Pasta carbonara is among the most famous typical dishes of Italian cuisine and in particular Lazio / Roman cuisine known all over the world.
Its origins are as ancient as they are humble, in fact it was prepared by the shepherds and charcoal burners who in their periods of transhumance, away for days from the home, had with them all ingredients that did not deteriorate quickly, produced with their own work and therefore contemplated also eggs, guanciale and pecorino cheese.
In truth there is a further legend about the origin of this dish which is traced back to the end of the Second World War when during the liberation, the American soldiers, whose diet as we know includes extensive use of eggs and bacon, were usually mix them with the more traditional Italian pasta.
Pasta carbonara is a dish that is only apparently easy and is declined both in Italy and abroad in hundreds of different ways often far from the original recipe which provides, in addition to pasta, only the use of 4 other ingredients or eggs, pecorino romano cheese, guanciale and black pepper.
Ingredients for 4 people
400 gr Pasta (the use of spaghetti or rigatoni is preferable but the use of liguine, pennette, etc. is also contemplated)
Eggs: 1 whole egg + 4 red ones (it is used to put one whole egg, plus one yolk for each diner)
100 gr Pecorino Romano Cheese
125 gr Guanciale
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
First of all, after having removed the outermost part of the guanciale, cut it into strips about 4-5 mm wide and brown it over medium / low heat in a pan of adequate size, without adding oil as the fat gradually contained in guanciale it will begin to melt. Let us remember that the guanciale must not be too soft or excessively crunchy and dry. We remove the guanciale from the pan and put it aside. In this way we will avoid that the stay in the pan causes it to overcook.
Let’s start boiling the water in the pot where we will cook the pasta using a little less salt than usual, also because the ingredients used in the recipe already contain a certain amount of salt.
In a bowl we will pour a whole egg (yolk and egg white), four egg yolks, pecorino romano cheese, black pepper, a tablespoon of the liquid fat of the bacon present in the pan and mix everything using a whisk.
Drop the pasta halfway through cooking and pour it directly into the pan containing the fat from the guanciale that we will have previously blended with a little cooking water. We skip everything over a high flame, then gradually add a few more ladles of pasta cooking water and cook everything for the necessary time.
We will notice that, slowly, the starch contained in the water, in contact with the pasta, will turn into a tasty cream.
At this point we can turn off the heat, add the previously made mix of eggs / pecorino romano cheese / black pepper and, by mixing, we will give the pasta the right creaminess. If everything is too thick, we can add a little more cooking water.
Conversely, if after having added the mix, the sauce is still too liquid, we can add more pecorino romano cheese until the desired creaminess is reached.
The carbonara should not have the consistency of an omelette but the egg should not remain raw either. The right consistency is creamy!
Now we can add the guanciale and serve on plates sprinkled with a little black pepper.
Variants and Curiosities
- It is common practice to replace pecorino romano cheese with Parmesan (or a mix of both) and guanciale with pancetta or even italian speck … It is still good, but it is not the original recipe for pasta carbonara.
- Some people use to blend the guanciale with dry white wine.
- In order not to over-dry the pasta carbonara giving it that unappetizing aspect of an “omelette”, many add a little cream sauce to the eggs … Following my recipe, it will be as useless as it is abhorrent!
- Pasta carbonara more than a first course could almost be defined as a single dish due to its heaviness. I have also seen egg pasta used … Personally I would avoid but I would try to simply use Gragnano durum wheat pasta.