The Real Italian Spaghetti alla Carbonara
30 minute meals. Today’s recipe is a classic Italian recipe.
I’ve titled this post the ‘real’ or authentic Italian spaghetti alla Carbonara because that is what it is, the kind of Carbonara recipe which you would get served up to you if you went to a restaurant in Rome. Sitting in a gorgeous Piazza such as the Piazza della Rotonda overlooking beautiful Italian buildings and the square, looking at the Pantheon, a Christian church and Roman temple before it, you wouldn’t be served the version we often have in the UK, a very heavy dish with lots and lots of cream.
In Rome, or Italy as a whole you’ll find that most dishes we’ve grown to love are prepared differently and perhaps the starkest difference is the amount of sauce dishes are served with. In the UK you get a huge amount of sauce and less pasta. In Italy that’s the other way around with less sauce, but enough to coat the pasta.
The first time I tried this when we had a city break in Rome in 2013 I absolutely fell in love with how they served dishes there and have been trying to prepare and serve them ever since, spurned on more by our honeymoon to Rapallo and Genoa in 2015, we have been revisiting some classic Italian recipes and Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of these.
Carbonara is one one my all time favourite Italian recipes and this has to be my favorite version of the classic Italian dish. I think that’s because making it the Italian way you end up with a far less heavy dish, so you feel you can eat much more of it. Also without all the cream it is going to be better for you and you still have a fantastically creamy sauce from just the egg and cheese. Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a dish where less is definitely more. Ditch the cream and you’ll save time and make a tastier plate of pasta.
Carbonara sauce should be very simple. A mixture of eggs and a good strongly flavoured cheese, such as pecorino or parmesan. And that’s it. No butter. No Cream. No fuss. Carbonara, as a whole, should be an elegantly simple dish which you could make from things lying around in the store cupboard. All you need it pasta, pork of some kind, cheese, oil and eggs. It is peasant food at it’s finest as all the ingredients are cheap (or have cheap versions available) and available year round. Carbonara should feel like a very satisfying and indulgent without being too unhealthy or costly. If more expensive cuts of cured pork are too much for you, you can always use the cheap cuts of cooking bacon most supermarkets sell in prepacked packages, Morrisons Savers is £1.62 for a kilo and as your only going to use around 100g, there will be plenty left over.
The fried bacon (alternatively use pancetta or guanciale – pork cheek) adds a great depth of flavour and some texture to the dish. Adding the egg and cheese mixture to the cooked pasta melts the cheese and just begins to set the egg, making a thick and creamy sauce which will cling to the spaghetti noodles. The egg is straddling the line between cooked and raw so make sure not to serve this variation to anyone who is pregnant or otherwise shouldn’t eat raw egg. It’s also a good idea to make sure you are using the freshest eggs you can get. The quality of each ingredient will really shine out in this Italian Carbonara recipe so i do recommend using the best you can afford, bearing in mind that the better the quality and stronger the flavour, the less of an ingredient you need to use.
Italian Carbonara Recipe
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- 220g Spaghetti
- 100g cooking bacon (or 25g Guanciale or pancetta) cut into small cubes.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 eggs
- 50g Parmesan, aged pecorino or strong cheese freshly grated.
- Freshly ground black pepper.
- Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted* water until al dente.
- Whilst that is cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl with the grated cheese and black pepper.
- When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the pan with the guanciale. Then mix well to coat everything. Take off the heat. Allow to cool slightly. Then add the egg and cheese mixture. Stir to coat the pasta and serve immediately with some more grated cheese if you wish.
*We don’t usually add salt when cooking pasta but did this time.