I was watching an episode of Martha Stewart featuring James Beard Award-winning chefs recently, and Martha asked each of them to share their favorite thing to make when they got home from their restaurants late at night. I always wonder what kinds of things chefs cook when they're not at work so it was cool to get some insight. There was truffle popcorn and scrambled eggs, fried veggie chips, mashed potatoes and more; frankly, it all looked pretty amazing, but one dish really caught my eye: the late night pasta. If my cooking skills had extended beyond grilled cheese and macaroni and cheese (from a box, of course) in college, this late night pasta is one of the dishes I know I'd have made time and time again. It is late night comfort food to the max!
The chef who made this pasta was Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill, and he described it as a cross between cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and black pepper) and pasta carbonara. You start by crisping up some bacon in a skillet, then add black pepper and onion, allowing the onion to soften in the rendered bacon fat before adding just a tiny bit of garlic for more flavor. To this mixture, butter, Parmesan cheese and reserved pasta cooking water are added to create a simple sauce, which is then tossed with spaghetti. Each dish of pasta is topped with a fried egg and a sprinkle of parsley to finish.
It was so utterly satisfying to break the yolk and watch it run over the pasta. Not surprisingly, it was even better to eat! I haven't fried an egg in so long I'd forgotten how ridiculously good they can be. I reduced both the amount of cheese and butter in this recipe, and it was still plenty rich for us. I never know how a meal that doesn't involve a sizable piece of meat is going to be received by Shane, but he was still talking about this pasta hours after we ate, which to me is always the surest sign of a recipe worth repeating.
Late Night Pasta
adapted from Martha Stewart
6 oz spaghetti
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
While the pasta cooks, add the bacon to a large skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the bacon is crisp. Add the onion and pepper to the pan, and continue cooking until the onion softens.
Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a small skillet set over medium-low heat. Crack the eggs into the pan and cook just until the whites are set (the yolks will still be runny). Remove the pan from the heat and keep warm.
Add the garlic to the pan along with the bacon and onion and cook, stirring constantly, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Reduce the heat to low, and add the drained pasta to the pan, followed by the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted, turn off the heat under the pan. Gradually add the cheese, tossing the pasta with tongs to incorporate. After you've added all of the cheese, you can adjust the consistency of the dish with the remaining reserved pasta cooking water.
Divide the pasta between two bowls, and top each serving with one of the fried eggs. Garnish with the chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.