For those of you not familiar with Carbonara, this is a pasta dish that hails from Rome, Italy. It is traditionally made using eggs, Italian Cheeses (Romano or Parmesan or other fine Italian cheese) and Pancetta (Italian Bacon) that is tossed in a Spaghetti Pasta. The more modern renditions use Fettuccine, my preferred pasta. If you were to order this dish in Italy, cream and garlic would not be a part of the recipe, but outside Italy these ingredients have been incorporated to create a creamy, flavorful “sauce”. As a lover of all things containing creams and garlic, my Carbonara includes these non-traditional ingredients. Some people have even taken to adding peas or broccoli to their Carbonara. Personally, I don’t if for no other reason that I want to stay as close to the traditional dish of Rome while still satisfying my desire for cream and garlic. But hey, that’s just me.
As a fan of history and a seeker in the origins of food, I did a little research. The roots of the name “Carbonara” are shrouded in mystery. The name is derived of the word carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), leading some to believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. One bite of this light, creamy pasta as it is served today and I would tend to disagree any description using “hearty”. It seems more likely that Carbonara is an urban dish from Rome. Prior to World War II, there are no solid references to Carbonara. However; at the end of the war, Romans were eating more eggs and bacon, supplied by American troops. There are references to the dish one sought after by American Officers following the liberation of Rome in 1944. Whatever the origins, this is one of my favorites. While the fresh, whole oregano leaves are a lovely garnish, if serving in a large rimmed pasta bowl, a sprinkling of finely chopped Italian parsley around the rim is also a great finishing touch.
One word of caution – Fettuccine Carbonara contains eggs that are nearly raw – the egg is not actually “cooked” but rather warmed to thicken without setting. This dish is not recommended for children, the elderly or those that may become ill if digesting warm, uncooked eggs.
1 lb Fettuccine, Spinach or Wheat (for a colorful presentation, a blend of pastas would be nice)
4 Oz Pancetta (Italian Bacon) or American Bacon, cut into ½-inch wide strips
4 Garlic Cloves, cut in halves
¼-cup White Wine
1/3-cup Heavy Cream
1 Egg, whole
1 Egg Yolk
2/3-cup Parmesan cheese, divided
Generous dash White Pepper
Fresh oregano leaves for garnish
In a large stock pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add pasta, return to a rapid boil and cook until tender but firm, about 10 minutes. Drain well and return to dry pot.
Cook pancetta and garlic in large skillet over medium-low heat 4-5 minutes or until pancetta is lightly brown. Reserve 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet with pancetta. Remove mash garlic. Discard remaining drippings.
Add wine to pancetta, cook over medium heat 3 minutes or until wine is almost evaporated. Add pressed garlic and cream, cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat
Off heat, whisk egg and egg yolk in top of double boiler until smooth and pale yellow. Place top of double boiler over simmering water, adjust heat to maintain low simmer. Whisk 1/3 cup cheese and pepper into egg mixture; stir until sauce thickens slightly. Quickly remove from heat – DO NOT allow eggs to actually cook.
Pour pancetta mixture over fettuccine in pot, toss to coat. Heat over medium-low heat until heated through. Stir in egg mixture, immediately remove from heat and toss to coat evenly. Transfer to serving bowl, garnish as desired and serve with remaining cheese.
Ecco a piatto meraviglioso!