To celebrate one of the most famous pasta dishes on the planet, Federico Schiaffino reveals the perfect recipe
A characteristic and representative Roman first course is undoubtedly carbonara, prepared with popular ingredients that highlight the very best in farming: eggs, fried guanciale (pork cheek), and grated pecorino cheese. Its origins are controversial, with at least a couple of versions out there, but one of the most substantiated stories is that the dish was created by coal miners (hence the name; coal is carbone in Italian), who prepared it using food that would keep during the long hours in the mine. Another more appealing hypothesis attributes the invention of carbonara to American soldiers stationed in Italy during World War II, whose combination of classic American breakfast staples bacon and eggs inspired Italian cooks to invent the recipe. Wherever it came from, carbonara is certainly the most international pasta dish, often found on restaurant menus around the world. The optimal type of pasta to use continues to be spaghetti, but carbonara also marries happily with shorter pasta like rigatoni or penne.
As with any self-respecting recipe, you need at least a couple of tricks to prepare it correctly. First off, the consistency of the sauce must be creamy, so it’s essential not to allow the egg yolks to become too solid. Secondly, don’t singe the pork cheek; it should be golden, not burned. The ritual of carbonara, for Romans and visitors alike, offers the occasion to gather around a table laden with good food, good friends, and good conversation, naturally in the company of a delicious plate of steaming spaghetti. The passion for this Roman of all dishes has even led a group of fans to found a club dedicated to the legendary carbonara, the pasta par excellence known and loved in every corner of the globe. Hence the idea of involving an increasingly large audience through a website, a starting point for culinary projects. Carbonara Club (carbonaraclub.it) is a veritable electronic bible of carbonara, telling the history, sharing the recipes (with every imaginable variation, including vegetarian), recommending the best restaurants to enjoy it, and presenting a whole series of gourmet projects.
Ingredients: 450 gr spaghetti, 225 gr guanciale, 5 egg yolks, 3/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, 3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1⁄2 tablespoon freshly ground pepper, salt to taste.
Preparation: Dice the guanciale into one-inch pieces. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt to taste when it begins to simmer. Cook the spaghetti until it is al dente and drain it, reserving one cup of pasta water. While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the guanciale and cook for about 10 minutes over a low flame until the guanciale has rendered most of its fat but is still chewy and barely browned.
In a bowl, slowly whisk about 1/2 cup of the pasta water into the egg yolks. Add the grated cheese and mix thoroughly with a fork. Strain the spaghetti and transfer it immediately to the skillet with the guanciale. Toss it and turn o the heat. Add the egg and cheese mixture to the pasta while stirring in the remaining pasta water to help thin the sauce. Add the pepper and toss all the ingredients to coat the pasta. Serves four.
Our favorite places to eat carbonara:
Da Felice – Via Mastro Giorgio, 29. Tel 065746800.
Il Falchetto – Via Montecatini, 12. Tel 066791160.
Trattoria Da Luigi – Piazza Sforza Cesarini, 23/24. Tel 066865946.
Roma Sparita – Piazza S. Cecilia, 24. Tel 065800757.
Trattoria Da Teo – Piazza dei Ponziani, 7a. Tel 065818355.