From a young age I was mesmerised by spaghetti carbonara. My mother is in no way Italian, but she had a knack for producing the most lip-smacking bowls of pasta, overflowing with everything from olives, capers, and feta to the tongue-tickling saltiness of anchovies. It has remained a favourite staple post-childhood. However, said mother frequently retold the tale of “the nuns” who would force-feed her milk during her kindergarten days as part of a government initiative (the free milk, not the nuns). This emotionally scarring childhood memory led to a dislike for cow’s milk and cream. As a result, dishes with overly creamy sauces barely featured on the dinner table at home, so the appearance of carbonara on restaurant menus made my eyes glaze over and my stomach rumble. I would greedily order a large plateful, intoxicated by the thought of rich spaghetti laden with bacon. Mouthful after mouthful, the steaming plate before me became more and more of a challenge as the heavy sauce weighed down my stomach. I’m not knocking traditional carbonara with its cream-, egg- and parmesan- based sauce. It is nothing short of satisfying, and I’ve never left a plate unfinished. However, despite the glory of the classic, a lighter version is sometimes the more attractive option. So here it is — my own version of carbonara, for when I don’t have time for an egg-, cream- and parmesan- induced food coma. Made with sour cream and loaded with garlic, it is a feistier, tangier version that can be prepared in well under half an hour. Make the sauce while the pasta cooks, then pile the lot into a large serving dish, plonk a pair a tongs on top, and let everyone help themselves.
- 500g dried spaghetti
- 4 tbs olive oil
- 10 rashers shoulder or middle bacon, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 500g light sour cream
- 3/4 cup liquid chicken stock
- Freshly ground black pepper
Method01 | Fill a large pot with water. Add a pinch of salt and a splash of oil. Bring to the boil then add the spaghetti. Cook for 8 —10 minutes, or until firm to the bite.
02 | Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep, wide pan. Add the bacon and garlic and cook for 5 — 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the bacon is cooked through and the edges begin to crisp.
03 | Add the sour cream and chicken stock to the pan and stir vigorously until the sauce is smooth and the bacon is incorporated. Turn the heat up slightly to bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.
04 | Drain the spaghetti and return to the pot, off the heat. Toss the sauce through to evenly coat the pasta. Finish with plenty of freshly ground pepper.
05 | Serve this hot, glorious mass of carbohydrates immediately.
Photo courtesy James Stringer