Carbonara is one of the most famous and representative dishes of the Italian culinary tradition.
The cheese is usually Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a combination of the two.
Spaghetti is the most common pasta, but fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini are also used.
Normally guanciale or pancetta are used for the meat component, but lardons of smoked bacon are a common substitute outside Italy.
Even though carbonara is considered a typical Roman dish today, its origins are quite vague and often disputed. However, most sources trace its origin to the region of Lazio.
Some connect it to pasta cacio e uova, a Neapolitan dish of pasta tossed with melted lard, beaten raw eggs, and cheese, as documented in Ippolito Cavalcanti’s 1839 Neapolitan cookbook.
Others trace it to the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944, with American GIs bringing their daily ration of eggs and bacon to local restaurants to add to the limited Italian menu. Supporting this story is the first written reference to the dish in newspaper La Stampa in 1950, describing it as a dish prized by American servicemen. Shortly after, carbonara also appears in Elizabeth David’s classic 1954 book Italian Food.
The names pasta alla carbonara and spaghetti alla carbonara are unrecorded before the Second World War – notably, it is absent from Ada Boni’s 1930 La Cucina Romana (‘Roman cuisine’). The carbonara name is first attested in 1950, when it was described in the Italian newspaper La Stampa as a dish sought by the American officers after the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944. It was described as a “Roman dish” at a time when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States. In 1954, it was included in Elizabeth David’s Italian Food, an English-language cookbook published in Great Britain.
Since the name is derived from “carbonaro” – the Italian word for ‘charcoal burner’, some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. In parts of the United States, this etymology gave rise to the term “coal miner’s spaghetti”
The dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese and pepper, one of which is pasta alla gricia. Indeed, it is very similar to pasta cacio e uova, a dish dressed with melted lard and a mixture of eggs and cheese, which is documented as long ago as 1839, and, according to some researchers and older Italians, may have been the pre-Second World War name of carbonara.
Carbonara remains a wildly popular dish not just throughout Italy but around the world and is subject to continuous tweaks by both chefs and home cooks.
Carbonara is a traditional recipe, but we should remain open to interpretations that allow us to tell a global story of diversity. Being such a fantastic condiment, carbonara lets you create different variations
to the original recipe. A vegetarian person could have fun experimenting with a roasted artichoke instead of bacon, while a seafood enthusiast may opt for sautéed shrimp. Carbonara di mare, “seafood carbonara,” is an Italian beach favorite. Carbonara pancakes are also phenomenal version of the dish.
Carbonara sauce is often sold as a ready-to-eat convenience food in grocery stores in many countries. Unlike the original preparation, which is inseparable from its dish as its creamy texture is created on the pasta itself, the commercial versions of carbonara are prepared sauces to be applied onto separately cooked pasta.
However, the original Carbonara sauce is ready in a couple of minutes. A mixture of raw eggs (or yolks), grated Pecorino romano and a liberal amount of ground black pepper is combined with the hot pasta either in the pasta pot or in a serving dish, but away from direct heat, to avoid curdling the egg. The fried guanciale is then added, and the mixture is tossed, creating a rich, creamy sauce with bits of meat spread throughout.
Original carbonara usually have around 574 calories, 27 grams of fat per serving.