Experience Rome with a Plate of Spaghetti alla Carbonara

by Giuliano Hazan on August 17, 2010

“There are few ways to create happiness more efficiently than by cooking for yourself and others.” – Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love

Photo by Giuliano Hazan

If you close your eyes while you are eating this, you can imagine yourself in Rome, perhaps sitting across the table from Julia Roberts

The origin of this typical Roman pasta dish is as recent as the Second World War.  One story, which seems more the product of a fertile imagination than fact, tells of how American soldiers would go into Roman trattorie and order bacon and eggs with a side of pasta.  They were served a sunny side up egg and pancetta (or more likely guanciale, cured pork jowl) and a plate of unseasoned spaghetti.  When they mixed the two, Spaghetti alla Carbonara was born.  Another story says that it was invented in a small town in southern Italy called Carbonia, by a chef who later moved to Rome and named the dish after his hometown.  Some people simply say it’s called “Carbonara” because the generous grindings of pepper look like coal dust (carbone means coal in Italian).  In any case, it is a luscious dish, whose creaminess comes from the raw eggs’ contact with the hot pasta rather than cream.  I like to use a combination of whole eggs and yolks, which I find makes the dish both richer and creamier.   We were lucky enough to get our hands on some guanciale recently, that my parents had received from the Salumeria Biellese and shared with us, and last night I used it to make Spaghetti alla Carbonara just as it is traditionally prepared in Rome.  When you can’t get guanciale, the dish is also quite delicious with pancetta, as in the recipe below.

Watch me make Spaghetti alla Carbonara on Daytime!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

From Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta by Giuliano Hazan

Serves 4 people

4 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/8 inch thick

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup dry white wine

Salt

1 pound spaghetti

3-4 sprigs flat-leaf Italian parsley

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino Romano

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

Freshly ground black pepper

1.  Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.

2.  Cut the pancetta into narrow strips about 1 inch long.  Put the olive oil, butter, and pancetta in a 10-inch skillet and place over medium high heat.  Cook until the pancetta begins to brown, but not long enough to make it crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the wine and cook until it has reduced by half.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

3.  When the water for the pasta is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons salt, add the spaghetti, and stir until all the strands are submerged.  Cook until al dente.

4.  While the pasta is cooking, finely chop enough parsley to measure about 1 tablespoon.  Put the parsley and the grated cheeses in the bowl you’ll be serving the pasta in.  Add the whole eggs and yolks and season lightly with salt and generously with pepper.  Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

5.  When the pasta is almost ready, put the skillet with the pancetta back over medium-high heat to reheat.  When the pasta is done, drain it, put it in the serving bowl, and toss vigorously with a wooden spoon until it is well coated with the egg mixture.  Pour the contents of the skillet into the bowl, toss again, and serve at once.
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Spoon and Chopsticks November 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Nicely presented. Love the video.

Cindy Ruth August 27, 2010 at 5:53 am

Ooh, I’ve got to make this soon. I don’t think I’ve had Carbonara since our 2007 Italy trip. And Anchorage now has an Italian deli, and they carry guanciale!

Jamie August 19, 2010 at 10:34 am

Fabulous recipe – loved watching you make it! Ah, it makes me dream of Italy. But instead of sitting across from Julia Roberts in Roma I’d rather be sharing Roma and this Carbonara with my husband…

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