Pasta Carbonara with Mushrooms
Rich, delicious and satisfying Pasta Carbonara is one of Rome's most famous dishes. Its origins are somewhat obscure, but it was almost certainly invented in the mid-20th century, most likely at the end of World War II when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by American troops. The classic elements of the dish are constant: eggs, cheese, black pepper and cured pork (usually guanciale or pancetta).
This is not a "saucy" dish - there is just enough of the rich, savory mixture of whole eggs, cheese and pancetta to coat each strand of spaghetti. Our version differs slightly from the traditional Italian recipe with the addition of mushrooms, but we think you'll agree that it adds a deliciously wonderful touch of flavor.
Place the dried mushrooms in a heat-proof bowl and cover with hot water. Allow to stand for 15 minutes. Place the mushrooms and soaking liquid into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly and drain thoroughly (reserve liquid for other use). Slice the mushrooms thinly and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it begins to crisp around the edges, about 6 minutes. Remove the pancetta and drain on paper towels. Pour off all of the oil except for 3 tablespoons.
Return the pan to the heat and add the reconstituted mushrooms. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes, then add the garlic and a generous grind of black pepper. Cook for 30 seconds more. Add the pancetta and the pasta and leave on the heat for 1 minute.
Season the beaten eggs with a pinch of salt. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the eggs over the pasta, tossing until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble. Sprinkle the cheese over the top, toss again and season to taste with salt and pepper.