you would think we could have this on Meat Free Monday, we can’t, because it’s got bacon.

Nicholas (9): Yum. Bacon!


Maureen: Agreed. Bacon makes everything better. What do you think?

Andrew (13): It’s nice.

Nicholas: It’s good.

Maureen: Do you like it better than the other carbonara I made from Lisa Faulkner’s cookbook?

Andrew: Both are good, but to be honest, I don’t remember the other one all that well. I just remember that it was fine.

Maureen: This one is different in that you add some grated courgette to it. I like that it’s adding more vegetables, but it seems to me that it’s no longer a carbonara if you’ve got courgette swimming in the sauce.

Andrew: I see what you mean. This is fine. It’s not fantastic, but it’s not a disaster.

Nicholas: I agree with Andrew.

Maureen: I’m not sure I would make this again. I’d probably make the Lisa Faulkner one, or maybe even a different recipe altogether, when I make carbonara again.

“Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara” from “Madhouse Cookbook”

“Stack’s Carbonara” from “Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter”

Nicholas (9): (Looking suspiciously at his plate) Do you remember that time you made white bean soup and it tasted of nothing so we had cereal instead?

Maureen: But I don’t think that is going to apply in this case. This definitely does not taste of nothing.

Nicholas (skeptically): We’ll see about that, won’t we.

Maureen: I think it will be delicious. What do you think?

Nicholas (with great surprise): It’s quite good!

Andrew (12): Yup. I agree. It’s pretty good.

Maureen: This is a very strange way to do carbonara because you use cottage cheese. But it’s so good, I don’t care. This is great.

Tim: Of course it’s good! It’s got bacon and cheese in it.

Maureen: Well, actually, it’s not bacon. It’s fancy bacon– pancetta. But I think the addition of the cottage cheese almost makes it healthy.

Tim: You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s good, but it’s rich.

Maureen: I am definitely making this again.

Stack’s Carbonara from “Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter”

Serves 4

300-400g spaghetti (depending on appetite)

50g butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

140g pancetta, cubed

2 garlic cloves, crushed

500g cottage cheese

300ml single cream

A good grating of Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of slated water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente following the instructions on the packet.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large frying pan and melt the butter. Cook the union until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the pancetta and the garlic. When softened and browned add the cottage cheese. Keep stirring until the cottage cheese has melted and the mixture has come together. It will look watery at this stage, but don’t be alarmed!

Add the cream, keep stirring and reducing until it has thickened to your liking.

Grate in the parmesan, add a good crack of black pepper and cook until thick and cream. And in Stack’s words, ‘BOOM!”

Stir the sauce into the cooked spaghetti and serve immediately.

This is what it looks like after adding the cottage cheese– all watery and slightly strange. Do not despair. It works out fine.

“Stack’s Carbonara” from “Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter”

“My spaghetti carbonara” from “Bill’s Basics”

Anna: Handily I had some leftover eggs, pancetta and spring onions that needed using, and Bill’s carbonara is more of a fridge-sweep version than the original.

Peter: I’m not used to chilli flakes in my carbonara, but as you’ll put chilli flakes in anything I guess it wasn’t long until they found their way in…..

Anna: I just followed the recipe!!  It was nice to have the excuse to bung them in though.  Did you like the extra element that the spring onion brought to the carbonara party?

Peter: I know it’s party conference season but really…….  I didn’t notice it as being out of the ordinary.  I guess I’d expected it to be there.  I don’t pay enough attention to carbonara, clearly.

Anna: It was fun trying this recipe out.  Normally I do the River Cafe Cook Book Easy version sans cream.  Bill uses a whole egg rather than just the yolk, and creme fraiche instead of cream.  It definitely tasted good, but I got that grainy texture that can happen with some carbonaras.  Maybe I should have added more of the cooking water to loosen it.

Peter: This wasn’t too cloying though.  It didn’t feel like I was eating something that was solidfying in my bowel.  I liked it.  And it did a good job of using up stuff before the Ocado man came.  In his onion van.

“My spaghetti carbonara” from “Bill’s Basics”

“Penne alla Carbonara” from “The River Cafe Book”

Kirstin: It’s been a long day at work today, so I chose something easy. And I wanted to see what cream in a carbonara would taste like, having previously thought it would be a very bad idea. We normally cook the recipe from the Zuni Cafe book, which is about three pages of very elaborate description of how you have to swirl the pan with the pancetta, and has two kinds of cheese (pecorino and parmesan); but the results are totally worth it. This is much simpler. As usual the quantity of pasta was totally wrong. So we halved the sauce but cooked the same amount of pasta. It had too much cheese, I thought. But the sauce itself was very good.

Continue reading ““Penne alla Carbonara” from “The River Cafe Book””

“Penne alla Carbonara” from “The River Cafe Book”