I woke up this morning feeling like bacon. Suffice it to say I was extremely disappointed when I opened my fridge. So, I came up with another plan. This afternoon I ran to the store and bought some. I came back and in minutes whipped together this delicious carbonara.
Let me quickly pause here to say that this is Sicilian not the original Laziale (someone from Lazio). In Sicily, you’ll find cream. The original carbonara [up in Lazio] does not include cream. Many Italians have told me that adding cream is an abomination, but then every Italian who said that came from Northern Italy. In contrast, including cream is quite common in Sicily [based on personal experience]. But then again, it’s also common to find lasagna bolognese with boiled eggs in Sicily and Calabria. (I don’t understand why.)
I’ve always considered the carbonara to be a strange dish, wonderfully creamy and bacony but strange. I mean, the dish is practically pasta, cream, eggs, and bacon. There’s not much to it other than that. I don’t even know how it came about. Honestly, I can hardly imagine the original creation. It sounds like a bad joke but I see it happening like this:
A man walks into a bar. Ouch
Ok, seriously, this is how I see it happening.
At the nightly family dinner, the Sgarlato family realizes that little Santo Jr. forgot that it was his turn to cook. The family scrambles. Everyone runs around the house looking for something that will quickly fill the family of four. Little Carmela runs directly to the bread cupboard and steals the last slice. Pietro, while thinking of a white sauce, checks outside to see if the milkman brought by any milk. All he finds is cream.
Papa and Mamma come back. Papa with bacon (what a man!) and Mamma with pasta. Pietro places the cream he found on the table. Just then little baby Carmela walks in using the parsley as a wand. Mamma runs over to Carmela, gives her a quick bacio, scoops up all the ingredients, and runs to the kitchen.
The smell of bacon wafts throughout the house. Papa’s belly rumbles. “Ehlà ma che sta’ fa’?” (Hey there, what are you making?) Papa yells to Mamma. “Aspett’!” (Wait!) Mamma yells back. To the bacon’s fragrance, the starchy smell of cooked pasta is suddenly added.
Everyone gathers around the table to see the last minute feast Mamma has prepared. With a reveal comparable to a world renown magician, Mamma unveils the pasta. Papa, Pietro, and little Carmela gawk. “Che cos’è?” (What is it?) They ask. “Boh” shrugs Mamma. With nothing else to say, they all dive into the meal.
Now I haven’t spent the time to imagine how the carbonara got actually received its name, but I am positive some amazing food historian has written about it. (Let me know if you know!)
Let’s pull ourselves out of our imagination (except for the aroma of bacon, let’s hold onto that 🙂 and dive into making your first carbonara.
I’ve consulted Italians from across Italy on how to make this dish. Care to guess what I learned? The general idea is that in the North, you will find a ‘drier’ carbonara and in the South a ‘wet’ one. The difference is the number of eggs used. A friend from Bologna told me that you should always cook the carbonara once you add the eggs. If you don’t then you may die. (His exact words – except for the translation – I swear.) I do agree that the eggs should be cooked, but after spending more than a year living in Southern Italy, I prefer a nice wet carbonara.
Although I’ll list the ingredients in the next paragraph, I’ve been taught to always use at least two eggs. And then you add one egg per person (with a maximum of four). I have yet to make this dish for more than four people, so I’m not sure how well that bit of advice holds up. But I imagine that when you put together a carbonara for more than four people that the ratio between the cream and egg increases. I mean if you add too much egg then it’ll be like you are having a quiche with pasta. Without having tested anything, I’d say that you should maintain the ratio of 120 grams of cream to every 1 egg. Don’t quote me on that, but it sounds about right to me.
Now the recipe!
Grab the following ingredients: 75 grams (2.6 ounces) of pancetta (if you have a bit of trouble finding pancetta – or don’t want to pay nearly $10 as you would in America – use thick cut bacon and cut it into small cubes), 1 clove of garlic, 120 grams (1/2 cup of heavy cream), 2 large eggs beaten, 50 grams (1/2 cup) of grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon (1/2 a gram) of oregano, 1/2 teaspoon (1/2 a gram) of parsley, and salt to taste. (The actual quantities of oregano and parsley will depend on your preferences. I use 1/2 teaspoon just because I like it.)
You should be cooking your favorite type of pasta while this making this. The type of pasta also varies. I know a professional chef that always uses penne rigate, but most Italians that I chatted with serve the carbonara with spaghetti or linguini. I’ll leave that up to you.
Combine the cream, eggs, parmesan cheese, oregano, parsley, and salt in a bowl.
Sautè the pancetta in olive oil until cooked. Add the garlic and brown.
By now your pasta should have just finished cooking. Strain the pasta noodles and pour the egg-cream mixture over the pasta. Stir. Now add the browned garlic and pancetta to the mix.
Top with a little extra parmesan, to taste of course!
Enjoy! Let me know what you think about the recipe! It’s one delicious Italian pasta dish!