Carbonara
September 20, 2011 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Pasta alla carbonara (usually spaghetti, but also fettuccine, rigatoni or bucatini) is an Italian pasta dish based on eggs, cheese (pecorino or parmesan), bacon (guanciale or pancetta), and black pepper.

Recipes by Marcella Hazan*, Mario Batali, Giada de Laurentiis, Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, Ruth Reichl, Tom Cruise, and Calvin Trillin*, who has campaigned to have it replace turkey as the Thanksgiving national dish.
posted by Trurl (105 comments total) 151 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome...there's a place in Santa Monica that sells guanciale. Time to impress a ladyfriend with some home-cookin'
posted by Jibuzaemon at 9:36 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Guidi Marcello
posted by Jibuzaemon at 9:37 PM on September 20, 2011


which place is that, jibuzaemon?
posted by flaterik at 9:42 PM on September 20, 2011


Marcella Hazan is going to slap that woman for adding cream to her recipe.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:44 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Must... Not... Make... Second... Dinner...
posted by Aquaman at 9:45 PM on September 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Using actual guanciale is worth the trouble.
posted by shothotbot at 9:46 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I buy pecorino a lot. It's considerably cheaper at my local cheese guy's shop than parmiggiano, and is great for carbonara.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:46 PM on September 20, 2011


So the Mario Batali link includes a recipe for guanciale which calls for two pounds pork jowls. Because they are so easy to find.
posted by shothotbot at 9:48 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Must... Not... Make... Second... Dinner...

Aquaman, you don't have to cook. I will; please just set the table.
posted by datawrangler at 9:49 PM on September 20, 2011


This from the person who eats freshly grated parmesan with a spoon. Sometimes it's too much to ask a person to wait for the pasta to cook.
posted by datawrangler at 9:51 PM on September 20, 2011


Pepper, cured pork, eggs, hard cheese, pasta. Maybe a little onion if you want to be all healthy. I'm not convinced about the wine. Is a recipe really required?

This is my current standard pasta. Alfredo was my go to from a young age (ten perhaps) until not that long ago. I'm not sure which is less healthy, nor do I really want to now.
posted by ssg at 9:52 PM on September 20, 2011


So the Mario Batali link includes a recipe for guanciale which calls for two pounds pork jowls. Because they are so easy to find.

I'm sure that in 1985 pork jowls are available in every corner drugstore, but in 1955 they're a little hard to come by!
posted by XMLicious at 9:52 PM on September 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Argh, *know!
posted by ssg at 9:52 PM on September 20, 2011


Pork cheeks are interesting cuts, in my Experience they are only slightly pork flavored and have a very unexpected texture. You should be able to find them at your local pork store.

I just ate but I was considering making some spaghetti with pecorino and cracked black pepper, as an after dinner snack.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:53 PM on September 20, 2011


Making guanciale is stupid easy too. And having it in the fridge makes everything better. Plus, on the north side of the globe we are quickly approaching curing season in the garage. I include curing salts to help retain colour and not kill my family with pathogens, your mileage may vary.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are TWO place in Vancouver that you can buy house cured Giancale. Cheap too!

Suck it rest of North America!!

I going to eat my carbonara now (seriously - I made some the other day - what a delicous coinicidence).
posted by helmutdog at 9:54 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or, as Mark Bittman calls it, "basically bacon and eggs with pasta."
posted by gottabefunky at 10:01 PM on September 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Carbonara is the best thing I know to make when you're feeling rakishly drunk. My recipe calls for guanciale, pecorino, a hastily untied bowtie, and a cigarette dangling from my lips.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:01 PM on September 20, 2011 [27 favorites]


Why, why, why do this to me at 1:02 AM EST? I even miss the (relatively) mediocre cafeteria carbonara from my study abroad in Rome back in the late 90s. Mouth watering. Thank you, I think?
posted by joe lisboa at 10:03 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's The Prawn Cocktail Years that points out that nearly all English university students get sent away from home with a terribly bastardized recipe for spaghetti bolognese, which they then proceed to butcher further as they learn to cook. And yet it would be so very easy to teach them instead to cook a decent carbonara.
posted by Ahab at 10:07 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


So the Mario Batali link includes a recipe for guanciale which calls for two pounds pork jowls. Because they are so easy to find.

I'm a vegetarian now, but I've found butchers are pretty much willing to give you any animal part you need.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:22 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a nasty rumor going around for a while that carbonara was basically just an American invention, fashioned for GI's who had spent some time on the continent; basically bacon and eggs with pasta. Wikipedia is not sure.
posted by Gilbert at 10:26 PM on September 20, 2011


"Fill a pot with ten pounds of buttah and then sit in it."
posted by bardic at 10:26 PM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm too damn lazy to make second dinner, (stupid dishes are still in the sink) but hello breakfast!
posted by Space Kitty at 10:28 PM on September 20, 2011


Time to bring back the good ol' Food porn site (SFW) - click on pix until your finger bleeds
posted by growabrain at 10:28 PM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


LOL, bardic (sounds like my kind of pleasure)
posted by Surfurrus at 10:29 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm already mixing this recipe in my head.

But, if I want to make for family it has to be vegetarian carbonara I like the smoked dried tomatoes idea -- or anchovies ... or with smoked tempeh and lots of fresh basil.
posted by Surfurrus at 10:33 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I wrote all this out and noticed that the first link is actually just-about-right as far as a proper carbonara is concerned. However, it is missing garlic - a fatal error. (Hazan's version is highly suspect. Wine? onion?) Anyway, here is my recipe, mastered from many, many midnight meals. No proportions other than "1 egg per person" because I typically just use whatever is at hand.

1. Start to boil water for pasta.
2. Dice guanciale (or bacon, yes, that is also permitted, but for the love of god no maple flavour), add to (cast iron) pan, turn on heat to medium.
3. Combine in a bowl: 1 egg per serving, the cheese (preferably romano or reggiano but again, just nothing terrifyingly inappropriate like cheddar), and black pepper galore. Stir. Reserve.
4. When the water boils, add your pasta. Doesn't matter which kind, really.
5. When the bacon reaches desired doneness (there's an argument here, but hey, go with what you know), turn off the heat. Resist the urge to drain any fat. Mince some garlic directly into the hot-but-off pan, I use a garlic press for this. Add chili flakes. This should do a weird bubbling thing from the latent heat. This is good. If you don't have a cast iron you might need to use low heat to mingle the flavours in the bacon fat... just don't brown the garlic, whatever you do. I cannot emphasize this enough.
6. When your pasta is ready, drain it and then return it to the hot pasta pot. Make sure you don't return this pot to a live burner, disaster will ensue.
7. Add the raw egg-cheese mixture directly into the pasta pot with the drained pasta.
8. Add the pan mixture on top.
9. Stir to coat.
10. Add green things (parsley? peas? kale pesto?) if it makes you feel better. It's not even close to necessary, though.
11. Taste it. Additional salt (and pepper) is permitted, since the salt content and quantity of guanciale/bacon used will vary from batch to batch.
11. Serve. If you have obeyed these steps correctly, the eggs will cook just enough from the latent heat of the pasta to form a custard-like sauce and coat the pasta evenly with a bacony-eggy-garlicy-peppery-goop. Done correctly, you will see exactly why cream is an unnecessary abomination. If you see specks of firm, fully-cooked egg, you have failed. But eat it anyway, it's still good... but it will be better next time.
posted by mek at 11:17 PM on September 20, 2011 [72 favorites]


Oops, I forgot to mention to grate the cheese, and now envision someone desperately trying to mash a block of cheese with three raw eggs. Hopefully you know better.
posted by mek at 11:18 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm a fan of Jamie Oliver's Sausage Carbonara, which is real easy to make.
posted by chavenet at 11:20 PM on September 20, 2011


Of course, any discussion involving guanciale requires mention of bucatini all'amatriciana which I wrote about in this FPP three years ago.

I had the best all'amatriciana after tracking down the place mentioned in a few of those pieces: Al Pompiere in the Ghetto area of Rome. Absolutely fabulous.

Now I'm on the hunt... curious if I can "make my own" as easily as the Babbo recipe, since lord knows I'm not finding any here...
posted by disillusioned at 11:55 PM on September 20, 2011


The River Cafe Cookbook suggests penne, which works well. Zucchini is a surprisingly delicious addition.. of course, then it is no longer carbonara.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:48 AM on September 21, 2011


Reading through the recipes above, I find Ruth Reichl's closest to my version. I add a bit of onion alongside the garlic, and probably use way too much delicious cheese, but her version is pretty much right on.

The best thing about carbonara is that you can go from "I have no idea what we're having for dinner" to "eat this tasty home-cooked meal" in TWELVE MINUTES. Nine for the pasta to cook and three for futzing around pulling ingredients out and finding the strainer. It's almost effortless.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:53 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


(If you're vegetarian you can replace the pig muscle tissue with mushrooms and it's really quite lovely okay that's all.)
posted by Mooseli at 1:12 AM on September 21, 2011


Rome reporting in - you're dealing with a dish that's religiously revered here, so bear with me if a lot of the above strikes me as pure heresy. That the likely origin stemmed from a post-war stock of K-ration chopped pork and egg yolk, doesn't mean that the preparation hasn't since been locally anointed and canonized...

Here's Gambero Rosso's 2008 10 best pasta alla carbonara in Rome; and here's another 2009 top five. And here's a scientific take on the recipe.

Some basics of the local rules:

- pasta type: the standard is spaghetti (aka vermicelli), or else, and this is the only other permitted alternative, it's a short pasta, preferably mezze maniche, though rigatoni and, if absolutely necessary, penne, are also acceptable. Any other pasta shape is a breach of dogma. No other hard pasta shape, and most definitely, for obvious reasons, no egg-pasta (fettucine etc.).

- a fundamental point regarding the eggs: use only the yolks. Admittedly, there is some debate about this even here, but it seems to me that surely the intended effect is an alchemic creaminess - and the heat-curdled egg-white just plain gets in the way of that, without adding any organoleptic benefit.

- it's OK to mix parmigiano (yes, only one g in it) and grated pecorino romano, a slightly stronger cheese, according to your love of tang. (In the amatriciana, on the other hand, orthodoxy calls for pecorino exclusively.)

- wine (which locally means: white wine) is used to flash the sizzling guanciale. If you manage to do it right, the effect is guanciale pieces that are crispy outside but tender inside.

- onions are considered a permissible variant for home-cooking; you'll likely never find it used in restaurants. Garlic, on the other hand, would be considered a garish faux-pas.

- no cream, no green stuff, nothing else.

Regarding these rules: I'm not saying that all the other ideas/variations/additions don't taste good - just that they'll get you something different than a "real" Roman carbonara.
posted by progosk at 1:21 AM on September 21, 2011 [32 favorites]


In our household it always has garlic (assuming I remember – it's the one thing I often forget) and chopped parsley. I firmly believe that it has the best yum:effort ratio of any proper dish.

It also works particularly well with fresh duck eggs. Bonus points if your spaghetti is also made with fresh duck eggs.

At the right time of year we can get everything except the wheat and the bacon (and cheese, but what self respecting household doesn't always have a block of nice grana handy, so that doesn't count) to make this particular variant of carbonara from the garden. That always impresses me for some reason.
posted by damonism at 1:48 AM on September 21, 2011


When I lived in Rome, my employers paid for their Anglophone staff to take Italian lessons. Signorina Alessandrelli, our teacher, used photocopied pages from a textbook as the basis for our lessons – and on one such page was the recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara I have used ever since. It was fairly orthodox as per progosk’s specification – white wine, parmesan and/or pecorino romano; no garlic, no cream, no green stuff…
posted by misteraitch at 2:20 AM on September 21, 2011


and grated pecorino romano, a slightly stronger cheese, according to your love of tang

The cheese of Astronauts!
posted by chavenet at 3:17 AM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I put a large ceramic or glass bowl in the oven and heat it to 200 or so, I put a little butter in there, pour in the hot spaghetti and toss lightly, pour the whipped egg yolks, then add the bacon and fat, finally toss to coat. Garnish with coarse black pepper.
Variations: I have added some cheese to the egg yolks before pouring, flashed the bacon with white wine, thrown in some peas or parsely, and added cream, these all taste good. When necessary, I use the dried grated cheese, Parmesan/Romano, or Romano, but avoid the real cheap dried "Parmesan"!
posted by Runcible Spoon at 3:54 AM on September 21, 2011


I was riffing on the amazing Maria Bamford doing an impression of Nigella. Unfortunately I can't find a clip on yourtube.
posted by bardic at 3:56 AM on September 21, 2011


More on the origin of the dish - there's a fascinatingly credible nugget of an explanation in the comments of the scientific recipe I linked to: a reader writes that he remembers speaking in 1960 to a carbonaio (carbonaro, in Roman parlance) who ran his wood and coal trade out of a corner bottega near via della Pace, right in the heart of Rome. At the end of the war, as he had the materials, he sidelined by cooking some simple pasta for the American troops. He once saw a soldier empty a K-ration can (the canned chopped pork and egg yolk was one of the breakfast options) onto a plate of pasta, and took his cue to perfect the recipe from there.

This explanation covers the connection to the troops quite plausibly, situates the birthplace in Rome, and most of all gives a credible derivation of the name - a piece of the puzzle that's most always missing. (Ground black pepper resembling coal dust...? Guanciale fried so crunchy as to resemble bits of coal...? No, I don't think so.)

The commenter's mom remembers the man's name being Federico. It's right around the corner from my house. I think I might go and look into this...

posted by progosk at 4:01 AM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


I find it totally fascinating that such a simple recipe in theory (cook pasta, pork product; use latent heat to cook eggs and melt cheese) can have such a massive amount of variations.

Also, I lived about a block from La Carbonara in Campo dei Fiori in Rome; you would think that for a place that claims to have invented the dish their version wouldn't be so mediocre.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 4:03 AM on September 21, 2011


8. Add the pan mixture on top.

Ooh, no, no, no. Use tongs and add the pasta to the cast iron pan mixture, which is still on a very very low flame. The carbonara is the boss -- don't dump it on the pasta. Let the pasta come to it.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:06 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


All of the local restaurants insist on adding in peas, which is like adding in broken glass or castor-beans. Now I have the tools to make a pea-free carbonara!
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:16 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love carbonara but my attempts always end up looking like scrambled eggs on pasta. What am I doing wrong??
posted by like_neon at 4:26 AM on September 21, 2011


(picture of a carbonaio's bottega.)

Oh and: seconding your thumbs down for La Carbonara, daniel striped tiger.

A good place that's actually on the very street of the putative original carbonaio's shop is Osteria del Pegno - I don't recall their carbonara, but here's a rave. Also: Chowhound thread.

like_neon: use the yolks only, added at the end, heating them only with the residual heat from the just-cooked pasta.
posted by progosk at 4:30 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forget class warfare. Give me more pasta!
posted by crunchland at 4:30 AM on September 21, 2011


Minimalist Mark Bittman has a nice vegetarian take on carbonara
posted by aeshnid at 4:47 AM on September 21, 2011


It is right and just that an entire FPP has been devoted to pasta carbonara. This is a dish that everyone should know how to make.

(I once texted the basic recipe to my best friend when she said she didn't know how to make it. You've gotta love a recipe that you can fit into 150 characters.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:21 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding progosk's local rules and adding that once your pasta water comes to a boil, you need to chuck in a handful of coarse salt (to taste) before you chuck in the pasta. No adding oil to the pasta water either. That's the rule for pretty much any 'boil the pasta, add the sauce' type recipe.

And the the goto 3am drunk food 'round these here parts is aglio olio e pepperoncino, also known as "Aò ma c'ho 'na fame. Fammo due spaghi, che dite?" :)
posted by romakimmy at 5:21 AM on September 21, 2011


Salt = fundamental indeed, romakimmy. (Though I have heard discussions as to whether it's better added to the cold water, or only once it's boiling...)

That oil in the pasta-water thing makes sense only when you're cooking long, home-made egg-based pasta (fettucine, et.al.) that's intrinsically too delicate/brittle to throw into the strainer - the logic being that as you lift the pasta out of the water when it's done, the oil adheres, giving it a minimal anti-stick coating.

"[...] aglio olio e pepperoncino, also known as "Aò ma c'ho 'na fame. Se fammo du'e spaghi, che dite?" FTFY ;-)
posted by progosk at 5:47 AM on September 21, 2011


Guanciale sounds like one of the best things ever. One of my local butchers sells pigs' heads for something like $4 each; if I didn't live with a squeamish vegetarian I'd be around there on the weekend asking them to hand over every fatty, quivering jowl they had on the premises.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:49 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still scramble the eggs half the time I make carbonara. I've found that the following help, but I haven't found a fool-proof method yet.
- don't add the pasta to the pan with the oil and pancetta, add the oil over the pasta
- let the pasta pan cool off some before putting the pasta back in
- make sure the pasta pan is not on the burner you used to heat it. Even with gas, the cast-iron supports hold a lot of heat
- let the eggs sit out and come up to room temperature first (sort of ruins the instant easy meal aspect)
- temper the egg mixture with a few drops of the pasta water
- stir like crazy after you mix!
But again, I'm still only 50-50 and I'd love a solution that works every time. I'll try just egg yolks next time.
posted by stopgap at 6:02 AM on September 21, 2011


I suppose I'm a barbarian, I really think a bit of chopped parsley adds to the dish.

But cream? WTF? Why would anyone add cream?
posted by sotonohito at 6:21 AM on September 21, 2011


I've gotten into arguments over when to throw in the salt as well, progosk. Scientifically speaking, adding salt to water raises its boiling point. But with the amount of water used to cook pasta, it's like a 30 second difference. Ditto on starting off with cold or hot water from the tap.

I usually settle said arguments with "I'm cooking. Stop breaking the chef's balls and GTFO of my kitchen" :D

I mentioned above throwing it in before the pasta just because it's usually easier for those who are not habitually used to salting their pasta water. I use cold water and toss in the salt when I stick the pot on the stove.

The oil thing, however, I've never seen an actual Italian use. And have seen my fellow expats met with much wailing and gnashing of teeth upon pouring a bit of olive oil into the pasta water. B'oh...

D'oh! No Italian dictionary plugin on this computer to aide my lousy spelling. And though Facebook has helped muchly, my written romanaccio still sucks I'm afraid :D
posted by romakimmy at 6:24 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know I've heard that oil in the pasta water keeps the pasta from sticking together. That's wrong; stirring keeps the pasta from sticking. The only time it helps to add a little oil is if your water is making a starchy foam that threatens to overflow the pot. Oil will break up the bubbles (like rubbing your finger on your nose and using it to bring down the head on a glass of beer). But the better solution is to lower the temperature a little and stir more.
posted by stopgap at 6:29 AM on September 21, 2011


Carbonara is the best thing I know to make when you're feeling rakishly drunk. My recipe calls for guanciale, pecorino, a hastily untied bowtie, and a cigarette dangling from my lips.

It's so true. An Italian friend used to get us all into her kitchen making carbonara in the wee hours. Nothing sobers you up quicker than being handed a microplane and a wedge of cheese and being told to minimize the amount of finger you add to the mix.

I think people add cream because they don't understand how else to make it creamy and can't get their head around how it works, given the number of recipes which perpetuate this abuse. I make carbonara all the time and oftentimes even guests who are familiar with it are surprised that it has no cream, and some refuse to believe it.
posted by padraigin at 6:33 AM on September 21, 2011


A trick I learned recently ... if you (or others you are eating with) find the garlic flavor overwhelming, or if your garlic is just particularly strong-tasting and is overpowering the other flavors of the dish, boil the garlic. Just toss the peeled-but-not-chopped cloves into the pasta water as it comes to a boil, but before you add pasta to it, for a minute or two. It will soften the flavor substantially, making it a little less sharp, but still very present. You can actually use quite a bit more garlic this way.

you need to chuck in a handful of coarse salt (to taste)

Yes, definitely, but I'd add that, unless you really know better, "to taste" in this case is "until it tastes like seawater." Most pasta doesn't absorb that much water, so you can make the water very salty and it doesn't necessarily follow that your food will taste the same way.

I had written pasta off as basically being impossible to cook until someone finally showed me that I was Doing It All Wrong, undersalting and overcooking and generally taking the same approach that I took to potatoes.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:36 AM on September 21, 2011


Dammit, Trurl, it's not even 9 am yet, and just reading the above-the-fold post made me hungry. I don't even want to get into the links, my day could be ruined if I do.
posted by deadcowdan at 6:53 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hazan's version is highly suspect. Wine? onion?

The onion appears to be an interpolation by the blogger.

As for the wine, if Marcella Hazan told me an Italian recipe called for 10W-40, I'd put it in.
posted by Trurl at 7:18 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those lucky enough to live in Southern England, and Sussex in particular, Twineham Grange cheese makes a damn fine cheese for a carbonara.

It feels mildly (ok, very) sacrilegious to be using a hard English cheese in a Roman recipe... right up to the second that you taste it.

Best made with eggs bought from the local market, and after about 4 pints of Arundel gold.
posted by generichuman at 7:56 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


GODDAMNIT MEFI I'M ON A MOTHERFUCKING DIET

and also at work, damn your eyes
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:05 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had never made Carbonara until I watched Nigella Lawson make it on her show. I tried her method a few times - and ended up dropping the cream she uses, both because I'm now lactose intolerant, and because I always ended up with too much liquid in the final dish. Now I just use one whole egg, beaten in a bowl with the cheese - then cook bacon in the pan, when it's done hit it with a splash of white wine or vermouth - add cooked still-hot pasta to the pan and swirl around - then dump pasta and bacon into the bowl of egg and cheese and rapidly stir up. (Whenever I try putting the egg and cheese into the pan with the other stuff, the egg scrambles. It doesn't when I do it the other way.)
posted by dnash at 8:09 AM on September 21, 2011


I have a question. A couple of people have mentioned "flashing with wine" - I'm not familiar with that term; what does it accomplish, and how is it done? Thanks!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:14 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Greg_ace - it's the same as the phrase "deglaze the pan." When the bacon (or whatever) cooks in the pan, assuming you're not using a non-stick pan, some bits of brown stuff will stick to the bottom of the pan. You pour in a splash or two of wine, which will immediately start to bubble and boil, and stir around, scraping that stuff off the bottom of the pan.
posted by dnash at 8:21 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


But cream? WTF? Why would anyone add cream?

I sometimes add cream. Sometimes I make carbonara as a complementary exercise to making a chocolate mousse recipe which uses egg whites and cream. I'll put the unused yolks in a carbonara, and since there's cream around I might stir a little into the yolks along with the cheese before combining with the pasta. It makes it a bit creamier, if you can imagine. Unnecessary, sure, but tasty.
posted by yarrow at 8:21 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Heh heh... pay up, Palmer
posted by fusinski at 8:22 AM on September 21, 2011


Anyone tried this recipe from Something Awful? I've never actually had carbonera minus extra veggies and meat.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:24 AM on September 21, 2011


Hazan's version is highly suspect. Wine? onion?

OMG. Do. Not. Question. Marcella. Justdon't.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:36 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh, all this about the origins are interesting. It was a staple fancy dinner - Christmas eve, most particularly - in our house and my father was in Italy during the war. I wonder if that's where he first encountered it?
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:40 AM on September 21, 2011


Thanks dnash, I'm familiar with deglazing but had never heard it referred to as flashing.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:40 AM on September 21, 2011


if I want to make for family it has to be vegetarian carbonara I like the smoked dried tomatoes idea -- or anchovies

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but...um...ah, never mind. Go right ahead.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:13 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


One striking carbonara variation I had recently (though I can't remember where) was a carbonara marinara, with tiny, crisply pan-fried baby squid substituted for the guanciale, leaving everything else the same. Delizioso!
posted by progosk at 10:25 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


One nice thing about eating in Italy is that you don't get garlic in everything like you do in Italian restaurants elsewhere. I like garlic a lot, but not with egg dishes.
posted by mumimor at 10:49 AM on September 21, 2011


I like garlic a lot, but not with egg dishes.

I couldn't agree with you more. Garlic and eggs together is just...funky.
posted by slogger at 11:19 AM on September 21, 2011


While 100% Sicilian, I grudgingly agree that garlic is not obligatory, but there's no embargo with eggs, certainly not. Can one really do eggandpepper potatoandonion saw-seetch sammiches without sauteeing garlic? I mean, really? You don't even have to put it in there, but the kitchen's gotta smell like it!!
posted by thinkpiece at 11:46 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I admit, it's complicated. No one can deny that garlic and mayo go very well together. And one might put garlic in the vinaigrette for Salade Nicoise. But as a general rule, I believe garlic and eggs don't work well. Maybe it is yellow runny egg yolks that aren't good with garlic? (And I like runny egg yolks a lot). Is there a chemist here you can explain this?
posted by mumimor at 12:16 PM on September 21, 2011


I learned about carbonara, no joke, from reading American Flagg!. The title character, Reuben Flagg, liked to cook and made that dish in one of the issues. They provided a recipe and everything, though it isn't the one I currently use.
posted by Gelatin at 12:29 PM on September 21, 2011


More on the origin of the dish

I have an Italian calendar from 1937 with the recipe. It calls for pancetta, uova, (eggs), grana padano (similar to parmigiano, a bit less grainy) and spaghetti. When I make it, with raw eggs (I get them from my organic food-coop), I insist that people who want to eat should be ready at the table waiting for me to finish cooking the spaghetti.
posted by francesca too at 12:44 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fried onions just short of turning black can satisfy the non-meat eaters.

As to history, Craig Claiborne's story accords pretty much with what I once heard from an old Roman. According to my source, the Garibaldini were allotted some fusilli and dried pork. Being soldiers, they stole eggs from farms and there you are. The pork fat melted enough to serve the role of oil. (Cheese and olive oil were a later inspired refinement.) One can see how invading/liberating Italian soldiers could become garbled into invading/liberating American GIs.

As to the name - no idea. I'd thought possibly another garbling of carabinieri, but they weren't on Garibaldi's side. At least, not initially.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:49 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


(allotted fusilli and pork as rations while on the march, that is to say.)
posted by IndigoJones at 12:50 PM on September 21, 2011


I have an Italian calendar from 1937 with the recipe.

!!

Is there any way you could scan that and put it on line somewhere? (Much as I dread seeing the great little story of the local carbonaio dissolve back into the confabulation it was/is...)
posted by progosk at 12:51 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone mentioned Jamie Oliver; his puttanesca is a fave in our house for mix of ease and yumminess.

I thought all the cool kids were into cacio e pepe now, even more minimalist.
posted by ifjuly at 2:16 PM on September 21, 2011


I thought all the cool kids were into cacio e pepe now, even more minimalist.
posted by ifjuly at 5:16 PM on September 21 [+] [!]

I must be a cool kid then because i'm obsessed.
posted by sweetkid at 2:21 PM on September 21, 2011


Well, the cools kids are also all into artisanal mayonnaise. The damn name itself is an oxymoron! So wrong.
posted by thinkpiece at 2:34 PM on September 21, 2011


I've made a very simple carbonara for a while and have never had the scrambled egg problem. Not sure what part of what I do prevents it, but I put the pasta in the pancetta pan, the egg and cheese mixture on top and then GENTLY combine them. Can't remember where I heard it, but I've always thought that it was the vigorous stirring combined with the heat that scrambled the egg. I just kind of fold it together and it seems to coat just fine.

Also hear somewhere that pasta water should be as salty as seawater, though I again, can't remember where or why I believed it.
posted by Noon Under the Trees at 2:49 PM on September 21, 2011


I do not understand the garlic and egg hate - those two were made for each other! I grew up making fried eggs by first covering the pan with crushed garlic cloves and then cracking the eggs on top. Or sauteeing garlic and then adding beaten eggs to scramble. Quiche! Spinach, cheddar, garlic, eggs. I have just never heard of this combo being anything but happiness and wonder.

Now garlic in carbonara I can't speak to, as I've never actually made it and after ordering it a couple of times in restaurants and determining carbonara must mean alfredo + fake bacon bits, had never been tempted. This post, however, has tempted me. I am off to the store to buy some parm.
posted by arcticwoman at 3:17 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. Suggestion for those who tend to get scrambled eggs: drop them in a bowl of warm water when you put the pot on to boil the pasta water. Using the yolks from those gently-warmed eggs has worked for me every time.

2. Pasta. Eggs yolks. Parmigiana Reggiano. Black pepper. Garlic. NO MORE. No less. (My best friend was born in Italy, in Calabria. His mother taught me to cook. I called her and asked what else BESIDES those things could go in a carbonara. She hung up on me.)
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 5:11 PM on September 21, 2011


I have an Italian calendar from 1937 with the recipe.

I took a better look at the calendar: it is actually a commemorative reprint of the year 1937, but it actually was printed in 1966. Maybe your carbonaro story is true, progosk.
posted by francesca too at 5:14 PM on September 21, 2011


Mmm. I just made carbonara for the first time and it was a qualified success. I used egg yolks only, no garlic, and bacon. I may have overcooked the bacon a tad. I think I added too much cheese, which stopped the egg from mixing in as well as it could have, but after adding a little bit of the pasta water it's nice and creamy. This is delish, and supa easy. Thanks for dinner Metafilter!
posted by arcticwoman at 5:16 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Metafilter, for enabling me to scarf down a huge plate of fatty-ass bacon, egg and cheese pasta tonight for dinner. It was so, so good.
posted by slogger at 5:52 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Making mek's version right now.

so. hungry.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:36 PM on September 21, 2011


BOIL ALREADY DAMN YOU
posted by Space Kitty at 6:36 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok, that was awesome.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:22 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I too ate carbonara tonight.

MY ARTERIES HATE YOU, METAFILTER.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:52 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gelatin: I learned about carbonara, no joke, from reading American Flagg!.

Brother! Let us quit this dreary excuse for a world and found a new one, based on the works of Howard Chaykin!

I call dibs on being the cat with the prosthetic hands
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:12 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]



So the Mario Batali link includes a recipe for guanciale which calls for two pounds pork jowls. Because they are so easy to find.

Guanciale is pork jowels. What the hell do you expect?
posted by Evstar at 9:13 PM on September 21, 2011


Salting the water has negligible effect:
Some people add salt to water before cooking pasta, believing salt stops the water from boiling over, or makes the pasta cook faster. In reality, the small amount of salt added makes no significant difference in the boiling point, and adding salt also does not stop water from boiling over.
posted by asok at 8:18 AM on September 22, 2011


Are people really arguing that salting the water is affecting the cooking time? I always was told the reason for salting the water was for flavor.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


GODDAMNIT MEFI I'M ON A MOTHERFUCKING DIET

and also at work, damn your eyes
posted by Halloween Jack


Actually, pasta puttanesca is my go-to dish for when I'm wanting carbonara but feeling it'd be bad for me. If you permit yourself some leeway on the sauce itself, that could be even easier.

THE TRADITIONAL VERSION:

1. You'll need a can of tomatoes (or the raw equivalent), an onion, a clove of garlic, a couple anchovy filets, a spoon of capers, a handful of pitted black olives, a bit of red pepper flakes, oregano, and pasta.

2. Cook the pasta the way you always do.

3. Chop up the onion, garlic, and anchovies. Saute them. While they're cooking, chop the tomatoes if you're using fresh ones. When the onion is translucent (and the anchovy seems to have disappeared -- don't worry, anchovies do that), dump in the tomato. Add the capers, then chop up the olives and oregano and add that too. Add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to taste.

4. Serve that over pasta.

THE CHEAT'S VERSION:

1. You need pasta, anchovies, capers, olives, and a jar of plain marinara sauce.

2. Start the pasta cooking the way you always do.

3. Dump out however much of the marinara you'll need in a pan. Chop up a couple anchovy fillets and a handful of the black olives; dump that in the marinara with a spoon of capers. Let that all simmer.

4. Serve that over pasta.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 AM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


you need fresh lemon juice and zest too, don't forget. so good.
posted by ifjuly at 9:11 AM on September 22, 2011


Am I the only one who grew up with pasta having exactly three varieties: spaghetti with tomato sauce, fettucini alfredo, and lasagne? I feel like I have stepped into an alternate reality. Pasta puttanesca tonight!
posted by arcticwoman at 9:27 AM on September 22, 2011


*Sigh of bliss
Thanks for the great post, Trurl. Marvelous thread too.

Just thinking about carbonara makes me happy. The first and best I've ever eaten was across the street from the Pantheon in Roma. (Omg, it's still open! Ristorante Da Fortunato al Pantheon. Then, in 1975, a quiet, very affordable place. Of course, having a love affair with a handsome film student from Buenos Aires, who lived down the street, being newly turned 21 and on my own in Rome may have helped.)

Here in NYC there was a great little restaurant on West 50th Street, run by a Northern Italian genius chef, Roberto Passon, that made incredible carbonara, for NYC. Hell's Kitchen loss, he's moved to The Village, Aria Wine Bar.

Looking up best carbonara in NYC this place looks amazing and seriously affordable. Good pic of the carbonara they make on their site. La Carbonara. Lunch carbonara is $8.50. Brunch carbonara is $9.95. Dinner carbonara is $10.95.

Lupa got rave reviews for their carbonara, made with guanciale. $15 for lunch/dinner carbonara.

And now this damn post made me jones for carbonara, not an easy lust to satisfy. It has to be done just right with subtlety. Maybe one really has to make it oneself.

Where To Buy Italian Ingredients in New York City

Guanciale: Guanciale, cut from the pork's jowl, is the traditional type of bacon used in the Roman dishes spaghetti alla carbonara or pasta all'amatriciana because it has a more intense flavor than pancetta. Even though guanciale is popping up in more places these days, it can be trickier to find than pancetta. For imported guanciale head to Buon Italia ($23.65/lb). Faicco's Pork Store has organic guanciale ($10.99/lb); Salumeria Biellese, which supplies many restaurants (Mario Batali is a fan) has a domestic, home-cured version. Salumeria Rosi has guanciale from New York ($14.00/lb whole or $21.00/lb sliced).

Buon Italia, 75 9th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-633-9717, buonitalia.com;

Faicco's Pork Store, 260 Bleecker Street, New York, NY, 212-243-1974;

Salumeria Biellese, 376-3378 8th Avenue, New York, NY, 212-736-7376, salumeriabiellese.com;

Salumeria Rosi, 283 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY, 212-877-4800, salumeriarosi.com

posted by nickyskye at 9:42 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Slight derail: I actually went to Alfredo's in Rome for a Christmas Eve dinner once. Really, really bad idea.
I like going to Rome for Christmas, but Christmas Eve not many places are open for dinner. One year the concierge where we were staying recommended Alfredo's. It's probably the worst place I've ever eaten in Rome. And the prices! Next time, we were staying at the same hotel, and the concierge recommended Alfredo's and I told what I thought of that idea. So he recommended a place in Trastevere which wasn't really open, but where the owners (his friends) were having their own dinner in the restaurant and didn't mind sharing. That was amazing. And at half the price for five times the luxury.
posted by mumimor at 11:11 AM on September 22, 2011


Puttanesca is brilliant (also making etymological faux pas while trying to impress your in-laws with your as-yet-unripe Italian...). Make sure you use capers in salt, the vinegared sort are a travesty. And: purists would forgo the onion in this one. (In general, incentral Italian cooking you either find onion or garlic in a recipe - never both.)

nickyskye: the only place near the Pantheon that I'd recommend now is Armando; not sure if they serve carbonara, but if they did I'm sure it would be a good one.
posted by progosk at 11:54 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


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