Recipes made in Italy by Italians in Italian. Translated for You with Love

Everything you need to know about Carbonara

Everything you need to know about Carbonara
Photo by Elia Burelli on Unsplash

It's the most famous pasta recipe all around the world. Here's a few tricks to make it right

Pasta alla carbonara is a very important recipe in the Italian culinary tradition. Together with tiramisu, it is one of the dishes that have contributed to making our cuisine famous all over the world. Unfortunately, it is also a very "liberal" preparation, whose mysterious origins have left room for numerous variations (not always all of which conform to good taste, especially if created outside of our borders). Discover how to make the perfect carbonara with Sale&Pepe's advice.

What you need to make carbonara

The traditional recipe for carbonara includes the following ingredients: pasta, egg yolk, pecorino cheese(and possibly parmesan cheese), guanciale bacon, and freshly ground pepper. It must also be said that, despite the fact that the world is divided into orthodox and carbonara liberals, there are endless variations of this dish, even vegan ones. The list we provide you with sticks to tradition, but you can vary it by being careful not to commit unforgivable mistakes.

It is often believed that carbonara is a dish to be eaten by a maximum of four people. Beyond that, you risk making a mistake: the scare of the pasta omelette would be just around the corner. If you intend to prepare pasta alla carbonara just for yourself, use these quantities: 70 grams of pasta, 1 yolk, 1 tablespoon of pecorino romano cheese, 30 grams of bacon, and freshly ground pepper.

As the number of diners increases, what varies is not only - and rightly so - the amount of pasta, but above all, the number of eggs. If for one person, we will use 1 yolk, for two people, we will use 3. For a carbonara for four people, the yolks will increase to 5. The trick is to consider 1 yolk per person plus 1 additional yolk for every four people.

Carbonara with Guanciale or Bacon?

The dilemma between guanciale and pancetta was born because of the American influence in Italy in the immediate postwar period. In that period, American soldiers used to ask for trattorias, typical dishes prepared however with ingredients from their food ration, including bacon.

Some liked the lower fat content of bacon. The ones more faithful to tradition rejected the stars and stripes' contribution. In fact, the original recipe calls for the use of guanciale (bacon), capable of giving greater flavor to carbonara by releasing fat, which is useful during the mantecatura phase.

Pecorino or parmesan cheese?

As we have seen on the origin of carbonara, there are many vague theories. However, the area of choice for the origins of this dish which has become famous all over the world, is Central Italy, to be precise the area between Rome and Abruzzo. And there, when talking about cheese to grate on pasta, the answer is only one: pecorino cheese.

Yet once again, custom attacks tradition and tells us a different story. In fact, according to some chefs such as Luciano Monosilio, for a balanced and not too aggressive dish, it is good to mix 100 grams of parmesan cheese with 50 grams of pecorino. "Once upon a time, the only pecorino was used, but I believe that parmesan has a more refined taste and therefore more suitable for today's palates," explains the chef. If you love strong flavors and don't know what to do with a more elegant dish, just use pecorino.

Which pasta is best to use

If you've decided to make carbonara, you'll want to know which pasta format lends itself best to this recipe. A great classic is spaghetti. You can choose from a variety of sizes on the market, preferably bronze drawn. You can also opt for spaghetti alla chitarra. A very good alternative are rigatoni, in whose grooves the egg cream is collected. But you can also choose between mezze maniche and fusilli. What often remains a taboo in this recipe is fresh pasta, but the important thing is not to dare too much, perhaps pushing on stuffed pasta or lasagna. In carbonara, tonnarelli can be a tasty alternative.

How and when to add the egg for a creamy carbonara

To make a creamy pasta carbonara you need to prepare a mix of egg yolks, pecorino cheese and pepper. Using a whisk, create a frothy, well-blended mixture. The egg mixture should be added to the pasta tossed in the pan with the guanciale bacon, to which you will have added a generous sprinkling of cheese and pepper. However, this operation should be done only when the flame is off.
In fact, if we want the carbonara to remain creamy, the temperature of the pasta must never exceed 65° C (65° F). The reason? The proteins of the egg coagulate above 70°, offering the unfortunate stracciatella effect. However, the process of protein coagulation is not immediate, and by quickly stirring the paste, you can quickly lower the temperature from the initial 100° C.

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