When I mentioned recently that I needed to add some more savoury recipes to my blog, I thought I’d start by adding a new ‘pasta’ category. Rome boasts some pretty amazing traditional pasta dishes, so why not start with a recipe that is part of the Royal Family of pasta dishes – Carbonara! Apparently it was brought to Lazio from Umbria by coal men (carbonari), who came to sell charcoal to the Romans.
For many years I was making this recipe all wrong. While you will often hear me rave about my mother’s cooking and her wonderful recipes, I am sorry to say that her Carbonara recipe wasn’t at all traditional. It was good (we loved it)… but it would make any Roman screw up his nose when presented with the list of ingredients. Since I moved to Rome three years ago, I’ve been perfecting my Carbonara. I often ask chefs, cooks, nonnas, friends (just about everyone actually) how they make their Carbonara, and everyone has their own way that they insist is the best. Some use just Pecorino Romano, some just Parmigiano, others a mixture of the two. Some use whole eggs, some use just the yolks… etc etc… I’ve got to the point now though, that I’d be happy to serve up a bowl of my Carbonara to any Roman without breaking out in a sweat and having an anxiety attack … and I can also say that it’ll leave you wanting to lick the bowl and break out singing, “That’s Amore”!
I have used ‘Spaghettoni’ which is a thick spaghetti. The Spaghettoni I used is ‘Benedetto Cavalieri’. I suggest you read about the company on the website, as their story is one of family traditions passed on through the generations since 1918. It is an important pasta which makes this pasta dish anything but ordinary. It costs more than your average pasta but it’s worth paying extra to take your recipes to whole new professional dimension. Don’t be fooled by a small looking portion as this pasta goes a long way.
You can use short pasta to make Carbonara too, but Spaghetti will always be my first choice. Please try to find some good quality Guanciale (an Italian cured meat made from pork cheeks) or Pancetta…. although failing that (if you really can’t find any), substitute with good quality bacon.
(for 2 generous portions)
- 250g Spaghettoni di Benedetto Cavalieri (Durum Wheat Semolina Pasta)
- 200g Guanciale
- 1 egg + 2 egg yolks
- 50g freshly & finely grated Parmesan Cheese
- 200g freshly & finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Black Pepper (choose a good quality Black Pepper) freshly cracked.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil, add salt and cook pasta respecting cooking times written on the packet, cooking pasta until it is ‘al dente’.
- Remove the thick skin from the Guanciale, and cut into cubes. Add to a large frying pan and fry until it is crisp and golden. Turn off heat.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg and yolks with the grated chesses and a generous dose of cracked black pepper. It won’t be liquid, more like a egg and cheese paste.
- Drain pasta when ready, and add to the fry pan with the guanciale and the fat that has come from it during the cooking process, and stir well.
- Pour spaghetti back into large saucepan, and away from the heat add egg and cheese mixture and stir energetically. The heat from the pasta will cook the egg, and the cheese and egg mixture should become a luxurious and creamy coating for your pasta. *DO NOT stir in egg mix with saucepan over the heat otherwise it will result in a very ugly scrambled egg pasta.
- Serve immeditaly with a sprinkle of freshly grated pecorino, and a little extra cracked black pepper.