Savouring Carbonara: The History and Recipe of Italy's Pasta Gem
The rich, velvety texture of Carbonara has wooed the hearts of many across the world. Its simple yet robust flavours are a testament to Italian culinary expertise. But what exactly is Carbonara? Where did it come from, and how do you make it? Dive with me into the heart of Italy as we uncover the mysteries of this delicious dish.
History of Carbonara
The origins of Carbonara are a blend of myth and fact, with several tales describing its inception.
The Coal Miner's Meal: One popular narrative is that Carbonara was named after the Italian word 'Carbonaro' which means 'charcoal burner'. It's believed that the dish was a hearty, easy-to-make meal for Italian coal miners.
The American Influence: Another tale, from the post-WWII era, suggests that Carbonara emerged from the combination of American bacon and powdered eggs brought to Italy by the soldiers and the local Roman pasta.
Ancient Roman Dishes: Some historians suggest that Carbonara might be an evolution of an ancient Roman dish described in historical culinary documents.
Despite the uncertainty of its origins, Carbonara has unquestionably become a symbol of Italian cuisine, especially Roman gastronomy.
The magic of Carbonara lies in its minimalist ingredients:
- Pasta: Traditionally, Spaghetti is the go-to choice, but tagliatelli and other pasta types can also be used.
- Pecorino Cheese: A sharp, salty Italian cheese. Often Pecorino romano is used however we like to use Sardo as it has a greater depth of flavour and creaminess.
- Guanciale: Cured pork cheek. In its absence, pancetta (Italian bacon) can be used.
- Eggs: Used for the sauce.
- Black Pepper: Ideally freshly ground.
Find a collection of our favourite carbonara ingredients here.
The Perfect Carbonara Recipe
serves 2 - 4
- 400g Spaghetti
- 100g Guanciale or Pancetta, diced
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Salt, to taste
- Half a clove of Garlic grated (Optional)
Prepare the Pasta: Boil a large pot of salted water. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain the pasta.
Cook the Guanciale/Pancetta: In a large pan over medium heat, fry the diced meat until it's crispy and golden. Remove from heat.
Egg-Cheese Mixture: In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, (grated garlic if using) and a generous pinch of black pepper until well combined.
Combine Pasta and Meat: Add the drained pasta to the pan with the meat. Toss to combine.
Add Egg-Cheese Mixture: Pour the egg-cheese mixture over the pasta, ensuring to mix quickly to prevent the egg from scrambling. The heat from the pasta will cook the egg, creating a creamy sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water a little at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
Serve: Season with more black pepper and top with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Serve immediately.
Carbonara is a testament to the beauty of Italian cuisine, where a small number of quality ingredients come together to create a dish that's greater than the sum of its parts. Whether you believe it was a coal miner's sustenance, an American-inspired creation, or an age-old Roman delicacy, one thing is clear: Carbonara has cemented its place in the culinary world, and its delightful taste will continue to charm generations to come. Find our favourite ingredients below.