Spaghetti alla carbonara
Updated: Apr 18
One of the most famous Italian pasta dishes! It is very easy and quick to prepare but it also a sneaky one because there are so many versions of it.
Mistakes are round the corner with everything that look super simple but it actually requires a lit bit of more attention to the detail.
First the pasta: it has to be spaghetti and please, good, proper Italian ones. No Tesco brand, no fake Italians.
I have got 3 names for you starting from the very best until the decent one :
1) The absolute best of the best, now more available in the UK too which is Rummo, from the south of Italy. It is impossible not to taste the striking difference between this pasta and the rest of them,
It is unbeatable and none else can reach that level of perfection. It's all in the details: the ingredients are only two but they are of the finest possible quality: the water (yes guys, water does matter when it comes to make good pasta) and the wheat. The craftsmanship is incredible during the whole process and they use a method called "lenta lavorazione". (more info on their website https://www.pastarummo.it/en/lenta-lavorazione/ )
Due to the higher price I use it for special dishes or when I really want to impress.
2) De Cecco.
Brand from the south of Italy again, which is easily found in the main supermarkets. Good quality of the ingredients and I use on a daily basis.
The most famous Italian brand and it is exported all over the world. The quality is decent but I sometimes think that they can't possibly use only Italian wheat as they are too big as a company. I also think they are several dupes around so I usually don't buy it here in London. It is the brand that my relatives have always used but I strongly believe that somehow the quality in Italy is better so I only buy it when I am home.
After this big intro and me waffling about pasta brands, another small disclaimer is necessary. I am not sharing the correct recipe here. I am doing my "British" version of it, which I think is still nice.
I will highlight the differences though. The original recipe (the one that my dad used to do all the time) is from a super famous and a milestone for classic Italian recipes, which is "Il cucchiaio d'argento" (literally, "the silver spoon").
It is my family's cooking bible. It is silver with a big spoon at the front (hence the name) and has the size of a huge dictionary. It enlists all the main Italian recipes. Nothing modern though. No sushi, no vegan, not gluten free options there. Only the timeless recipes of our grandmothers.
I remember when I was young I used to watch my dad following it word by word and I was reading with him all the steps carefully. The meal was always delicious if we were religiously following the instructions.
Well, now I am breaking the big tradition.
This is the original recipe from the book ( https://www.cucchiaio.it/ricetta/ricetta-spaghetti-carbonara/)
250 gr spaghetti
200 gr of "guanciale" which is a sort of bacon but it is not exactly the same. It comes from the cheeck of the pork not from the belly therefore it has a different consistence and taste.
30gr pecorino cheese
black pepper ( a lot!) Fun fact: it is called carbonara literally because it is supposed to be covered by black pepper so that should look like covered in carbon powder!
My English version (the method is the same, just the ingredients are not).
-250 gr spaghetti
-4 free-range eggs
-2 packs of bacon cubes
-30 gr grated extra mature cheddar cheese
-Put the kettle on at max capacity and in the meantime fry the bacon cubes in the pan. No oil necessary, it will cook in its own fat until crisp.
-In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the grated cheese, add some salt and a lot of pepper.
-Cook the pasta following the instruction on the package (good quality spaghetti usually take 12 minutes). Save some pasta water in a mug and then drain it.
-Toss it in the bowl with the beaten eggs and stir well. If it is too dry, add some pasta water that you put aside (I put a spoon anyway because it becomes mouth-watering creamy).
At the end add the bacon and stir well. Add some more pepper on top.
Enjoy with a good glass of Italian red wine ( Chianti, Ornellaia or Sassicaia will be great).
Mistakes to avoid:
-Adding the bacon with the beaten eggs before adding the pasta: the grease of the fried bacon will make a weird reaction with the eggs and the sauce will be slimy and too oily.
-Adding the beaten eggs in the pasta pot with the stove still on: it will cook the eggs immediately and instead of having a wonderful, creamy sauce you will have...scrambled omelette. Ugh.
-Using too many eggs: it will be too runny and the smell of egg will be too strong. Disgusting!
-Not using a bit of pasta water: too dry/sticky sauce.
I hope you enjoyed my recipe and let me know if you tried it!Feel free to share my post on your social media account and don't forget to subscribe to my newsletters!
Have a great weekend all!
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