Pasta, Pizza, Risotto

Carbonara, a Classic Roman Pasta

Nicoletta October 1, 2016

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Carbonara, a classic Roman dish, widely known and appreciated. A simple yet super tasty pasta, creamy without the use of cream, with just 4 ingredients: guanciale, eggs, Parmigiano/pecorino and black pepper. A quick pasta to make, that will surely become a favorite.

classic-roman-carbonara

As I’m writing this post, we’re in the Toronto airport, coming back from our Italian vacation. We left Rome this morning and we’ll arrive in Edmonton later tonight, it is a long way back home. My parents left us at Fiumicino airport and we said goodbyes with teary eyes and a heavy heart. It’s always like that, hard to leave them behind,  hard to leave my city which I love so much.

 

Rome is a wonderful, magical city, maybe too crowded, and sometimes may look chaotic and unorganized, but the beauties it holds, its friendly people and amazing food scene, make you forget some defaillances.

Rome has some unique dishes, very recognizable and widely known and appreciated. We always eat very well when we’re there, from pasta to pizza, cheese, fish or meat, simple vegetables, and fruit. I posted a recipe for cicoria,  sautéed chicory, not long ago, and I have to say that it is as loved and known as the pasta I am presenting you today: Carbonara.

Who doesn’t know Carbonara raise a hand!

But are you sure you know the unmistakable, traditional Carbonara, the way it’s done in Rome? Some of you may and some of you may not. For those of you who may not, this is going to be a great adventure of learning a classic Italian dish.

Carbonara is another peasant’s recipe, made with just a few ingredients, few but good (pochi ma buoni), but that doesn’t sacrifice the flavor. Guanciale (cured pork cheek, similar to pancetta), eggs, a mix of Parmigiano and pecorino romano, black pepper. That’s all. Even in Rome, the debate between using guanciale or pancetta is active and passionate, with guanciale winning for the purists. The eggs, organic, from free-run, corn-fed chickens, that make beautiful deep orange yolks. Same debate happens for the use of pecorino romano or Parmigiano, with a blend of both winning by far. As for the pasta, you don’t have many choices: for us Italians, it is a strict ritual to match sauces and pasta shapes. The perfect match here is spaghetti, followed by mezze maniche, or rigatoni. Always a dry pasta, anyway, never a fresh egg pasta. You will never see an Italian make fettuccine Carbonara, but not even penne Carbonara. If they don’t have the right pasta shape, they change the sauce,  that’s how it works.😊

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The guanciale is cut into thin strips and cooked in a saute pan until it gets crispy and releases the juices from the fat, then set aside. The eggs are beaten nice and fluffy with the Parmigiano/Pecorino mix and a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper. The spaghetti are cooked in plenty of salted boiling water and drained when still al dente. At this point the pasta is added to the guanciale in the pan, then in goes the egg/Parmigiano/pecorino/pepper mixture, and stir. The heat from the pasta cooks the eggs delicately, without having the pan on the heat and not turning them into scrambled eggs, which still remains the most common mistake.

The are no funky ingredients, no cream, no onion or garlic, no peas, etcetera, just these 4 basic ingredients, creating the most unforgettable and delicious Carbonara.

classic-roman-carbonara

First forkful of these Carbonara and you get that al dente nutty texture, followed by this silky pungent creaminess from the eggs and cheese, with a nice hit of pepper offering you some spice. Finally, the most unmistakable flavor of the crispy bits of guanciale with its salt and pepper cured meat with the most interesting slightly acidic backdrop and richness from the rendered fat.

We cooked and ate spaghetti Carbonara for lunch, at my parents, one day during our holidays. So the props and ingredients are courtesy of my mom and dad. The Carbonara was very much enjoyed among lovely chats and TV news background noise, always present at lunch or supper time at their place. Miss them already.

Song of the day: “Unsteady”, by X Ambassadors.

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classic-roman-carbonara

Carbonara, a Classic Roman Pasta

  • Author: Nicoletta
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Carbonara, a classic Roman dish, widely known and appreciated. A simple yet super tasty pasta, creamy without the use of cream, with just 4 ingredients: guanciale, eggs, Parmigiano/pecorino and black pepper. A quick pasta to make, that will surely become a favorite.


Ingredients

  • 400 g spaghetti
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup guanciale, cut into thin strips (or lightly smoked bacon if you can’t find guanciale)
  • 2 eggs, organic, free range
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano mixed
  • 2 Tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil.
  2. In a large saute pan heat up olive oil and add guanciale. Saute till crispy and fat is rendered. Turn off heat and set aside.
  3. In a bowl whisk eggs, Parmigiano, pecorino and black pepper.
  4. Place pasta in boiling water, stir and cook to al dente texture or according to cooking instructions on the package.
  5. Drain pasta leaving aside some pasta water, and toss in the pan with guanciale, pouring egg/cheese/pepper mixture and stirring consistently to coat the pasta. Add some pasta water in case you need more fluid.
  6. Place back on the stove top on very low heat, continue to stir for about 1 minute, avoiding overcooking the egg, that has to remain creamy and smooth, not curdled.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes

If you really like the crispy bits, you can reserve few guanciale strips to garnish the plate of pasta. You could also ground some more black pepper on top, to your liking.

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11 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply Zerrin Günaydın October 2, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    So incredibly delicious!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 3, 2016 at 6:19 am

      Thank you! It is indeed a simple yet delicious pasta dish!

  • Avatar
    Reply Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop October 2, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    I have to confess….I’ve never had carbonara! I must change that immediately! This sounds simply amazing and totally comforting.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 3, 2016 at 6:21 am

      Thanks so much Kathy! It’s ok, so now you can make it and see how simple it is and super tasty 🙂 .

  • Avatar
    Reply Maria October 6, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Rome is truly the eternal city …sounds like you guys had a wonderful time. Carbonara is one of my go to meals when in a hurry. Wonderfully done Nicoletta! Thanks for sharing ♥

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 6, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks Maria, I love my city, I might be partial 😉. Carbonara is a wonderful pasta. Glad you like it too.

  • Avatar
    Reply Rosa October 10, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    Hi Nicoletta!! What a wonderful post!! I could relate to everything you wrote, from saying goodbyes to loved ones in Italy, all the way down to your pasta dish. 🙂

    Mi ricordo ancora quando mamma faceva questo piatto solo con uova e parmigiano. Era cosi’ buona e cremosa.

    Grazie per aver condivisso questa ricetta e la vera storia di questo splendo piatto! 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 11, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Thank you so much Rosa for your lovely and kind words. E’ difficile avere genitori e amici lontano, a Roma, qui a parte mio marito e la sua famiglia non ho nessuno. Cooking my dishes, makes me feel close to home 😉 .

      • Avatar
        Reply Rosa October 13, 2016 at 12:42 pm

        Capisco quello che vuoi dire. Mamma sempre diceva … eh, purtroppo la vita è così. I try to visit my family in Windsor once a year but sometimes that’s not the case. There are times that I wish my boys could experience the Italian culture the way I did. I make a lot of dishes that my mom and nonne used to make. Whenever I’m cooking, my boys pop in to see what I’m doing. If I make risotto, they pull up a chair or two next to the stove, all three of them stand on the seats, and they argue whose turn it is to stir the risotto. It moments like this that I cherish most. They grow up so fast. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply karrie @ Tasty Ever After October 11, 2016 at 9:34 am

    We visited Rome for 4 days once and loved it so much that we want to go back and stay there for at least a month at a time. It was absolutely beautiful and everyone/everything was so nice and wonderful. The food was some of the best we’ve ever eaten and it was all prepared with fresh, simple ingredients. Nothing was overdone or over-sauced. The day we visited the Colosseum, we stopped in at a tiny little restaurant for lunch and ordered a grilled seafood platter and the carbonara. It was a unforgettable meal and I remember it like it was yesterday. Maybe one day we can meet you two in Rome and eat some carbonara together 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 11, 2016 at 11:45 am

      So happy that you had a great time in Rome and remember it fondly! I might be partial, but the food in my city is one of the best 😉 . We’d love so much to meet you one day in Rome and eat some wonderful food, including a carbonara, together!

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