We can’t say this annual event is a tradition that has been celebrated for centuries, in fact, National Carbonara Day only dates back to the 6th April, 2017. Created by the Italian Association of Confectionery and Pasta Industries and the International Pasta Organisation, this is a day our team are happy to mark on our calendar, happy to indulge in this culinary delight.
Now to the Pasta. Considered a staple of Roman cuisine, the beloved dish, Pasta alla Carbonara is simply pasta tossed in a creamy sauce featuring beaten raw eggs, grated Pecorino Romano with crispy bits of Guanciale (a cured meat made from a pig’s cheek). If Guanciale cannot be sourced the only acceptable ingredient swap is Pancetta which is more readily available. For a little extra creaminess, a little pasta water can be added, but absolutely no cream. Lastly, the dish is showered with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and of course, freshly ground black pepper.
Let’s talk about Pasta Carbonara, and its origins?
Associated with Rome and the Lazio region, some question the pasta’s origin saying Pasta Carbonara originated from Naples, as there are similarities to Pasta Cacio e Uova. While others believe the word, carbonaro (coal burner), drops a hint that the easy-to-make hearty dish was created by men who spent hours working outdoors for long periods. Wherever it originated, we are simply happy it’s been shared with the world.
What are the true ingredients of this popular Italian dish?
For culinary purists only five ingredients count: Guanciale, Pecorino Romano, egg, salt, and pepper. If you think you can add anything else, then think again, or can you…? In these modern times, we have seen many versions; vegetarian, seafood, and red meats.
Restaurant Piccolo Lago’s two-Michelin-starred renowned Italian chef Marco Sacco says. “In the kitchen, the protection and care of tradition must be able to coexist with the desire and the possibility to innovate and experiment. The original recipe, or the oldest versions, must be defended and preserved, just as an artistic asset is protected in a museum or a UNESCO site. But this does not mean that freedom should not be given to experiment, innovate or adapt to the territory with new ingredients.”
Our team love this dish, so our favourite cookbook author Pia Gava happily shares her take on Pasta Carbonara. In Pia’s own words, Carbonara life!
Now, let’s create this epic Italian dish. Serves 4 people.
200g guanciale or pancetta: remove rind, dice or thin baton cut.
4 large eggs, whisked (or 4 eggs yolks & 1 whole egg).
250g pecorino romano cheese (or parmigiano; or 50:50 mix), grated.
1 packet pasta or approx. 400g fresh pasta.
Reserve some pasta water.
To serve: Top with extra grated pecorino & black pepper.
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to boil, add cooking salt then add pasta. Cook until al dente, as per packet instructions or only few minutes if using fresh homemade pasta.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, add the pecorino, black pepper and mix thoroughly then set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, lightly sauté the guanciale/pancetta in a large frypan. No oil is required as the fat will render and melt down. Remove a small portion to use for serving later.
Using tongs, remove cooked pasta from the water and mix through the guanciale/pancetta in frying pan.
Take frypan off the heat.
Add approx. 100ml of pasta water to the egg mix whilst whisking, this will help stop the eggs scrambling. Keep a little more pasta water aside in case you need to add extra later.
Pour the egg mix and stir to fully coat the pasta, it will thicken. Add extra black pepper if needed. If required, add extra pasta water to keep it creamy and glossy but not watery.
Place frypan back on low heat, stir and combine well and only heat for 1-2min.
Serve immediately – top with extra pecorino, black pepper, and some reserve crispy guanciale/pancetta.
For more recipes from Pia Gava check out her website and socials in the links below.
At Vita Italian Tours we love Italian food, and when on tour we take great pleasure in showcasing the regional specialities served in local trattorias. It’s where the traditions of Mama and Nonna carry on, creating the most authentic Italian meals. We endeavour to take you off the beaten track dining in these characteristic eateries offering the most authentic food made from only the best local produce – holding true to Italy’s culinary traditions.
If independent travel is your style, let Vita Italian Tours plan a tailor-made self-drive or chauffeur driven private itinerary for you and we will introduce you to the best in regional cuisine from right across Italy.