Enjoy bacon and eggs for dinner in this recipe for a classic Roman dish, Carbonara.
Carbonara is a classic Roman dish, but its origins are fairly hazy. Some say that Roman peasants created it for American GI’s after the Second World War. Apparently paisanos throughout occupied Lazio gave soldiers pork jowl and eggs as tokens of thanks. Not knowing what to do with this windfall of pork, the soldiers asked local Romans to create a pasta dish. And now we have Carbonara.
In Italy, it is most common to make Carbonara with salt cured pork jowl (Guanciale). In America, it is more difficult to find pork jowl so we often use Pancetta (pork belly). One could also just substitute bacon. Bacon, being smoked, is often too strong for this balanced dish, but makes a convenient substitute nonetheless.
I am making Carbonara today because I find myself with a generous windfall of Guanciale this winter. Before leaving Italy for France last October, Giuseppe and I were gifted about 5 kilos of whole Guanciale from his cousin who is a butcher/ gentleman farmer. We are preparing to return to Italy next week and must consume the entire contents of our French fridge and larder before departing. We are also adding peas to this recipe for Carbonara because we have peas in the freezer---and God forbid any peas get wasted before our Italian road trip.
It is always best to use spaghetti when making Carbonara. For some reason beyond my realm of comprehension, in France they use tagliatelle for Carbonara and spaghetti for Bolognese. It in fact should be precisely the opposite. The sauce in Carbonara coats spaghetti the most evenly. Use spaghetti for Carbonara. It is universally available in America and is the best for this sauce.
Please also note that there is no cream in this recipe. Cream is a common ingredient in bastardized versions of Carbonara. A real Carbonara is never made with cream. The creaminess of the Carbonara comes from the mixture of eggs and cheese in the sauce. It is not so much a health decision to leave out the heavy cream. I find that the original flavors of egg and guanciale come through more clearly without the distraction of cream. The peas and parsley will add a fresh contrast to the richness of pork and eggs.
*Note: If you find yourself with leftover Carbonara, make our recipe for Pastiera, a savory Neapolitan egg and pasta dish.
- 6 oz Guanciaele, Pancetta or bacon, cut ¼” thick and then into ½” strips
- 2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Garlic cloves, sliced
- 3 Eggs
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan cheese (or a mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheeses)
- ¼ cup Flat leaf Italian Parsley, finely diced
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- Cracked Pepper to taste
- 1 Cup frozen green peas, thawed
- 1lb spaghetti (preferably De Cecco brand)
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil.
- Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
- Cook garlic in heated olive oil for one minute, remove and discard garlic. (The garlic is used only to flavor the cooking oil).
- Add pork to skillet and sauté until browned and crispy on both sides (about 5 minutes).
- While your pork is cooking, whisk the eggs, cheese, parsley and pepper in a large serving bowl.
- Remove the pork from skillet and deglaze skillet with white wine
- When water has reached a boil, add green peas and cook for one minute, remove and set aside.
- Add pasta to boiling water, swish with a wooden spoon and cook until al dente (about 7-8 mnutes).
- Reheat pork in deglazed skillet for two minutes.
- Drain pasta when al dente.
- Working very quickly, add drained pasta, peas, pork (and fat contents from deglazed skillet) to the egg mixture in serving bowl.
- Rapidly toss with tongs to coat pasta with egg mixture. The warmth of the pasta will cause the eggs to cook but if you do not work quickly with the tongs, the eggs will curdle and your Carbonara sauce will no longer be smooth.
- Garnish with cracked pepper, parsley and Parmesan and serve family style from your serving bowl.