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Carbonara - okay to use Romano instead of Parmesan?

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I saw Giada De Laurentiis's show this morning and she made this amazing looking Chicken Carbonara. I've got everything in the house to make it except Parmesan. Is it okay to substitute Pecorino Romano? I've never made a carbonara sauce before. I see a lot of web recipes call for either cheese but I want some chow opinions. Pecorina Romano always seems stronger to me than most parms so I'm wondering if it will overwhelm the sauce?

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  1. I've never tried it, but I don't see why it wouldn't be OK - the flavor is going to end up somewhat different from what it would be with parmesan, of course, but it should still be good. My experience with sheep's milk cheeses is that they can be quite salty, so if that's the case with your pecorino you might want to cut back on salt elsewhere in the recipe.

    2 Replies
    1. re: FlyFish

      Ditto. I have made great pasta carbonara with romano cheese, but I add no additional salt because the cheese is already salty.

      Let us know how your recipe turns out!

      1. re: parkslopemama

        I used the romano and with good results. This was one of the few times where I really liked something I'd never made before. Usually I've got to make a dish a couple of times before it tastes great to me.

        This was an easy recipe and I'll definitely make it again. The restaurants in my area rarely have carbonara on the menu and when they do it tastes like scrambled eggs. I'll be making this at home instead of ordering it from now on!

        I've included the link to the recipe at foodtv.com - I recommend it! It's different than the carbonara recipe in Giada De Laurentiis's cookbook.

        Link: http://www.foodtv.com/food/recipes/re...

    2. Actually good pecorino is more classic to Roman dishes than Parma cheese; just use it more sparingly. Look for Locatelli or Sino Fulvi, which are made in Lazio rather than Sardinia; Sardinia makes most romano now, but it has its own distinct pecorino tradition as well.

      1. I dont know how they made the carbonara on the show you saw, but the classic dish doesnt exactly have a sauce -it has bits of fried pancetta or guanciale (sometimes in my house bacon) bound to the pasta with a mix of eggs and grated cheese.I sometimes fry some onions or a garlic clove with the meat, or add a bit of chopped parley to the eggs. Around Rome, Id say pecorino would be the classic cheese, but Ive made it with a mix with parm sometimes.

        Link: http://www.departures.com/ep/ep_0705_...

        1 Reply
        1. re: jen kalb

          Yes, I guess so long as one doesn't use Cheez Whiz. I also add onions. And sometimes use a leftover cooked pork chop in lieu of bacon. Some restaurants here add peas to the dish.

          The original recipe for my cheese-bread crumb coated chicken breasts called for shredded Gruyere, but hey, I have parmesan on hand, so I've always used that instead.

        2. I've made excellent carbonara with Kerrygold's Dubliner cheese.

          Throw in Irish bacon for a full-on o'carbonara. (Stop laughing!)

          Link: http://www.kerrygold.com/usa/dc.html

          1. I seem to recall the classic had pasta, parmesan, cooked pancetta, chopped parsley and raw egg that the heated pasta cooked. Maybe some black pepper or white pepper. You could add peas, I think, but that was it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: EclecticEater

              I love that the classic recipe, according to Marcella Hazan, calls for no cream. It's so unnecessary. And also classic is the peas.

              And apparently in Italy they also use Guanciale, which is an unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig's jowl or cheeks.

              I also love substituting Grano Padano for Parmesan. A little milder and nuttier.

              1. re: Mila

                I hate carbonaras that have cream in it.

                The way I make it is to fry up some pancetta, guanciale or high quality bacon, add the spaghetti that has been cooked al dente with a little pasta water. Mix and then add egg whites, pepper and cheese and heat for a minute. Then move to warmed pasta bowls and make well in each bowl and put in one egg yolk. Add some cracked black pepper and alittle more cheese. When everything is mixed up, the sauce gets a creamy consistency from the eggs.

                1. re: Mila

                  Was going to suggest grana padana or even reggiano if you didn't have a good parmesan around. It's a "thrown together" dish, as I recall, using the ingredients on hand at the time, made quickly. Enjoy.

              2. That's a very old Roman dish. The original probably used pecorino.

                The ingredients in the version in Carnacina and Veronelli's La Cucina Rustica Regionale are:

                600 grams spaghetti
                150 grams diced guanciale
                1 tbsp. oil
                50 grams butter
                6 eggs
                50 grams parmesan (or substitute pecorino)
                a few tablespoons of cream (optional)
                salt and pepper

                1. I'm an admitted carbonara purist, and I've said before that too many people think carbonara is basically a cream sauce with bacon. It's really more of an egg sheen, not a heavy sauce. A few tablespoons of cream beaten into the eggs is ok to help prevent scrambling and to give a (surprise!) slightly creamy texture. But Giadia, 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream? I don't care how perfect your teeth are, that ain't carbonara. And personally I don't want lemon zest anywhere near my carbonara.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Grubbjunkie

                    That recipe is called "chicken carbonara." It's not spaghetti alla carbonara, it's basically a variation on chicken in cream sauce.

                    Not that I'm in favor of anyone making or eating it, but she's not trying to pass it off as t a pasta dish. Or eating it herself, to judge from her figure.


                  2. I have to agree with grubbjunkie. I am also a carbonara purist - in fact, I won't eat it anywhere but Rome! Why do Americans insist on taking a perfectly wonderful peasant dish and over-complicate it (and ruin it in the process). I would pass a law banning people for using the term 'carbonara' for anything that has more than the essential ingredients - pasta, eggs, cheese,guanciale/pancetta, and black pepper.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bropaul

                      Giada de Laurentis isn't exactly an American.

                    2. My perfect carbonara recipe from a Roman transplant to the U.S.:

                      chop bacon and fry it
                      use egg fettucine noodles (fresh is better if possible)
                      add bacon, beaten egg, and lots of young pecorino romano to the pasta. season with black pepper and more cheese. that's it.

                      parmigiano reggiano is from the north of italy, i find that with most southern-style dishes romano cheese goes better. and don't buy locatelli, it is too aged and salty. use a softer, younger pecorino romano.

                      FYI most of what making good Italian food is about is getting the proper ingredients and using them simply.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: fara

                        Locatelli is salty, but I love it in carbonara.

                        Guanciale and pancetta are usually less salty than American bacon.

                      2. I also subscribe to the "purist" way of thinking....When I want a cream sauce I'll just make an Alfredo Sauce and maybe add some prosciuuto if I want any meat flavor added.
                        Here's how I make Carbonara (original recipe from "The Complete Book of Pasta" cook book written in the '60's by Jack Denton Scott after researching on trips taken in various regions in Italy.) I've paraphrased it below:

                        LINGUINE CARBONARA
                        2 oz. Pancetta, sliced thin and cut into 1/2 inch dice (if unavailable, fresh slab bacon may be substituted)
                        5 eggs, beaten
                        1/4 cup olive oil
                        1 cup Reggiano Parmesan cheese, grated
                        4 tablespoons Italian parsley , chopped
                        2 teaspoons freshly milled black pepper, or more to taste (I use a lot more!)
                        1 lb. Linguine
                        In a skillet, over medium heat, add olive oil and brown Pancetta until just before turning crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
                        In a deep casserole add the eggs, cheese , parsley , and fresh black pepper. Beat with a whisk until foamy and well blended. If the eggs were cold, let the mixture warm to room temperature. When pancetta and oil are cool enough, add all the oil and half the pancetta to egg mixture and beat again. Reserve the rest of the pancetta for garnishing. Boil linguine al dente in unsalted water. Test the linguine and when al dente, remove from water with fork or tongs and place quickly into the egg mixture. Do this as quickly as possible so the hot pasta can set the egg mixture slightly. Toss a few times in the casserole until slightly thickened and eggs have partially set. Serve on individual plates with a few bits of the reserved pancetta on top as garnish. Serve with the pepper mill on the table.

                        1. I agree that cream is excessive and uncalled for, but I like to add a bit of dry white wine to clean out the pan after frying the pancetta. It gives the finished product a crispness that helps the individual flavors stand out. I've always used a mixture of parmesan and romano, lots of fresh ground black pepper, beaten egg, no parsley, with fresh made pasta if time permits. Although I've been known to make various substitutions (bacon for instance) if I lack ingredients and it always comes out fine.