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Old 07-08-2003, 11:30 PM   #1
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Spaghetti alla carbonara

I know posting this recipe may seem banal, but there are so many myths about the preparation of this very simple, classic Roman dish. I first learned it years ago when I was living in Rome.

Called 'carbonara' because one of the essential ingredients is the heavy speckling with freshly grated coarse black pepper, that somewhat resembles tiny pieces of charcoal, this spaghetti dish is now acclaimed worldwide, and unfortunately often wrongly made.

For four people:

500 gr. spaghetti, of the thicker variety - thin won't do, and it has to be spaghetti, not tagliatelle or any other type of pasta, although you can get away with rigatoni if you find spaghetti difficult to handle at the table.

15 gr smoked streaky bacon - the fat content must be approximately equal to the meat content, evenly cut into tiny cubes - in Italy they use 'guanciale' or pancetta. Guanciale is like pancetta, but from a different cut of pork. Any rind should be removed.

Extra virgin olive oil - about 10 - 15 cl, or enough to shallow-fry the bacon.

2 whole eggs and 2 yolks, very fresh.

Roman pecorino cheese. This is like Parmesan, but made from ewe's milk. It has a stronger flavour than Parmesan and higher acidity, and balances very well with the eggs and the bacon. Failing that, Parmesan will do, but no other cheese.

Lots and lots of fresh coarsely ground black pepper.


The egg mixture must not be heated up after being mixed into the spaghetti - this is fundamental to the finish of the dish.
The heat of the fried bacon, olive oil and cooked spaghetti is sufficient to 'cook' the eggs to the right degree, which should be creamy, not scrambled.

Cream must never be added - it's not 'carbonara'! if it is!!

Do not drain the spaghetti totally dry - if you do, reserve a couple of spoonsful of the cooking water to add back to the spaghetti afterwards. This is what gives the nice creamy texture to the sauce - not cream!!

The bacon should be slowly crisped, to dissolve as much of the fat into the oil as possible.

The amount of black pepper: should look as though you've had an accident with the pepper mill.


Cook the spaghetti 'al dente' - any softer spoils the texture of the dish.

Fry the bacon gently in the olive oil until the fat has melted and the bacon cubes crisped.

Beat the eggs and yolks together, and add enough cheese to make it fairly stiff.

When the spaghetti is cooked and mostly drained, add the bacon and oil, then add the egg mix, off the heat, and the black pepper, mix well with the spaghetti so that the pasta is thoroughly coated with the sauce and is well 'speckled' with the black pepper, and serve immediately.

ciao a tutti



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Old 07-09-2003, 09:08 PM   #2
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Oooh, yum!! Wish you'd write a cookbook. A person who reads your recipes learns not only the how but the why, the wherefore, the differences and the history. Thanks, and keep 'em coming!

PS I'm dead serious about the cookbook.

I said and SAID last summer: "We need to bottle some of this and save it for later." But did anybody listen? Noooooooo!!
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Old 07-11-2003, 08:00 PM   #3
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Thanks, Dianne. I have made carbonara several times, but will try this recipe for authenticity. Looks great!
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Old 06-09-2004, 12:45 AM   #4
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This looks wonderful, and totally easy. How come the only carbonara I have seen has cream in it. I am going to try this later this week and I just know everyone will go crazy for it. Thanks Dianne.
You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams
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Old 06-18-2004, 10:20 AM   #5
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Very eloquent recipe ... extremely informative!!! Thank you!!! /rayt721
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Old 07-04-2004, 06:06 PM   #6
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the real thing!

I was just reading on artisan.net about true Carbonara. I have only had the American version that has the cheese, pepper, pancetta, but also with mushrooms and green onions.

I am going to try your recipe! Carbonara is my husbands favorite dish.

On Artisan.net they also stated that the butter should be "burnt". have you tried it that way? That sounds awesome to me!
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Old 07-05-2004, 03:41 PM   #7
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Authentic carbonara doesn't use butter

Also, the dish was named partly in honor of the coal miners who would come home in the morning after working all night in the coal mines. The black pepper was to imitate the coal as Dianne said, and this dish was served for breakfast, not lunch or dinner
"Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
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Old 07-05-2004, 05:11 PM   #8
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Sounds like a great breakfast to me! Thanks for the tip about the butter!
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Old 09-13-2004, 03:50 PM   #9
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I'm so pleased .... pretty close to the way I make it! I also heard a story that it was popular to feed to American soldiers during WWII when they wanted the (not typical for Europe) breakfast of bacon and eggs. A favorite of mine, nice to see the way it's really done since I don't think I'll be in Italy any time soon.
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Old 04-17-2013, 02:52 PM   #10
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Hey pacanis, I'm bumping up another oldie! This thread is where I learned to make carbonara and its still the best instruction I've seen.

I'm actually bumping it up because I'm making this for dinner tonight and I want to find it easily if I need a reference. LOL! I've made it so often, I doubt I will, but its lovely to have all the same.

You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams
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