If your perception of pepperoni is limited only to the pizza topping, this recipe will be a revelation. Stick with cutting cubes from whole pepperoni rather than pre-cut slices as they don’t crisp as well.
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
⅓ cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving
⅓ cup grated parmesan
coarsely ground black pepper
crushed red pepper flakes, optional
3 ½ ounces pepperoni, diced into ¼” x ¼” pieces
1lb Armanino Cheese Tortellini
Place a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat, and bring to a boil.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, pecorino and parmesan cheeses. Season with a pinch of salt, a generous pinch black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, add the pepperoni and sauté until the fat just renders; on the edge of crispness but not hard. The rendered fat will look a little foamy. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add the tortellini to the pot of water and boil 4 minutes. Just before pasta is ready, gently reheat pepperoni in skillet, if needed.
Reserve ½ cup of pasta water, then drain tortellini and add to the pepperoni skillet over low heat. Stir to coat in the rendered fat.
Add the hot tortellini/pepperoni mixture to the mixing bowl with the egg/cheese mixture.
Immediately start stirring to coat the pasta with the cheese/egg mixture, adding some reserved hot pasta water a tablespoon at a time as needed for creaminess. The sauce should coat the pasta but not be overly soupy.
Serve immediately, garnishing with a bit of additional grated pecorino.
Carbonara traditionally uses guanciale, an Italian cured meat made from the jowls of the pig, or bacon with beaten eggs, cheese and a little pasta cooking water. Never cream. This recipe uses cured pepperoni in place of the guanciale for a different and delicious spin on the classic dish.
For the pepperoni, buy a whole stick rather than slices to get nice, crispy cubes.
The heat from the pasta and pepperoni fat will be enough to lightly cook the eggs but don’t hesitate when the timer goes off for the pasta. Have everything ready and move quickly. Add the hot pasta cooking water, a tablespoon at a time, to help thicken the sauce and lightly coat the pasta. Avoid the temptation to add more water.