A desperate cook on weekends (who is missing a fully functional kitchen) and an Associate Professor the rest of the week, this blog chronicles my weekend culinary adventures in my hometown and the food I feed my family who scratches their heads when I make something unusual.
Carbonara has been on my mind for days now and Ramen noodles just don't quite cut it. I just have not had the time to cook a proper meal but I may have finally reached my limit and tonight is the night and I'm making carbonara the way purists of this dish will have it prepared (this was last week prior to me moving to a new place, hence the delay in posting).
There is a mystery on how this dish originated. No exact date nor place have been appointed to this quite popular dish. To drive home this point, here is a narrative describing the origins of Carbonara from the editor of Sophia Loren's cookbook. My memory of carbonara from back home evoked the use of tons of cream which drowns the pasta to an inch of its life. Mushrooms were also added to it as well. However, despite the lingering doubts of the history of this Roman dish, I had to come up with a recipe that combined both Sophia Loren's version while erring on the side of authenticity.
As a graduate student at Michigan State, we once had an Italian postdoc, Silvana and during one of our revolving parties, she made us carbonara for an afternoon party. Jen, our other postdoc on the other hand, was the queen of spaghetti with meatballs and Italian sausages. Silvana made the carbonara whilst we arrived so I was able to watch her make them from scratch. If my memory serves me right, she used cream (a no no apparently for purists) on her carbonara as well and with it, she added the egg yolks. It was a simple dish and yet quite tasty as well.
Now, a few things to point out with regards to this recipe. I used salted pork instead of pancetta. I was not able to find pancetta in the grocery store that I frequent although they had prosciutto but I did not want to use prosciutto at all (it is better left uncooked draped over a cantaloupe and served as an antipasti). If pancetta is not an option, go for smoked bacon. Another thing to remember is that the flavor of this dish depends largely on the cheese used. Use a good variety of Pecorino or Grana Padano or something aged that will lend its flavor in contrast to the creamy flavor of the eggs.
*Carbonara ala Sophia Loren - adapted
4 oz pancetta or smoked bacon, diced
5 to 6 egg yolks
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp cream (optional)
4 tbsp grated pecorino romano or grana padano cheese
1 lb spaghetti or bucatinni
1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
2. In a large saucepan, cook the diced pancetta in 2 tbsp olive oil until
it renders most of its fat. Do not burn to a crisp though. If you are
concerned about the fat in the pancetta, you can remove some of
it and replace with more olive oil.
3. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks with the cream (if using) and
whisk until well mixed.
4. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, add into the pan with the
pancetta and mix well. Add the egg mixture and quickly mix into
the pasta to avoid the eggs from curdling.
5. Add the butter and the cheese and finish with a few turns of freshly
grated black pepper.
6. Serve immediately with more cheese to pass around the table.
*Loren, Sophia. Sophia Loren's Recipes and Memories. GT Publishing Corp. New York:1998