Let’s celebrate Carbonara Day 6th April 2020!
#CarbonaraDay is organised by the Italian Food Union and the International Pasta Organisation and features a day-long series of online culinary events, with the chance to follow the carbonara recipes of top chefs live from your own kitchen.
In order to celebrate we thought we would invite you to make Carbonara the Italian way at home.
The History of the Authentic Carbonara Recipe
Carbonara is a relatively new dish for Roman cuisine. There are many theories as to where this dish originated, some say it is not Roman at all. The most accepted story is that it was invented in Rome for a meeting between the American and British forces in 1944 and was created using two ingredients both nations loved – bacon and eggs.
Traditionally it is made with guanciale (pork cheek), pecorino cheese and raw egg yolk. The fat from the pork cheek, strong cheese and rich egg yolk give a glossy rich sauce on Bucatini or Rigatoni pasta.
The carbonara most of us recognise from outside of Italy uses cream instead of egg, this probably originates from our unease at using raw egg, exacerbated by salmonella in more recent times.
The Carbonara Challenge
As we are all temporarily on lockdown it seems like the right moment experiment a little, no doubt like everyone you are visiting the fridge at least once an hour…….. Carbonara Day gives us the perfect excuse to spend a bit longer in the kitchen trying something new.
For this reason, we want to share the traditional recipe for carbonara and invite you to try and cook it at home. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the ingredients, it can be challenging to achieve that glossy end finish, you might end up with lumps of scrambled eggs in your pasta! There is a knack to it… and a few tips that non-Italians do not know.
The Authentic Carbonara Recipe
This recipe has the traditional ingredients. We know that it can be hard to get the specific regional ingredients so we have suggested more available alternatives.
Time 30 min
Servings: 4 people
350 g pasta (Bucatini, Spaghetti, Rigatoni)
120g guanciale (you can use pancetta or streaky bacon sliced into small strips)
30 g pecorino romano
20 g grana padano or parmigiano
2 Large Egg yolks
- Cut the guanciale into strips. The Romans use the cheek of the pig to make this dish as the fat gives a lot of flavour. You can use Pancetta or thick sliced Streaky Bacon.
- Mix two egg yolks with the grated cheese. As this is a Roman dish, they use Pecorino, it is a hard cheese like parmigiano or grana padano, but stronger and saltier. If you cannot find pecorino you can use either grana padano or parmigiano. Mix the eggs and cheese until creamy and set aside. Add a pinch of salt and pepper
- Cook the guanciale/pancetta/bacon. This should be cooked on a low heat without added fat. You want to sweat the fat out of the strips and for them to become crunchy but not burnt! When the strips are crunchy and browned, remove the bacon bits and put to the side, keep the fat for later.
- At the same time, you can put the pasta on to boil. The pasta and the guanciale should take the same time (around 7/8 minutes). You want the pasta with a bite ‘al dente’ (slightly undercooked).
- Take a cup of pasta water and put aside then drain the pasta. On a low heat add the pasta to the fat from the meat and the crunchy pieces of bacon together, mix well. Each piece of pasta should be coated with the fat. Take off the heat.
- Ensure the pan is not too hot and add the egg and cheese mixture to the pasta mixing well and quickly. Add pasta water as needed to give more moisture to the egg mixture, this starchy water makes more of a sauce and give that creamy finish.
- A pinch of black pepper and your Carbonara is ready to serve topped with more grated cheese to give a nice finish.
Our Favourite Carbonara in Rome
I have seen tourists aghast at the dish they are served; once a Russian tourist asked the waiter where is the cream?? Carbonara is a creamy sauce. The waiter looked confused (Italians very rarely cook with cream) raised his eyebrow and looked at me – the English woman in the corner for an explanation. We must remember that traditional dishes change slightly when they move across cultures or territory. The Chinese we eat in our restaurants barely resembles real Chinese food!
In normal times, the “carbonara restaurants” most favoured by Romans include Flavio al Velavevodetto in Testaccio, Dal Cavalier Gino in the historic centre, Da Enzo al 29 in Trastevere, and Da Danilo in the Esquilino area.