15.12.11

my tribute to Carbonara

In 1999 I visited Italy for the first time, that's when I fell in love with food. I was very picky as a child (G thinks I am still), I wouldn't eat vegetables, always left half of my food, but after I tried the Carbonara I knew that was going to be my favorite food forever, I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life! After 11 years, I can say I've learned to prepare it and I can even tell you where I've eaten the best Carbonara.
But first a little history: Wikipedia tells us that, like most recipes, the origins of the dish are obscure, and there are several hypotheses about it. As the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. The dish was first recorded after the war as a Roman dish, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States. The dish became popular among American troops stationed in Italy; upon their return home, they popularized spaghetti alla carbonara in North America.
As it happens with the amatriciana, there's always diatribe among food lovers about the ingredients of the Carbonara. Some say it's better to use bacon, others lard and whether or not to use the egg white, cooking point of the egg, use of cream and the type of cheese.
Here's the average recipe:




Ingredients (serves 4):

- 400 g spaghetti;
- 150 g bacon or lard; bacon has to be high quality but for everyday, regular diced bacon will do.
- 30 g pecorino romano - a good seasoned parmigiano or other pecorini will do as well.
- 4 eggs - You must use one egg per person (max. one for 2 pax), I prefer to use the whites as well.
- salt and pepper;
(Isn't it amazing that with these simple ingredients you can create something so delicious? maybe that's what I love the most about Carbonara, simple yet amazing)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the past and cook as directed on the package.
In the meantime, cook diced bacon in a skillet until crisp. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the grated pecorino and plenty of pepper
When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour it in a big bowl where you will add the bacon (with the cooking grease/fat). Stir in the egg mixture and toss thoroughly until combined (my short experience has taught me that the egg must not be cooked, so it must be added after the stove's off, mixing continuously and serving immediately).
Serve immediately and, if needed, add more grounded pepper and grated pecorino
Wine pairing (by G): medium-bodied white wines from Lazio, possibly with scents of aromatic herbs, Vermentini from Liguria and Sardinia but G prefers a good Verdicchio from Le Marche. Collio from Friuli (Ribolla, Tocai, Malvasia, Pinot gris and Sauvignon) might be an original idea. If you prefer red wine it must be a smooth blend that won't cover the taste.

We were saying, after years and years of eating Carbonara all around Italy I can state that the best one I've tried was prepared on a wonderful sunny summer afternoon in the Marche hills by my friend S. from Iran... now you must be thinking: what? was it not prepared by an Italian??? - No. I don't know what S. does (she's very secret about it), but her Carbonara is just perfect! and you have to consider that most of your perfect meals also depend of the atmosphere and company. So imagine, having this just-prepared delicious Carbonara by the poolside overlooking the Marche smooth hills and enjoying it while chatting with good friends... just perfect!

A quick fact FYI, recently, Rome's best Carbonara was elected, turns out it's prepared by a Moroccan chef from Antico Forno Roscioli - a gourmerie near Campo de' Fiori. I won't be writing about it because even if it's Rome's best, portions are ridiculously small and prices are high... thanks but no thanks!