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I’m not a natural-born baker. Flour mishaps are all too common in my kitchen to classify me as one. Yet, despite my lack of grace, baking is what I love to do. My confectionery blunders almost always turn out tasty in the end, and I’ll admit to having a keen eye for good cookie recipes. When it comes to using measuring cups, I don’t feel limited, I feel confident.
Cooking by taste is a whole other story — it terrifies me. I overthink every step and doubts cloud my culinary judgment. How much is a dash of salt, really? How many minutes exactly does it take to roast a chicken?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily admit to my savory successes. Alton’s Skirt Steak is probably one of the best things I’ve ever made and Bobby’s Mesa Grill’s Shrimp With Green-Onion Cilantro Sauce (recipe available in his cookbook) has always been a crowd-pleaser for me. But the problem is that all my second-guessing prevents me from enjoying the process.
My solution is to start with the basics. Not only are the dinners I cook not being judged, but simple recipes can be just as delicious as extravagant ones. My hope is that by mastering kitchen fundamentals, I’ll be able to tweak recipes with ease and enjoyment.
I decided Tyler Florence’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara was the perfect place to start building my technique. It’s a quick and easy recipe that has become a staple in my weeknight menu. The best part is that the ingredients are basic and almost always in my refrigerator and pantry. Not to mention that the recipe will put you in a happy place. The eggs and cheese form a rich and creamy sauce, making this the ultimate comfort food. The last time I made this, I added a few more pinches of cheese and a touch of olive oil at the end. I think I’m getting there.
Here are a few things to consider about this recipe:
- Because I am not usually cooking for a crowd, I cut the recipe in half. It works wonderfully.
- Although “spaghetti” is part of the name, feel free to use the pasta you have on hand. I used linguine fini and it was equally delicious.
- Follow the directions and prepare the sauce while the pasta cooks. The pasta must be hot to allow the eggs to cook.
- Reserve pasta water to add if you wish to thin out the sauce (though I prefer it just how it is).
- Load up on the freshly ground pepper. Trust me.