Saturday, May 4, 2019

Carbonara: Over-Salted Water

The second time we did Carbonara this year felt like it was going to be perfect! I was getting the egg to cheese ratio right. The amount of pasta water on the noodles was creating the right consistency, and the bacon was nice and crispy. I'd used some local Parmesean with great flavor, and I was sure the only thing missing was a true Guanciale instead of bacon.

It turns out that we learned a huge lesson though with this dish. We over-salted our pasta water. The hubs and I watch enough TV cooking shows to hear over and over again that the "pasta water should taste like the sea." So we went all in. That pasta water was super salty, just the way we thought it should be... and the dish turned out to be so salty that it was almost inedible.  :(

So a few things to remember here:

  1. We are not "salt people." We buy unsalted pretzels, low sodium tuna, and 60% reduced salt potato chips. There is no reason for us to be cooking meals for ourselves that match other peoples' definition of "salty enough."
  2. Making your pasta water "taste like the sea" when you're making gnocchi or fresh pasta makes sense. Those items only go in the water for a few minutes, and need extra salt in the water so that it can absorb any at all. Using the same amount of salt with dry Bucatini, when it needs to boil in the water for at least 9 minutes is not the same. It allows for too much time to absorb.
  3. Carbonara is already pretty salty. Bacon, eggs and Parmesean Cheese are salty in and of themselves. Adding all of those ingredients to a super salty pasta is just not necessary.
On top of that, I am at my wit's end trying to find Guanciale here in the Bay Area of California. I kind of can't believe it. The little hipster place that's located near our favorite brewery is probably sick of seeing us pop in every other week, asking if theirs is ready to sell yet... Although I honestly blame them for telling me each time I go in there that, "It will be ready in another two weeks." Seriously, they've been telling me that for the last four months.

I only know of one place that is guaranteed to have Guanciale, and it means a drive all the way back up to Los Altos. It was a three minute walk away from our last apartment, and I apparently took that WAY for granted. Coming up with a reason to drive all the way up there is not easy. The traffic is horrible, and there are definite reasons why we left Los Altos... but it seems I'm going to need to suck it up and just do it.

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