One of the most universal – yet misconstrued – pasta dishes is Spaghetti alla carbonara. It appears on restaurant menus from Melbourne to Montreal, yet very few make it in the classic Roman way.
The origins of the dish also vary, though one of the most common theories is that it was developed in Rome after WW2 as allied troops supplied the local population two American staples: eggs and bacon. The recipe was first published in Elizabeth David’s 1954 classic ‘Italian Food’ and became rapidly popular for its simplicity and versatility (the dish is suitable for brunch, lunch and dinner). But like Chinese whispers, the original message became confused and it grew common for cream, parsley and even cheddar cheese to be added.
For an authentic Roman Spaghetti alla carbonara, try this recipe (Serves two):
Buy (in Campo di Fiori market for example):
225 grams of pancetta, bacon or guanciale (pig’s cheek)
450 grams dried spaghetti
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Cook spaghetti until it’s al dente (keep the water). Lightly fry the meat until fat is dispersed over the fan and it’s turning crispy. Add the pasta to the pan and toss around, adding a little pasta water as necessary. Add grated cheese and egg whites and some ground pepper and toss. Transfer to serving bowls. Make a hole in the ‘nest’ of pasta and drop in egg yolk and extra grated cheese.
Toss this around a bit on your bowl and eat immediately. Buon appetito!