Carbonara is a rustic pasta dish with a sauce composed of eggs, pancetta (Italian bacon) and Parmesan. Freshly drained hot pasta cooks the raw egg into a tasty, cheese-infused coating. Some say Italians created the dish as a way to use up leftover pasta for their breakfast.

Many of my “50 By 50” dishes will be about tweaking familiar favorites until I get them just right. Spaghetti alla carbonara is one of my favorite dishes, and while I have made it several times, I’ve never found the perfect recipe –– until now.

Carbonara is a rustic pasta dish with a sauce composed of eggs, pancetta (Italian bacon) and Parmesan. Freshly drained hot pasta cooks the raw egg into a tasty, cheese-infused coating. Some say Italians created the dish as a way to use up leftover pasta for their breakfast.

The problem with carbonara is that there are a zillion recipes out there. I’ve checked out all sorts of them, from the Old World Italian cookbooks to Rachael Ray, Emeril Lagasse, Tyler Florence and Giada de Laurentiis. Some recipes call for pancetta, others domestic bacon, and some even include wine, olive oil, onions, garlic, parsley and cream.

I’ve tried several versions, but I think I’ve finally nailed it. Like many purists, I don’t use cream, though some carbonara fans are downright vicious about including it.

“Say it with me, folks,” says one online critic of Giada’s recipe. “There is no cream in carbonara sauce. It is creamy, but contains no cream. So Giada’s isn’t authentic, but we knew that already from the first time we heard her say spa-ghee-tee or open a jar of store-bought sauce.”

Ouch.

I think a combination of pancetta and bacon is best with the eggs and cheese. I forget all the other stuff, letting the simple flavors shine. In this case, less definitely is more. Enjoy.

P.S., you can find pancetta at Italian specialty stores and in most supermarket deli cases.

Pasta Alla Carbonara

4 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon) chopped in matchstick-form 4 ounces bacon, chopped in matchstick-form 1 pound fresh spaghetti 3 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Salt and freshly ground pepper 1/2 cup hot pasta water

In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta and bacon until crispy. Pour off the oil except for 3 tablespoons. Keep pan warm.

Place eggs in a large bowl.

Put a large pot of water on high heat and cook to boiling. Add a liberal amount of salt and the pasta. Cook to al dente. Drain pasta, reserving about a half cup of hot pasta water in the bottom of the pot.

Quickly add hot pasta to bowl with eggs. Toss well with two spoons until egg thickens but does not scramble, about 2-3 minutes. Add bacon and oil and mix well. (If, by chance, eggs are still wet, add pasta to bacon pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly for a few minutes, until egg thickens).

Add cheese, mix well, and season with salt and pepper. If pasta seems too dry, add hot pasta water a little at a time and toss until the consistency is creamy.

Mound into serving bowls or a clean pasta bowl for serving.

This is the fourth of Jennifer Mastroianni’s series of 50 dishes by her 50th birthday.