Spaghetti alla carbonara Recipe
Although my grandmother Angelina never made it--as far as I can recall--as a long-time resident of Rome I have a great fondness for la carbonara, one of the iconic dishes of Roman cooking. Together with bucatini all'amatriciana, you'll find it on just about every menu in town. And it's a popular dish to make at home--it's quick and easy to make (once you get the hang of it) and very, very satisfying. It may come as a surprise to some readers that the real carbonara does not contain cream. It's a rustic, even rough, dish invented by and for common people, full of flavor but not exactly refined--and cream is not an ingredient that features in proletarian cooking, at least not in Rome and points further south in Italy. The other great misconception: real carbonara does not contain ham or prosciutto, either, but the lustier guanciale (cured pig's cheeck) or pancetta (unsmoked Italian bacon). Nor are peas or other vegetables added to the sauce. It's not clear why the dish got 'lost in translation' in other countries. My best guess is that the dish that is called 'carbonara' abroad has become confused with fettuccine alla papalina, a more 'upscale' version of carbonara that does contain prosciutto as well as--at least in some versions--peas and cream. The substitution of guanciale is understandable, as it is not easy to find outside Italy (or even in Italy, which is why pancetta is a common substitute) but it would be much more in the spirit of the dish to use bacon than ham or even prosciutto. There is really no such thing as a 'carbonara sauce' as such--the sauce for this pasta is an intrinsic part of the dish and cannot be made separately. And, finally: there is no such thing as 'chicken carbonara'--how that got started, God only knows.
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25 mins (prep 5, cooking 20)