17 Jul2006

Pasta Carbonara

by Marketman

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Carbonara is another one of those Italian pastas that has evolved so far from its roots that some versions are downright repulsive. And it’s an interesting one to be huffy about evolutionary change as it is perhaps a result of “American intervention” to begin with… According to Marcella Hazan and other food writers, Carbonara was the result of American soldiers at the end of the war having bacon and eggs and asking the locals to turn it into a pasta sauce…the result is a classic carbonara with semi-raw eggs and lots of fried bacon and its grease. Throw on some cheese and you have a totally satisfying combination. I read somewhere else, possibly Saveur Magazine, that this was invented in the suburbs outside Rome when ingredients were scarce and you just had to make do with what you had on hand. For some reason, as the dish found its way back to America and beyond, cream was added to the equation so you now find a whole slew of versions which are swimming in a white creamy sauce…

Like Spaghetti Bolognese, carbonara is a carb2very popular restaurant dish and more often than not, it sucks. I ordered it in downtown Rome in a fairly decent looking trattoria near the Spanish steps and this (second photo) near scrambled egg disaster emerged from the kitchens and I was mortified that I was staring at a lousy carbonara right in the heart of Rome! My wife’s cousins prepared the version photographed up top served with penne or similar tubular pasta…it was excellent and extremely true to form, I think. With just egg, guanciale, lots of black pepper and cheese…it was made seconds before being plated and served. The key is to make the eggs coat the noodles but not to cook and scramble the eggs. It should be silky, rich, salty and rich.

Back home in Manila, my wife is on a Roman cooking streak and has gladly made her version (third photo, here) which carb3is very close to the Roman preparation… She again heads to Marcella Hazan as her guide and creates a delicious version with our stocks of guanciale, parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano. To make, sauté 250 grams of sliced guanciale or good bacon, add a few cloves of slightly smashed garlic and fry. Remove the garlic when golden. When the guanciale is cooked and starting to brown at the edges, add ¼ cup of white wine and stir for a minute and turn off the heat. Meanwhile, boil the water for boiling the pasta in and when it reaches a boil, add a tablespoon of salt to the water. When it returns to a boil, add the pasta (spaghetti, linguine or penne – though Marcella says only spaghetti). In a large bowl, crack 2 large or 3 small organic eggs (organic ensures the yellowest yolks) and beat them a little with a fork. Add about a cup total of parmigiano reggiano and/or pecorino romano. We use half and half of each. Add some chopped Italian parsley and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Mix this up with a fork. Re-heat the bacon if necessary. When the pasta is cooked, drain it but reserving some of the pasta water. Wait a minute or two (this step is CRITICAL) before adding the pasta to the egg mixture and mixing quickly. Add the bacon and toss some more and serve hot with more pecorino and parmesan cheese. Add a little pasta water only if it seems overly dry. If you put the noodles in too soon, you will end up with curdled or scrambled eggs on noodles like in the second photo above. This is one of the all-time favorite pastas in our house! If eating out, I only order this at Margarita Fores’ Pepato restaurant in Greenbelt.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. hchie says:

    This is one of my husbands all-time favorites and this is comfort food for him. I follow his Lola Adela’s Carbonara recipe made with lots of bacon and fresh eggs WITHOUT CREAM. Each time I make it for guests, they always wonder why it has no cream. Without sounding smug, I have to explain to them that it’s not supposed to have any. I taught a friend once how to make it and when invited to their house she made it for us….with CREAM! Ayayay!!

    Jul 17, 2006 | 7:20 am

     
  2. millet says:

    this very american tendency to overdo things with cream and/or cheese has rubbed off on us pinoys in many ways, with mixed results. thus, we see bibingkang galapong drenched in cheez whiz, or puto bumbong smothered in grated processed cheese, and the aforementioned “carbonara” drowning in a sauce of butter, cream AND cream cheese. thus, too, we have lasagna where it seems the cook forgot to put in the pasta, or hated pasta so much he/she had to disguise it with tons of butter, cream and cheese and tomato sauce! oh, to have a stash of pecorino, guiancale and parmigiano these rainy days….

    Jul 17, 2006 | 9:13 am

     
  3. masc says:

    hi mr. marketman,

    my tita introduced us to carbonara 25 years ago. she used to live in rome and whenever she’d visit manila, she’d whip out her special lutuan and cook carbonara on the dinner table with us cousins watching on. and like you, her secret was to add the egg off heat and just before serving. in minutes, we’d finish off everything. later on, in a cooking class in high school, i was surprised when my classmate made carbonara with cream and we even had a mini-debate on how carbonara should be cooked.

    over the years, we would encounter “carbonara” with bell pepper, with mushrooms, with sweet ham (my gosh!), even with tons and tons of cheddar cheese and always with cream. no version has come to be as memorable in taste as my tita’s authentic carbonara.

    Jul 17, 2006 | 10:26 am

     
  4. joey says:

    Hooray! I have been waiting for this recipe ever since your guanciale post :) My mom used to make carbonara, without cream, for I long period when I was younger…I think the simplicity of it appealed to her. She made it again before I got married and it was exactly the same…so yummy! I think that it has a very sensual richness with just the egg. I have tried versions with cream and, although I like cream based sauces, it just doesn’t say carbonara to me.

    Jul 17, 2006 | 12:31 pm

     
  5. Carlo says:

    I agree that Pepato has the best carbonara I’ve had in a restaurant in Manila.

    Jul 17, 2006 | 1:47 pm

     
  6. Lei says:

    I’ve got a question, for the recipe above, we are dealing with how many grams of pasta? Thanks!

    Jul 17, 2006 | 4:06 pm

     
  7. Marketman says:

    Lei, about 500 grams of pasta or so.

    Jul 17, 2006 | 5:45 pm

     
  8. Diane says:

    Wow! i’ve been waiting for this recipe for so long. Thanks Mr. MM

    Jul 17, 2006 | 7:50 pm

     
  9. anonymous paul says:

    i generally don’t like carbonara. probably the only time i WILL eat it is when it deosn’t look like a blob of cold coagulated cow juice; which IS very american/pinoy in style. i think we do tend to overdo things a bit by packing in as much ingredients as possible when in fact preparing/serving right off the heat with the simplest ingredients does the job pretty well. this recipe looks DIVINE!!

    Jul 17, 2006 | 9:29 pm

     
  10. ichabod says:

    MMMM… Yummmm… must try this recipe soon. thanks for sharing.

    Jul 18, 2006 | 8:33 am

     
  11. corrine says:

    Ciao, MM! May I know where you buy parmigiano reggiano in Manila? There’s none in Santis. And oh, I love Florence!

    Venice is a lovely place too. I can’t forget the soft shell crabs my hubby and I had in Trattoria di Madonna. Any idea where I can buy soft shell crabs in Manila?

    Jul 19, 2006 | 8:44 pm

     
  12. Marketman says:

    corrine, you can try Galileo Enoteca on Calbayog Street in Mandaluyong, I have a post on it in my archives. Also, Terry’s on Pasong Tamo or at the Podium might have it.

    Jul 20, 2006 | 8:32 am

     
  13. mgr says:

    Looks so yummy! Another recipe to try this weekend and avoid ordering “take out”.

    Jul 20, 2006 | 2:23 pm

     
  14. cupcakediva says:

    Hi Mr. MM! Just want to ask how long is the shelf life of the carbonara using this recipe?

    Jul 20, 2006 | 4:36 pm

     
  15. gina says:

    Perfect! I was already wondering what I would do with the parmigiano reggiano I just took home with me, bought cheap from Costco! Hey mgr, don’t forget to send me your paella negra recipe. MM, you have to get mgr’s husband’s paella negra recipe. It’s so flavorful. He uses squid ink in packets and seemed simple to cook.

    Jul 20, 2006 | 7:59 pm

     
  16. Marketman says:

    cupcakediva, this pasta should be eaten as soon as it is made. If there are leftovers, it can be enjoyed up to the next day or so, though it may not be as good as the freshly made batch. gina, still have to get my paella negra the right color, though flavor is good already…I have a recipe or two in my archives… mgr, hope your results are good this weekend!

    Jul 21, 2006 | 9:19 am

     
  17. edna says:

    i’ve heard that carbonara has eggs on it and i often wondered how to incorporate the eggs into the recipe. though i’m not so fond of carbonara, my kids love it and i cook it at home all the time…with the cream of course, haha! now i can cook a proper carbonara. thanks Mr. MM.

    Jul 21, 2006 | 4:33 pm

     
  18. edee says:

    MM, will it be alright to serve this to a 4yrd old kid?…..I haven’t cooked this for my son yet cause of the “raw” egg…….

    Jul 21, 2006 | 10:00 pm

     
  19. Marketman says:

    edee, I am not a doctor so not qualified to answer that question. If there is any doubt about salmonella or other cooties in the eggs then I wouldn’t suggest this. Otherwise, make it with really hot pasta and that will probably cook all of the egg…while it will be a bit unsightly, as the egg will curdle, the taste will probably be okay… Perhpas a cheese, bacon and butter pasta would be an easier and less “raw” alternative for a 4-year old’s palate.

    Jul 21, 2006 | 10:07 pm

     
  20. edee says:

    thanks MM , he loves cheese (specially parmesan) and butter :)

    Jul 21, 2006 | 10:23 pm

     
  21. rico says:

    MM where is terry’s? is that in pasong tamo extension? Is that the deli by starbucks?

    Aug 17, 2006 | 6:27 am

     
  22. Marketman says:

    rico, terry’s on pasong tamo is in the building behind the starbucks. That is the starbucks beside the Cantinetta restaurant.

    Aug 17, 2006 | 11:29 am

     
  23. jam says:

    Thanks a lot Marketman! i’ll try to do this again:)

    Dec 16, 2006 | 5:15 pm

     
  24. Margarita Fores says:

    Glad to hear you like our deconstructed carbonara at Pepato…by the way the best bacon to use is guanciale which is pancetta made from the panga of the pig…..really potent

    Aug 7, 2007 | 2:20 am

     
  25. Marghi says:

    best carbonara uses guanciale..pancetta from the cheeks of pigs…really potent flavor

    Aug 7, 2007 | 3:35 am

     
  26. abby says:

    hi MM. im no fan of carborana but when i tried martha stewart’s recipe, it became my instant favorite. you’re right, cream is not supposed to be in the sauce. adding fresh eggs just off the heat makes it more luscious. yumm-o! i did another version for hubby and the kids (they like their pasta with lots of cream). i replaced parmesan with quickmelt cheese and added a few spoons of fresh milk (3tbps).

    it was perfect. it turned out like a baked carbonara. really so gooey

    btw, i really love your blog. im learning a lot from it. hope you don’t mind me linking you up.

    have a great day, MM!

    Nov 23, 2007 | 12:48 pm

     
 

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