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“Cream is communism!” the proprietor of a now-closed Santa Rosa Italian restaurant wrote to me in the mid-1990s.

The letter was a response to a review in which I praised a pasta dish but questioned its name, spaghetti carbonara, because it wasn’t. The pasta was swimming in sea of cream. Spaghetti carbonara is made of eggs, cheese, pancetta or bacon, and lots of black pepper, for which it is named. Sometimes it includes Italian parsley and some cooks add garlic, too, but cream transforms it into another dish entirely.

The letter went on to rant about American soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II.

“They wanted cream in everything!,” he wrote, adding that cream renders everything equal in taste, hence the comparison to communism.

I still laugh when I think of that letter and hope that one of these days I’ll come across it.

Spaghetti carbonara has legions of fans, including writer Calvin Trillin, who proposed making it the official dish of Thanksgiving because he likes it a lot more than roasted turkey and all the fixings.

I agree.

Spaghetti carbonara is one of the most delicious dishes ever and the good news is that it is very easy to prepare.

It is delicious enough to be the centerpiece of a special dinner but simple enough to make that you can fix it on a weeknight, especially if all the ingredients are in your pantry, as they should be.

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This is my version of the classic dish. When I can get guanciale, which is make from cheek meat, I use it, but it is not something I have on hand all the time. If you have it, definitely use it in this dish.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 4 to 6

1 garlic clove, cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch wide crosswise strips

— Kosher salt

1 pound bucatini or spaghetti

4 large eggs from pastured hens, at room temperature

6 ounces grated cheese (see note below)

— Black pepper in a mill

Rub the cut sides of the garlic over a heavy pan — a seasoned cast-iron pan is ideal — and set the pan over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and swirl as it warms so that it picks up the garlic flavor.

Add the bacon and cook slowly, so that the edges brown but the bacon itself remains somewhat tender. When the bacon is cooked, drain off all but about a tablespoon or two of the fat; keep warm over a very low flame.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot two-thirds full with water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.

Drain but do not rinse; the pasta must be hot.

While the pasta cooks, put the eggs into a large bowl that you have warmed under running water and dried. Whisk until very smooth. Fold in the cheese and season very generously with black pepper.

Turn the hot pasta into the bowl with the eggs. Working quickly, add the bacon and all the pan juices to the pasta and use two forks to lift and turn the pasta so that each strand is evenly coated.

Taste, correct for salt, toss again and quickly divide among warmed pasta bowls or soup plates. Add several turns of black pepper to each portion and serve.

Note: Use a hard grating cheese, either from Italy or Northern California. Bellwether Farms Pepato, Valley Ford Estero Gold, Vella Dry Jack, Parmigiano-Reggiano, aged Asiago and Pecorino Romano each contribute different subtle elements, all delicious.

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This dish does have cream, as it is impossible to make a soufflé without it.

Pasta Carbonara Soufflé

Serves 6

— Butter, at room temperature

— Kosher salt

5 ounces dried angel hair pasta, broken into thirds

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces pancetta, diced

1 1/2 cups cream or Half & Half

7 eggs, separated

1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley

— Black pepper in a mill

3 ounces Italian Fontina, grated or shredded

2 ounces (1/2 cup) Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

— Italian parsley sprigs, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Coat the inside of a 2-quart soufflé dish with butter.

Fill a large pot half full with water, season generous with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, stir in the pasta and cook according to package directions until the pasta is al dente; it should take about 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain well, transfer to a large bowl and immediately toss with the olive oil. Set aside.

In a small saute pan, fry the pancetta over medium low heat until it is just crisp, about 10 minutes.

Add the half & half and simmer until it is reduce by one-third, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until think and pale. Add the parsley and season very generously with black pepper. Stir the egg mixture into the pancetta mixture, fold in the cheeses and season to taste with salt. Set aside.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Fold one-third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, and add the pasta, stirring gently and lightly. Carefully fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the soufflé dish, set on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.

To serve, divide among individual warmed plates and garnish with parsley springs.

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Here is a gluten-free version that instead of using gluten-free pasta uses spaghetti squash instead.

It is rich and filling, more so than the classic version. It is also a good option for anyone avoiding such carbohydrates as pasta.

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

Serves 4 to 6

6 cups, approximately, roasted spaghetti squash, hot (see note below)

6 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch wide crosswise strips

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 large eggs from pastured hens, at room temperature

6 ounces grated cheese, such as Vella Mezzo Secco

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

Prepare the spaghetti squash if you have not already done so (see following).

Set it aside and keep it hot.

Put the bacon into a medium sauté pan set over medium heat and cook, turning now and then, until almost but not quite crisp.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat, add the garlic, cook for 1 minute more, and remove from the heat.

Put the eggs into a warmed large bowl and whisk until very smooth. Fold in the cheese and a very generous amount of black pepper.

Fold in the bacon mixture and half the Italian parsley.

Warm soup plates and set them on a clean work surface.

Tip the hot spaghetti squash into the bowl and use two forks to lift and turn it until is evenly coated. Taste, correct for salt, and divide among the warmed soup plates.

Add several turns of black pepper to each portion, garnish with the remaining parsley, and enjoy right away.

Note: The easiest, faster way to prepare spaghetti squash is to steam it. If you cut it in half lengthwise and then cut each half into 2 or 3 lengthwise wedges, it will cook fairly quickly, in about 12 minutes.

Simply put it on the rack or in the basket of a steamer, set over simmering water, cover and cook until tender but not mushy.

If you prefer to bake it, again, cut it in half lengthwise, cut each half in half, lengthwise, again, set on a sheet pan and bake at 375 degrees until tender but not mushy, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the spaghetti squash from the steamer or oven, let cool until easy to handle, scrape out the seeds, and use a fork to scrape the flesh in long strokes; it will pretty much shred itself.

Variation: If you want to gild the lily, top each serving with an egg poached for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Set the egg on top of the carbonara and season it with salt before adding the final garnish of black pepper and parsley.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “Pasta Classics,” published by the Cooking Club of America. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.