Spaghetti alla Carbonara: a Myth, a Legend, a Gift from God… Do It Your Way, Lah! It’s Just Pasta

Standard

Let’s start this article saying that the spaghetti alla carbonara is probably the most popular italian dish in the world. And the most copied.

Left: a stupid guy. Right: the spaghetti carbonara he made.

Left: a stupid guy. Right: the spaghetti alla carbonara he made.

If you are italian like me you have been raised with the spaghetti alla carbonara. When the italian moms realised that their kids have grown enough teeth so that they are able to chew they soon prepare them a portion of it. In every italian family it magically appears on the table at least a couple of times per month followed by enthusiastic cheerings, hands clapping and olas (yes, when in the stadium during a football match the audience stands up in sequence to recreate the effect of a wave, a “ola”, as the spanish say. Not easy to make it around a table though). At least this was happening in my family. Every italian fella can make the spaghetti alla carbonara, it’s a requirement the government claims to its citizens, in order to keep living in the country.

I have seen many version of it but be careful, you have to know that there is a fixed standard recipe for the spaghetti alla carbonara and there are some fanatics who will threat you to death if you don’t follow it precisely. What can i say? In Italy, when it’s about food, every folks feel like giving you their “professional advice”, like they are all 3 Michelin stars chefs, although they have never stepped into a restaurant kitchen (and it happens the same when you talk about football).

The origin of this recipe is still unknown and under investigation even if everybody knows that it comes from Roma.

Someone says that the recipe was given by the Virgin Mary herself during one of her holy apparition to a crowd of hungry young shepherds: a mysterious dish full of spaghetti alla carbonara gently fell down from the sky, brought by an angel, with the order to spread the recipe to the world. Guys, i’m joking, don’t take it seriously.

Yes, in this picture it's a branch of olive tree. But in reality it was spaghetti.

Yes, in this picture it’s a branch of olive tree. But in reality it was spaghetti.

Most probably it was invented by the “carbonari”, the charcoal workers who were used to produce the charcoal long time ago in the woods in Italy. Apparently they were too lazy to go to Carrefour so they prepared their food with the ingredients they usually found around like eggs (probably stolen in some hen-house), smoked meat (when you produce the coal you create a lot of smoke so you just have to hang a piece of meat on the top of it. The meat was probably stolen too and of unknown origin), pasta and cheese (i’m not sure but probably it was stolen as well).

The ingredients of the REAL and AUTHENTIC spaghetti alla carbonara (as you can find in Wikipedia) are the following:  

  • Spaghetti (or penne or even other size of pasta but yes, usually spaghetti)
  • Smoked pork “guanciale” (i know you have no idea what it is. I will tell you, don’t worry)
  • Eggs (1 per person)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (not strictly necessary)
  • Cheese
  • Black pepper

Now, what you have to do is very simple:

  • Just put a little bit of olive oil in your pan then you add the guanciale cut in dices.
  • Cook the guanciale until crispy and in a bowl whisk the eggs with the grated cheese and the black pepper.
  • Then cook your pasta and when it’s ready add it to the meat, pour the eggs and sauté until it’s creamy.

I have some friends who don’t even sautéed the pasta, they just put it in a bowl, they add the meat and the eggs and they let the eggs cook with the heat of the pasta.

That’s it. It’s too easy to make so please, don’t buy the bullshit ready to eat sauce in the jar, or the instant one, at least until some company offers me to produce one with my brand and name.

The "Indomie" version of spaghetti alla carbonara for dumb German dudes.

The “Indomie” version of spaghetti alla carbonara for dumb German dudes.

Everybody knows spaghetti, i don’t have to add anything. Probably in your mouth it sounds more like “SPGEDY” but you know what it is. Anyway you can use other kind of pasta but the best for carbonara, at least in my opinion, is the spaghetti.

The guanciale (in Italy it means “pillow” but also cheek) is a cured meat that comes from the cheek of the pig. Yes, you can find this stuff in Italy. Some people use smoked pancetta (bacon) instead of guanciale and the argument if we have to use one or the other is still discussed at the court in Italy.

About the cheese: probably the original cheese for this recipe is the Pecorino Romano, a very salted but tasty cheese made with the sheep milk, although most of the people use the Parmigiano Reggiano.

In my life i have eaten spaghetti alla carbonara so many times and all of them, somehow, tasted different. It means that although there’s a standard authentic recipe, people do it their way and that’s the magic power of cooking. Do what you want, create and whatever… Make it as tasty as you like.

Some put onion, some put garlic (i do), some put cream (i do that too, but just a touch) and all around the world people use the meat they have and the meat they like. What’s wrong? I challenge you to go to a grocery shop in Uganda and find the smoked guanciale. I can’t find it in Jakarta either, i barely find a good bacon. So what do i have to do? I should not eat the carbonara because i can’t find the guanciale and if i use other meat i offend someone? Then not everybody can eat pork, i have a lot of muslim friends who follow a Halal diet, so what do they have to do? Give up on the carbonara? No, just do it like you want, with the meat you like and enjoy it (but don’t tell that to the italian fanatics, they will chase you until the end of your days).

About one year ago i did a video which was published on Yahoo Indonesia where i do my version of the carbonara, the version i wanted to propose to the indonesian audience, with available ingredients and suitable for everybody. I used smoked chicken breast, garlic and a touch of fresh cream. It was very good! This is the video from my Youtube channel.

If you could speak italian you could even read the mean comments from some Carbonara fanatics (there are also some in english) that are saying that it is not the original recipe. Yes, i know that, i didn’t want to do the authentic recipe, dude. Unfortunately now, after this video, i can’t come back to Italy anymore, i have been threatened to death for a dish of pasta. Ahahaha.

Enjoy your food, guys, and cook as you please. Unlike people, spaghetti never killed anyone and if you try the recipe leave a comment and share it.

Matteo

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4 responses »

  1. super cool! you know, some people mistook carbonara with alfredo sauce, even in 5 stars hotels. You really need to write something like this more often. Perhaps a recipe about the classic bolognese sauce? or making Italian brown stock? How about pesto sauce, I find it difficult for Indonesian to like the green sauce. I’m currently learning to cook pasta myself, keep on coming with more articles please

    • You know that in Italy no one even knows Alfredo sauce? The first time i heard about that i was here in Jakarta. They asked me if i could make Pasta Alfredo and i said “what the hell is that? I can make Pasta Matteo, if you want, but i don’t know any guy named Alfredo”.
      It’s a kind of pasta popular in USA but in Italy no one calls it that name and try to go in a restaurant in Italy and ask for it, they will laugh on your face.
      By the way i will do more recipes soon with the new videos in Yahoo, maybe also basil pesto pasta. Just wait and see. See you

      Matt

  2. Great reading and you got humour – even a German dude like me can recognize that. I hope you know why we invented the Knorr version of spaghetti alla carbonara? SO we can sell it to the world while some dumb Italian dudes still fight over the original recipe 😉
    I will try out your version and let you know whether you will be banned from Italy forever or they will forgive you. You know already that we beat Italians in soccer anytime, yah. Ok.
    All the best Matt and keep it rollin’ (I depend on Italian food, that’s why I’m banned from Germany).
    Cheers,
    Tom

    • Ahahah!!! I hope no offense, right? I was just joking. The point is that on the knorr packaging it’s written in german language so… By the way also in Italy we have that kind of stuff for dumb italian people 😜
      About beating us in football… Well, last time you didn’t get lucky, let’s see if we meet at the next world cup, maybe it will be your turn to give us some shame.
      Thanks for the comment,by the way, and keep eating italian food but don’t tell it to your government. In exchange for your kindness i will buy a german car. Deal?
      Keep reading

      Matt

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