A Hearty Roman Pasta Is Also Italian Bacon & Eggs
Pasta alla carbonara, the quintessential comfort food–and one of my favorite plates of pasta–made its debut in 1944 after the allied liberation via the Italian newspaper La Stampa. It was described as a Roman dish when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by United States troops.
According to Wikipedia, the name may be derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner) as some believe it was made for Italian charcoal workers. It has even been suggested that it was created in tribute to a secret society known as the Carbonari (“charcoalmen”) from the early stages of Italian unification.
The name may also have derived from carbonada the word for “bacon” in central Italy’s dialect. It seems most likely, however, that it is simply an urban dish from Rome.
Either way, it is fabulous and you can try it yourself with the recipe below. The key is to use more black pepper than you think you need and to avoid curdling the egg.
- 2 large eggs and 2 large yolks, room temperature
- 1 ounce (about 1/3 packed cup) grated pecorino Romano, plus additional for serving
- 1 ounce (about 1/3 packed cup) grated Parmesan
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 ½ ounces of slab guanciale (see recipe), pancetta or bacon, sliced into pieces about 1/4 inch thick by 1/3 inch square
- 12 ounces spaghetti (about 3/4 box)
- Place a large pot of lightly salted water (no more than 1 tablespoon salt) over high heat, and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with hot water for serving, and set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and pecorino and Parmesan. Season with a pinch of salt and generous black pepper.
- Set the water to boil. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the pork and sauté until the fat just renders, on the edge of crispness but not hard. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Add pasta to the water and boil until a bit firmer than al dente. Just before pasta is ready, reheat guanciale in skillet, if needed. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta and add to the skillet over low heat. Stir for a minute or so.
- Empty the serving bowl of hot water. Dry it and add hot pasta mixture. Stir in cheese mixture, adding some reserved pasta water if needed for creaminess. Serve immediately, dressing it with a bit of additional grated pecorino and pepper.