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Jul 31, 2005 04:14 PM

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 - I recommend it! It's different than the carbonara recipe in Giada De Laurentiis's cookbook.


    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.


        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!)


          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.