Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, Pasta Alla Carbonara, or simply La Carbonara. A masterpiece of the Roman cuisine that merges strong flavors with a crunchy and creamy texture. There are various schools of thought relating to the origins of this dish, as well as numerous interpretations of the recipe. The most reliable of the stories, and also my favorite, tells about the ingredients (eggs and bacon) that the American soldiers had with them during the second world war, back in 1944, and the creativity of an Italian Chef in Rome, who combined these ingredients with Pasta. Boom! In an old Osteria off Via Della Scrofa, in the heart of Rome, and during the days of liberation, Carbonara was made for the first time.
Since then, this iconic dish has evolved. Nowadays, all over the world, there are a lot of variations of the recipe... During my travels, I tasted Carbonara which looked more like nuclear tests, or health hazard than a simple Pasta dish. Cream or milk, yolk or the whole egg, long or short pasta, bacon or pork cheek, parmesan or pecorino cheese. It's confusing and the list is long. The moral is that even a simple recipe does not guarantee a certain result. As always with cooking, the details, the choice of the ingredients and creativity make the difference.
So, after lots of attempts and talking to real chefs in the most traditional Osterias in Rome, I put together my version, which is creamy enough and very strong in flavor.
I still remember Laura’s face when I cooked Carbonara for her the first time… A great achievement considering that she’s from Rome and I am from Milan, two opposite worlds in terms of culinary traditions.
Andiamo, follow our recipe and have fun!
Rigatoni, spaghetti, tonnarelli, bucatini... which kind of pasta to choose? The rule is that there are no rules! Someone likes short pasta, others prefer a long one. Go for the one you like, just make sure you cook it al dente. However, Carbonara Greenways style is strictly made with Spaghetti or Vermicelli, bronze-extruded. In my opinion, this is the perfect pasta for Carbonara sauce. I strictly choose Pasta IGP from Gragnano, which is a town located in the southwest of Naples, also known as the world capital of pasta production. IGP, is the acronymous of Indicazione geografica protetta. Basically is a certification issued by the European Union, that guarantees the origins of the products in a specific area, made with local ingredients and produced in a specific area.
To make it short, it's good stuff!
PORK CHEEK (GUANCIALE) - Cerreto Farm
Living in the countryside gives you a great advantage when choosing the ingredients for a recipe because in Umbria you can find a lot of local farmers that produce what you are looking for. In this case, we go for our friend's farm from IL CERRETO.
Our business model is based on the enhancement of the territory through its people, who make this region so unique and authentic. All our business partners are selected with care, and we want to support small and family-owned businesses. Il Cerreto farm is definitely one of them. A family farm from this area, established generations ago. This is what makes Italy, and Umbria, so special.
THE RECIPE (for 4 people)
Spaghetti from Gragnano IGP bronze-extruded (or durum wheat) > 400gr
*Organic Fresh Egg Yolks > 6
*Pork Cheek (Bacon is also ok) > 180gr
Pecorino Romano Cheese > 50/60gr (grated)
Black Pepper > just enough
Salt > just enough
* Organic Ingredients from IL CERRETO farm (they offer worldwide shipping)
PREPARATION - Hands-On
1. COOK THE SPAGHETTI
Choose a high and large saucepan, because Spaghetti need more water in order not to get sticky. Bring water to boil and put the pasta. For a perfect Carbonara here is the first secret: don't salt the water too much. Just a little touch because the pecorino cheese and pork cheek will give the pasta the right flavour already. Keep stirring the pasta until you take it out. Taste it from time to time. To make it al dente you should take it out one or two minutes before the end of cooking time. Depending on the type of pasta you choose, cooking time should be around 12 to 14 minutes. Sauté your pasta on high heat, in the fried-pan with the pork cheek already cooked, for less than a minute, stirring with delicacy, to complete its cooking and flavor everything well.
2. PREPARE THE PORK CHEEK
If you are not an expert chef I'd suggest starting this process before making the pasta.
Cooking the pork cheek is crucial. It is preferred to bacon for its more complex and fatter flavor. Cut the skin off and here is the first tip: don't throw it away, but put it in the water with the pasta instead.
You can cut it into cubes or better into strips. If you keep a cut thick enough, then you can make it sweat well by melting the fat in a fried-pan without adding any oil or butter. No onions, no garlic. Just the pork cheek, at medium-low heat. Keep always checking this process because it's easy to miss the cooking, or to burn it. You need to be careful. Make it look crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside. This way will be a pleasure for your palate!
3. THE CREAM
It goes without saying that you should buy organic eggs from happy chickens, fed properly in a free-range farm. Remember that a fresh egg lasts no longer than 3 to 4 days, then it's gone. One of the rules is to add one egg yolk per person, plus one whole egg. This is not a must, but it helps to get a perfect creamy sauce.
So split the yolks from the whites put them in a bowl, add the pecorino cheese, the black pepper and start mixing everything with a fork, or even better with a whisk. Stir until it gets creamy. Don't worry you'll adjust the consistency of the sauce adding the water from the pasta later on.
4. SAUTE' THE PASTA
Drain the pasta al dente and sautè in the fried-pan with the pork cheek. Add a little bit of water from the pasta to facilitate the release of the starch. Turn it upside down moving the pan back and forward or using a wooden fork. Remember to save a glass of water from the pasta for later.
5. ADD THE CREAM TO THE PASTA
We finally got to the final step of this recipe. It's time to put all together and "impiattare" our Spaghetti Carbonara. Here is another tip: do this process far from the heat. You don't want your cream to become a "frittata" don't you?
So take the fried-pan with your pork cheek and pasta away from the heat, wait a minute and then add the cream.
Stir gently adjusting the cream with a bit of water from the pasta. Do this process until it gets both the pasta and the cream get all together. Serve it on the plate adding a touch of cheese on top and a few strips of pork cheek on the top.
Well done! Your Carbonara is ready. Buon appetito!
WHICH WINE FOR CARBONARA?
So, as proved Pasta Carbonara you eat it's a wonder, it's easy to prepare, a little less to pair with wine. Take into consideration that pasta and egg yolk has a sweet taste, the pork cheek has a fatty and oily consistency, the pecorino romano cheese is very savory and the pepper is pungent and persistent. Therefore, a wine of moderate acidity, good intensity, and persistence, with a certain softness and alcoholic strength will be needed. Even a sparkling wine is good.
In my opinion, the best match would be with a white wine, perhaps from central Italy, to recall the geographical origins of the Carbonara. Rosé wines are also good, especially those from Abruzzo and Lake Garda, while you have to be careful with reds, avoiding those that are too tannic.
Some suggestions could be: Prosecco, Chardonnay, preferably aged in barrique, Frascati superior, Bardolino or Barbera.
We are going to match our Carbonara with some Grechetto wine, Umbrian white from our friend's winery farm Di Filippo. We'll talk about this wine in another blog post.
However, the most important thing, is that you don't match Carbonara with Coke or Beer!!! Got it???!!!