Italy: pasta carbonara


When you talk about Italy, it’s hard not to mention the classics: the sun, the singing language, the traffic… and most importantly, la cucina: the insalata caprese, the antipasti, the involtini, the gelati, pizza and, of course, pasta! In particular, the most famous one of them, pasta carbonara.

Who never made this smooth pasta with its eggs, its bacon, its cream … Wait, what??? Stop right there!! Cream??? Where did that come from?? Well, no, there is no cream in pasta carbonara! There are only 4 ingredients: pasta, egg yolks, pancetta, cheese, and that’s it! Maybe some freshly ground pepper, if you like.

Right, because even though the history of pasta carbonara is a bit unclear (recipe of the “carbonari”, coal miners in the Apennine mountains; military distributing bacon and egg powder rations after the liberation of Rome in 1944; specialty of the La Carbonara restaurant in the Campo de’ Fiori square), the ingredients remain the same.

This is something I myself learnt about over the past year. It all started with a friend on Facebook who shared Floriana’s recipe. Beside the fact that I loved her writing style, I also liked that there was no cream in the recipe (I don’t know about you, but pasta with cream tends to be a bit heavy on my stomach :-/ ). So I went shopping and tried the recipe. Needless to say that, at that moment, I’ve had an epiphany! Never again shall I use bacon and cream!

A few months after the Floriana episode, I stumbled upon Gino D’Acampo’s series, Gino’s Italian Escape. In episode 4, Gino visits Rome, the city that claims the recipe. So it’s one of the recipes he chose to make. And there again, no cream in sight.

Actually, one of the few Italians I have seen using cream is Michela Chiappa, but I believe she chose to adapt the recipe to the public’s taste.

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Carbonara1-2Serves 2

  • 170 to 200g/6 to 7 oz. spaghetti (Floriana and Gino choose 3.5 to 4.2 oz. pasta per person, I prefer 2.8 to 3.5 oz.)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50g/1.7oz. guanciale or smoked pancetta, roughly chopped
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
  • Salt & pepper

Heat a large quantity of water in a large pan, covered.

In the meantime, separate the eggs. Season to taste and add the cheese. Beat until creamy.

In a frying pan, sauté the pancetta. Some advise to sauté the pancetta in olive oil, so do according to your taste.

Once the water boils, add a handful of coarse sea salt, then the pasta.

Cook about 6 minutes. The pasta has to be al dente.

About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the cooking water to the eggs and mix well.

Drain the pasta and add them immediately to the bowl with the eggs and pancetta and mix gently.

Serve and devour immediately (with extra Pecorino and Parmesan if you wish).

Bon appétit!

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