Pasta alla carbonara

So carbonara is like my favorite dish and here I have seen recipes that more often than not butcher this awesome dish with the addition of anything but the kitchen sink. Now, is not like you cannot modify the dish, but onions, shallots, garlic, chili pepper or flakes do not belong in there. Never. Under no circumstances.
I have to confess I am not from Rome, so technically speaking I am not entitled to say anything about carbonara. but I cooked my carbonara to people from Rome, and although skeptical at the beginning, they were pretty happy with my dish after they tried it.

Pasta alla carbonara

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 5 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups total of grated pecorino and parmesan cheese
  • 5 oz. bacon and/or zucchini
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • pepper
  • salt

Directions

  1. So start out by bringing water to a boil for the pasta. While water warms up start on the sauce. Ideally you should use diced guanciale (almost impossible to fine in the US), next best is pancetta (you can find it at specialty stores and good supermarkets) and finally you can always use bacon. Dice the cured meat you are using and put it in a hot pan with no fats. Let the meat render the fat and drain the drippings.
  2. In a separate bowl mix one egg per person with grated pecorino cheese, a bit of grated parmesan cheese, a spoon of milk, pepper and salt. Go easy on the salt as cheeses and bacon are already pretty salty.
  3. For the cheeses the proportion should be at least half pecorino half parmesan, but you'll se versions with pecorino only, I usually do something like 80% pecorino 20% parmesan. In total it should be about 1/3 cup of grated cheese per person and the mixture should be pretty thick.
  4. The milk I add to make the sauce a bit creamier, but it shouldn't be more than a couple of spoons, definitely you don't want more milk than egg or even the same amount of eggs as milk.
  5. Drop the bacon and a teaspoon or so of its drippings in the egg mixture.
  6. At this point the water should be boiling: add salt and pasta. Traditional shapes are bucatini or rigatoni, but spaghetti (better if thick) and penne work well too. When it is ready drain the pasta and while it is still super hot mix the pasta well in the egg mixture so that the pasta is throughly coated in the egg mixture.
  7. If you are wary about not perfectly cooked eggs what you can do is to mix the pasta and the egg mixture in the hot pan, you used to boil pasta. The heat from the pasta, combined with the heat from the pot, is usually enough to cook the eggs through.
  8. A pretty common and perfectly acceptable variation of this dish is substituting bacon for zucchini or adding zucchini to the bacon. What you do in this case is to cook sliced zucchini with the bacon (or instead of the bacon) and then add those to the egg mixture, the same way you did with the bacon. Of course if you substitute the bacon you should add some oil to cook your veggies. Occasionally I would do savoy cabbage instead of zucchini, and that works pretty well too.
  9. Awesome dish, someone believes it is the perfect hangover fix.

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5 Responses to Pasta alla carbonara

  1. Nami @ Just One Cookbook says:

    I LOVE carbonara ever since I learned how to cook in high school's home economics class (in Japan). It's common in Japan that we use heavy whipping cream instead of milk. I assume real authentic carbonara won't use the heavy whipping cream! We also use only egg yolk, too. Japanese love Italian food and we eat a lot of pasta at home. 🙂 I'm really excited to try yours!

  2. Kate @ Diethood.com says:

    I'm a big fan of carbonara…I don't make it as often as I'd like, but that's because I try to save on the carb deal for special occasions 🙂 And, I do use just a tad bit of garlic in mine … it's because we love garlic.

  3. Frank says:

    Absolutely, the strong garlic taste you would get by chopping garlic as part of the sauce would totally ruin the dish!

  4. Pola says:

    I have never seen garlic in carbonara in Rome, but I guess if you remove the garlic clove than I wouldn't see it… I can see it working if it is really used only for a slight hint of aroma and not if it is minced in the "sauce"….

    I have to confess that much of my knowledge about traditional dishes comes from family traditions and tasting in restaurants, rather than accurate study of the topic on books and such, so I am definitely not infallible…

  5. Frank says:

    As a long-time resident of Rome, this may be my favorite pasta of all… and I have to agree, few pasta dishes have suffered more adulteration than this one!

    I have a pet theory about the variations on carbonara you will often see: could they be confusing it with another Roman dish called fettuccine alla papalina? That dish, as you may know, does include cream and peas and a bit of onion—much like many of the versions you will see. Only a guess…

    I would quibble with one point you make: while it's admittedly not 100% doc, I do know some Roman friends who will lightly sauté a clove of garlic with their guanciale or pancetta (and then remove it) for a bit of added savor. I also do that sometimes, although the cheese and pork certainly have lots of flavor on their own. The variation shows up, among other places, in lovely and very typical little cookbook I picked up in Trastevere called Le "Specialità della cucina romana: ricette tratte dalla tradizionale cucina casalinga".

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