Carbonara: the unforgivable mistakes

Preparing the perfect pasta carbonara is not impossible. Here's how to do a perfect Italian carbonara

Preparing the perfect pasta carbonara is not impossible. It will be enough for you to avoid some major mistakes. According to the Academy of Italian Cuisine, carbonara is the most "falsified" pasta in Italy, in which questionable ingredients (such as cream) are often added.

Let's start with the first mistake. If you are planning to prepare this dish and in front of the salami counter you are undecided whether to ask for guanciale or pancetta, you are about to make the first, unforgivable mistake. Guanciale is used in carbonara. Some people turn to bacon because they are convinced that this will dampen the already high fat content of eggs and cheese. But the truth is that this salami risks exacerbating the taste of the final result. Guanciale must be browned without oil or butter, the fat in excess must be drained, keeping only a small part to be used for mantecatura or to beat eggs.

Eggs are at the origin of another error to be avoided. In pasta alla carbonara must be used only yolks, without using egg whites. It is true that some very skilled chefs, such as Sarah Cicolini of Santopalato, Rome, balance 5 egg yolks with 60 grams of egg whites in a recipe for four people. The error, therefore, is always relative to the result, which in cases like Santopalato's carbonara is sublime.

One of the mistakes generally made by those who try their hand at preparing pasta alla carbonara is to make random additions. There are those who, when in doubt, make a base of soffritto. Some people use garlic. Some use cream for a creamier effect. Some people dilute the guangiale with wine. None of this is necessary.

Another element to be kept under control are spices: there are those who, in an attempt to flavor (inappropriately) carbonara, range in the field of spices. In this dish you only need a grind of fresh pepper, added to the mixture of eggs and cheese. And that's it. No chili or nutmeg or, worse, turmeric.

As for the cheese, the question is: parmesan or pecorino? As we've seen, if you don't want to betray your origins and prefer to push on an aggressive flavor, go with a good pecorino. Otherwise, make a mix with parmesan. But never, never use ricotta, stracchino or burrata.

A mistake that can easily be made with carbonara is to be rigid about the pasta format to choose. Here you can indulge your imagination. Both classic spaghetti and vermicelli are fine, but rigatoni, tortiglioni and even fusilli are also perfect. Pay attention to the quality and cooking of the pasta: making a mistake can ruin the entire final result.

Pouring the egg on the pasta with the flame on under the pan is one of the most terrible mistakes you can make while preparing this dish. Once you've drained the spaghetti or mezze maniche, pour it into the pan and saute over high heat with the guanciale and its remaining fat. Only once the pan is removed from the heat, pour the egg over the pasta. Otherwise the effect is a spaghetti omelette, which there is no way to remedy.

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