Pasta alla carbonara

 

A 2008 research found that Pasta alla carbonara (literally: ‘as coalmen do it’) is the most frequently falsified Italian recipe abroad. Which is strange, because its name notwithstanding, “carbonara” has nothing to do with la carboneria – the name given to the secret groups of early Italian patriots – nor it is a particularly ancient dish. In fact its first mention is recorded in 1945, and the use of bacon instead of the local almost-equivalent pancetta betrays its origins in the ingredients imported by the American soldiers at the end of World War II.

Having said this, the secret of an authentically Italian pasta alla carbonara is to forget about bacon and do as the real cooks of Rome do – use guanciale. This is a delicacy typical of the region around Roma: a variant of pancetta coming from the cheek and neck of the pig, pressed and seasoned with salt, pepper and frequently garlic. We suggest you to spend a little time looking for real guanciale imported from Italy, as the recipe itself is especially simple to execute. Here we are:

 

Ingredients

 

- Spaghetti or fusilli – 350g

- Guanciale – 150g

- Pecorino cheese – 100g

- Eggs – 5

- Ground black pepper

 

Preparation

 

Dice the guanciale (or bacon…) and let it cook in a non-sticking pan without adding anything else. You want to melt away the fat and get the rest all golden and crispy. Drain the liquid fat before it gels again. Cook the pasta as we taught you to, but hold a little salt: the guanciale and pecorino cheese are salty already, and you don’t want to cover the flavor. While the pasta is cooking, whip one whole egg and just the yolks of the others in a bowl, then add the finely grated cheese and abundant ground pepper. The guanciale goes in next, but make sure it is not too hot, or it will solidify the egg sauce. When the pasta is ready don’t do the last cooking passage in a pan, but just drain it, wait 90 seconds and drop it in the bowl with the sauce – then stir. Your goal is to get the sauce all over the pasta, where the temperature will gel the sauce just that little bit required to let it stick to the pasta. Add a little more cheese and pepper if you like, and serve.