What is spaghetti carbonara?
Spaghetti carbonara (spaghetti alla carbonara in Italian, pronounce: spa-GET-tie alla KAR-boh-NAA-rah’) is a main course consisting of spaghetti (long thin strands of pasta) in a creamy sauce of eggs, bacon, cheese and black pepper.
The history of spaghetti carbonara is short; the dish only appeared in cookbooks for the first time in the 1950s-60s. The origin of the dish is shrouded in mystery and there are many different stories. It is thought that the dish comes from Rome, but that idea seems to be a little controversial.
One of the most persistent stories claims that the carbonara gets its name from coal miners (carbonari). The grains of black pepper being a reference to the coal dust. It could also be that the dish was invented by a miner who opened the restaurant La Carbonara in Rome in 1912. (The restaurant itself denies this story, although they do have spaghetti carbonara on the menu). According to yet another version, it was American soldiers in the Second World War who brought the beloved combination ‘bacon & eggs’ from their homeland and thus inspired the spaghetti carbonara.
How to make spaghetti carbonara?
The exact ingredients are slightly different everywhere, even in Italy itself. Everyone has a slightly different recipe and it can vary from village to village, even from neighbour to neighbour. Even in the average Italian restaurant they use different kinds of fatty pork (guancale or pancetta), whole eggs or just egg yolks, Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Sometimes a clove of garlic is smuggled in.
A classic version is prepared this way: Fry cubes of pancetta in butter. Cook spaghetti until ‘al dente’ (with bite) then add to the pan with the pancetta. Then a mixture of beaten eggs, Parmesan and/or Pecorino cheese and black pepper is stirred in off the heat. The egg ‘cooks’ in the heat of the pasta and forms a silky sauce around the spaghetti strands.
How to eat
The dish is best served with extra Parmesan cheese.
Cacio e pepe is another famous spaghetti dish from Rome. If you like carbonara, then you will probably also be a fan of this recipe.