Carbonara is a classic Italian recipe that seems easy but could be insidious to make. Here we show you how to realise a perfect, authentic one.
Put your hand up if you don't love the carbonara!
Carbonara is barely a recipe of the Italian cooking tradition but actually a poem, a pleasure for your eyes and your palate – with its luscious egg and pecorino cheese cream, the taste of the toasted guanciale (pork jowl) and the black pepper final note.
Carbonara is so appreciated by Italian people and by tourists and basically, you can eat it everywhere in Rome and in Lazio, where it is one of the typical first courses, and try many different versions of it – for example in a small parmigiano basket!
Every family makes its own version of carbonara, swearing it is the original one. Some options about ingredients can vary: the pork jowl type, the number of yolks (someone uses also the egg white), the pasta format, the usage of the pecorino cheese alone or mixed with Parmigiano; Italian people have endless arguments about that.
Here you have our suggestion for a recipe that seems to be – according to most of the chefs in the Eternal City – so close to the original one, but don't be afraid to use your personal taste and to experiment.
Carbonara: ingredients for 4 servings
Ingredients for a perfect carbonara: eggs, pasta, guanciale, pecorino cheese
To prepare our Carbonara recipe you will need these ingredients:
- 4 egg yolks (a person each);
- 150 gr of pecorino cheese (cream and decoration);
- 400 gr pasta (don't be greedy!);
- 100 gr of guanciale;
- black pepper to taste;
- salt to taste.
Carbonara: the officiale recipe
Let's start choosing pasta format: a long one is recommended, like spaghetti or linguine, but in Rome you can usually appreciate rigatoni, the classic maccheroni. Fill a huge pot up for the pasta and while you wait for the water boiling, deal with the remaining prep.
Take the guanciale and cut it in small cubes (or use the packed one), put it in a pan and don't add any kind of fat: guanciale is yet rich in fats and they're enough to cook it on its own as the pan heats.
As the water boils, add just a pinch of salt (pecorino cheese and guanciale are so savoury yet) and toss the pasta. Now you can make the egg cream.
Use a bowl and pour or grate the pecorino cheese into it, add some black pepper and the egg yolks one by one. Whisk vigorously until the cream is ready. We recommend to do this step on the pasta pot, so that the boiling water heat could help you to pasteurize the eggs but not to cook it (we don't want a frittata!)
Take the pan with the guanciale off the fire and let it cool down.
Now check the pasta: it has to be perfectly al dente and you should drain it one ore two minute before the cooking point; be sure to set a cup of boiling water aside. If you're satisfied, pour the pasta into the pan with the guanciale.
Check the egg and pecorino cream texture: if it's too thick, add some drops of cooking water and whisk.
Meanwhile pasta should be cooled down: that's a right moment to add the cream into the pan and mix it with pasta and guanciale. Please note that, even if you have turned the fire under the pan off, it is still warm (and the pasta, too) and this will be enough to not solidify the cream.
If you like the result, now you can serve your dish sprinkling more black pepper and, if you wish it, pecorino cheese.
Carbonara: the origins
Carbonara has uncertain origins and you could read different versions of it around.
Some say that carbonara was born at the end of the Second World War, when US Allies came in Italy with food provisions like eggs and bacon, two top ingredients of the American breakfast, and Italian cooking creativity gave life to the rudimental version of the dish that we know nowadays.
Another version says that carbonara origins belong to the Abruzzi tradition. The carbonai, the coke workers, adapted the cace e ove, one of the main “poor” leftover recipes.
The name carbonara could recall the black pepper on it, its main feature, that looks like coal dust.
Variations and suggestions
In some inns in Rome, a vegetarian carbonara exists, too, in order to propose a delicious meatless version for whoever wishes to enojoy it. If you'd realize it at home, you've just to replace guanciale with some zucchini and you'll have a really gorgeous colorful dish as well.
Furthermore, along Latium coast, in Ostia for example, you'll find also a carbonara di mare, that is with seafood.
Any version you'll decide to make, remember: never use cream, it would be very unrespectful!