According to Taste Atlas, Pasta alla Carbonara directly ranks n. 2 in the top ten World famous Italian pasta dishes, just after Tagliatelle al Ragù , or best known as “Tagliatelle alla Bolognese”.
Like many other traditional dishes, a veil of mystery is wrapped around the origins of this tasty dish.
Let’s unveil the most popular stories on the creation of this masterpiece of Italian cooking.
Unveiling the mystery throughout history and traditions
It is hard to establish the “Carbonara sauce” origin because there is no written record until 1950.
Still, a similar sauce was mentioned already in 1839 in Ippolito Cavalcanti’s Neapolitan cookbook: cheese, raw eggs, and melted lard.
Furthermore, in the nearby Region of Lazio, a very popular way to eat past was with Cacio cheese and eggs (Cacio e ova).
Could our beloved sauce be an evolution of those two well-known regional recipes until someone found the perfect balance among all the ingredients?
And by perfection, we mean that the ending result must be when the eggs embrace the pasta without getting sticky and dry, neither without being runny and raw.
Could “Carbonara” be linked to the name of those who were consuming it the most?
In Rome, Coal workers are called “Carbonari,” hence the rich sauce made of cheese, eggs, and “guanciale” would have been perfect for sustaining them during a long day in the mine. The dash of black pepper on the top could remind the soot stains on the workers ‘clothes.
Or could it be the first attempt of an Italian-American fusion kitchen?
It was 1944 during the Allied liberation of Rome, and fresh food was scarce at the time, and often pasta was served with very few ingredients, if not straight.
American GI’s started adding their K ration ( a ration of bacon and powder egg) to plain Spaghetti. The combination was immediately a hit for both the Americans and the Italians, and it became famous all over the territory.
The National Newspaper LA STAMPA published in 1950 the first article mentioning a host in Trastevere who welcomed American officers serving them spaghetti carbonara.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara became an international success, as in 1954 British author Elizabeth David described them in her book “Italian Food.”
Once again, the recipe got adjusted throughout time by substituting fresh ingredients and finding that perfect balance mentioned previously.
How to make the perfect Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Nowadays, there are several versions of Carbonara Sauce, and many chefs around the World are trying to come up with new combinations to cherish everyone’s palate, including vegetarians.
However, if you want to taste the original Italian Carbonara, there are a few strict rules to follow!
- Choose the right pasta, such as Spaghetti or Linguine.
- Use only guanciale (an Italian cured meat from pork cheek)
- Use only yolks
- Use only Pecorino cheese.
- Black pepper must be freshly grounded.
- It’s strictly forbidden to use onions, garlic, mushrooms, or cream!
Now that you know the rules, let’s go to the kitchen to put them into action and delight our taste buds.
- 350 g (12 oz) of spaghetti
- 200 g (7 oz) of guanciale
- 4 yolks
- 100 g (3,50 oz) of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- Black Pepper
- Put a large pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt. Once the water is boiling, throw in your Spaghetti. Set your timer to a couple of minutes earlier than the suggested cooking time so that you can have your pasta “al dente.”
- Meanwhile, dice your guanciale and fry it until it gets really crispy.
- Grate your pecorino cheese and mix it with the raw yolks, salt, and a dash of fresh pepper.
- Drain your Spaghetti, leaving some boiling water on the side.
- Pour the Spaghetti into the pan with your fried guanciale, for a maximum of 2 minutes, then take them off the fire.
- Now add your mixture of yolks and cheese and some boiling water and keep on stirring very fast!
- Serve immediately with some extra grated Pecorino and a dash of freshly grounded pepper.
Did you know that since 2017, on April 6th, the Italian Association of Confectionery and Pasta Industries and the International Pasta Organization created National Carbonara Day?
Now that you know the history, the right ingredients, and the know-how, you can surprise your family and friends and celebrate this fantastic World loved pasta!