Thursday, April 23, 2009

Classic Carbonara

In these last few days I’ve been brainstorming about this blog: should I keep it just for the Daring Kitchen Challenges? Should I stretch for something more? What would I put in it? Oh, my gosh I have to buy new plates! A new lens! Tablecloth! Open up a new window, this kitchen is way too dark!
Something like that.
Then last night my men asked me a Carbonara for dinner, and I thought that way back, when my husband and I met, I could barely fry an egg. And as the relationship went on, and I came to ask him what his favorite dish was, carbonara was the answer.

Now, Italy is famous in the entire world for its cooking.
The truth is that once you are in Italy, Italian cooking doesn’t exist anymore, and you go deep into regional cooking. I’m from Milan, and I have some friends in Rome that consider polenta an exotic dish. My father wouldn’t be caught dead eating a pizza.

Carbonara is from Rome and I had never considered it as something that I could actually eat, I didn’t even know what WAS in it! So that was the first recipe that I looked for in my adult life, I remember the sense of discovery, and it makes sense for it to be my first post.

So, you would need a half pound of guanciale. It is the cheek of the pig, whereas lard comes from the back and pancetta and bacon from the belly, and its fat is a little harder and valuable that the other two, but it’s very common to use pancetta, just don’t tell it to the Romans.
There is a vegetarian version, substituting zucchini for the guanciale.
While living in the States, I used smoked bacon more than once. It wasn’t the original taste, but flying out of the State in the quest for the right ingredient would have been unpractical, and we got used to that.

Dice it and heat it softly, so that it releases its fat in the pan (which by the way is a whole recipe on its own, and I will talk about that in the future).

In the meantime, put a pot of water to the boil and go on cooking your pasta (I’m not passionate about spaghetti, and prefer to use bavette or fettuccine).
Beat 4 eggs in a bowl; add salt and pepper to the taste and 2 oz of grated cheese.
Again, you should go for Pecorino, a seasoned sheep cheese, but Parmigiano does the job.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and put it back in the pot. Pour the egg/cheese mix on the pasta and mix well, while the heat from the pasta cooks the eggs, leaving them soft.

Then, add all the content of the “fat” pan: the liquid part will act as a dressing, the solid bits will be good to taste in there.

Sprinkle some more pepper if you like, and serve.

For 6 servings:
1 lbs/450gr of long pasta (spaghetti, bavette, fettuccine)
½ lbs/220gr of guanciale (pancetta, bacon, zucchini for the vegetarian version)
4 eggs
2oz/60 grams of pecorino cheese (parmigiano)

You will need the recipe just the first time, after that, you're ready to eyeball it.


  1. Just to clarify, the heat that was on the pasta should be turned all the way off before the egg mixture is added? The eggs will cook enough without heat from the burner?

  2. Exactly!
    The draining should be quick, and the pot itself will still be hot, anyway.
    Eggs just need a temperature of 65 Celsius/ 150 Farenheit to cook, that's why it works.