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What's your best carbonara recipe?

And would you hate me if I substituted bacon for pancetta? (I've got some bacon that needs to be used.)

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  1. I'm not a traditionalist at all, I use bacon, whole eggs, parmesan, olive oil, garlic, red and black pepper, and bucatini. It turns out drier than the classic but is somewhat healthier anyway.

    5 Replies
    1. re: steinpilz

      That's pretty darn close, actually (without knowing your proportions or technique). Certainly a LOT closer than a lot of stuff that people slap the name on.

      1. re: Dmnkly

        Hey, you're right, I Googled around and it is pretty traditional. I'd thought that butter, egg yolks, and cream, were de rigeur (I also pour off the rendered bacon fat BTW). My proportions are rough -- 1 or 1/2 carton of eggs, 1 or 1/2 box of pasta, 1 or 1/2 pkg bacon, etc.... It still tastes great whatever I do.

        1. re: steinpilz

          Cream is verboten for real carbonara. With cream, it's just a faux alfredo.

          1. re: steinpilz

            Ha! That's awesome :-)

            So by changing what you thought to be an authentic recipe, you inadvertently made something closer to what's ACTUALLY authentic. Awesome.

            Yeah, yours is pretty close (certainly a lot closer than that which you reference), and even if it isn't strictly traditional, the spirit is definitely there. Cream is NOT carbonara, and it's frustrating how often that's called so. There are some who call cream a "variant", but I've yet to see any evidence that this "variant" was created or perpetuated by the Italians. Adding and reducing some dry white wine is, on the other hand, a perfectly traditional variant, though optional, I believe. And though pancetta or guanciale would be more strictly traditional, I've encountered a number of places in Italy that use smoked pork in their carbonara, so it's hard to pass judgement on bacon. Add a little pecorino to your cheese mix and ditch the red pepper and there you go. Well, except for the whole dumping the excess rendered pork fat part... that's your sauce! (You could leave a LITTLE, right? :-)

          2. re: Dmnkly

            Exactly! I ate true carbonara for years in Chicago and loved it. I now live in Texas and it is all cream based. It infuriates me as it is not a true carbonara and restaurant after restaurant passes it off a carbonara...bleech!

            I've been making "real" carbonara for my husband using bacon for several years and it is delicious. what you describe is very real. My recipe came from an Italian immigrant and it uses bacon! Her recipe did call for pancetta, but she told me prefered the flavor and texture of good American bacon in this dish...So more power to you.

            1 pound of spaghetti
            2 tablespoons of olive oil
            3 eggs beaten
            1/2 cup Pecorino Romano/Parmigiano cheese
            1/2 pound bacon
            2 crushed cloves of garlic
            1/2 onion minced
            Salt to taste
            Freshly cracked pepper

            Bring 4-5 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. In a large skillet cook pancetta or bacon in oil until crisp. Saute onion until translucent in small 1 TBS of bacon fat w/ 1 TBS olive oil, then add garlic and cook until translucent, but not browned , 2-3 mins. Add a pinch of salt to boiling water. Place the spaghetti in salted water with 1 TBS olive oil and cook according until spaghetti is al dente. In a bowl beat three eggs, cheese and ground black pepper. Drain cooked pasta it and add it to the skillet with onions and garlic, add egg mixture and toss the ingredients to ensure everything is thoroughly mixed.

            Top with chopped parsley and enjoy!!

            This is a bit of heaven!

        2. My wife did some time on exchange in Italy in her youth. She complained one night that she never had carbonara in the states that compared to Italy. I checked "Simple Italian Food" by Mario Batali and followed that recipe.

          It more than met her approval.

          1. the key ingredient is the water the pasta was cooked in.
            it's all about the texture, yo

            1. As I was taught in Rome, pancetta is preferred, but pancetta affumicata (bacon) is okay if that's all you have. This was campfire food served during the seige of Rome in the Risorgemento, not haute cuisine. (It's a lot like Hoppin John in the south.) The basic procedure is to cook the pasta al dente. While it is cooking, saute chopped pancetta or bacon in olive oil. Reserve the bacon, oil, and fat. When the pasta is just ready, drain it and immediately toss it with the beaten egg and then the hot bacon and then freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese. Finally, grate some coarse pepper on it. That said, you do find variations that use cream and even add some onions to the frying pork. If you've ever seen Buonassisi's encyclopedic classic on Italian pasta, you probably understand that a lot of pasta dishes simply evolved from doing what you could with what was available. Think poor and thrifty and fast and fresh, and you'll probably make something a lot nicer than something gussied up--what I would call "pasta ricercata" or recherche. But please do use good pasta, organic eggs if you can get them, and quality pork. (For lots of other good pasta ideas that make the most of using what you have, see "Pasta Improvvisata." I think the author is Erica de Mane.)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Father Kitchen

                The carbonara I grew up on was made with bacon because, well, it was the '70s, and our area wasn't rife with Italian meat markets selling pancetta (nor would my family's budget allow for such a thing), some reduced white wine, and chopped parsley (along with the eggs, cheese, pepper, and spaghetti, of course). Hearking back to its roots, it was cheap, quick, and delicious.

              2. Well, recently I've been going vegetarian on this - shock of shocks, it's Lent - but this gives you a sense of aspects of the technique.

                While the pasta (spaghetti or bucatini/perciatelli) is cooking in very well salted boiling water (please use plenty of salt), with my mixing bowl inverted over a splatter screen over it to warm the bowl (also, be sure to warm the serving plates with scalding water and drying them), I mix the egg yolks in a small bowl (3 yolks). I then add a tablespoon or so of melted butter that has been cooled down so that it won't curdle the eggs. Then I add a half cup of finely grated cheese (I use only good authentic romano, instead of the more traditional 50% parmigiano & romano mix for this) and a good deal of freshly grated black pepper. A touch of freshly grated nutmeg is OK if you are a nutmeg fiend like me.

                As the pasta nears finishing its cooking (bite and watch the uncooked core of the pasta turn to a whitish dot), I take a half tablespoon of the cooking water and add it to the egg-cheese mixture and stir firmly to begin tempering the eggs. Then another half tablespoon. And another. And one more. By then, then cheese will melt and emulsify with the eggs, and the eggs will be protected from cooking immediately on contact with the hot pasta.

                I take the warmed mixing bowl, and with tongs put about half the cooked pasta into it. I take half the sauce and mix that with the pasta. Then repeat with the other half of each.

                Adjust for pepper and, if necessary, salt. You can finish with more cheese and some a couple of tablespoons of finely minced parsley. Serve on warmed plates.

                If you do not use warmed bowl and plates, you run the risk of a nasty thing happening to the sauce. This is one dish where warming is very important and rarely stated in recipes because it's assumed you know to do it...

                3 Replies
                1. re: Karl S

                  Thanks Karl for your description. I've always been so intimidated by the carbonara, but I think I'm ready to experiment a bit further with your suggestions.

                  1. re: Karl S

                    i would just add that if aforementioned "nasty thing" does happen to the sauce a little of the pasta water can smooth things out

                    1. re: Karl S

                      As this is a Lazio recipe, pecorino romano is the only "authentic" cheese. Parmigiano is native to the Emilia region in the north. Marcella Hazan calls for a 50-50 mix, but that's because she is from Romagna (Emilia's neighbor).

                    2. I got this "variant" years ago and still prefer it. No eggs. No cream.Cook as much bacon as you want ( the original called for a pound, I use about 1/2 pound) Pour off all but 2 or 3 T of drippings
                      Saute 3 sliced onions in the drippings until soft and slightly brown. Cook 1# pasta, drain and toss with onions, crumbled bacon, pepper to taste and grated cheese ( I like asiago, romano is good too) Serve immediatlely.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: eimac

                        Again, you'd traditionally use pancetta or guanciale instead of bacon, and you wouldn't use asiago (your pecorino alternative being right on), but what you have there is basically Pasta alla Gricia (aka Pasta all'Amatriciana Bianca).

                        1. re: Dmnkly

                          I made some carbonara (using Marcella's recipe) with guanciale recently and it was out of this world.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Guanciale's popularity is long overdue. It's a beautiful ingredient and I look forward to increased popularity meaning increased availability :-)

                            1. re: Dmnkly

                              Apparently Guanciale is virtually unknown in the Wegman/Whole foods world. It might be because I pronounced it wrong....lol

                          2. re: Dmnkly

                            A good subsitute is salt pork if you don't want the smoke flavor or can't find pancetta, etc.

                          3. re: eimac

                            Eimac, this isn't a variant but is called in Lazio "pasta alla gricia." Although they use guanciale in place of bacon.

                          4. I like Marcella Hazans recipe. There is no cream in this recipe. I use guanciale ( pork jowl) instead of pancetta. It is becoming increasingly available. If it isn't available, ask your butcher, they must be donig something with the jowls. The eggs are put into the serving bowl along with the cheese and then you toss in the cooked pasta, pancetta/guanciale and chopped parsley. sometimes I add some of the pasta water as well. I have eaten Carbonara a lot with heavy cream added, and started omitting it to make the recipe lighter, then after some readig relized that no cream is a more traditional recipe.
                            For your recipe, I am certain it will still be great with bacon!

                            1. The recipe I use is from one of Ruth Reichl's books. 4 eggs beaten in a large bowl, set aside. Cook the pancetta, (or bacon cut up, I'm not that fussy), with a little olive oil. Take a pound of pasta, cooked, (I like linguine, but whatever), and add it to the eggs immediately after cooking and toss it well. Add the pancetta with the fat to the bowl and 1 cup (more or less), of parmesan. Toss and serve.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Felixnot

                                Have you ever used a recipe that adds some white wine to the bacon/fat? I love the touch of acidity it adds, fwiw.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  the marcella hazan recipe calls for white wine to be added as the pancetta cooks, i forgot! it is a nice touch!

                                  1. re: cassoulady

                                    That sounds good, if I have an open bottle of wine next time, I'll try it.

                              2. I swear by the recipe in the Silver Spoon cookbook. It is a staple in my house!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: chicagosoxfan

                                  That's the one I use as well. I do find it a little dry though, and will moisten with a little of the pasta cooking water next time.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    I just looked at that recipe, and it struck me as odd that it uses butter, rather than olive oil (not that there's anything odd about butter). I do think it calls for less pancetta than the recipe I use, and I do like the addition of wine in Marcella's recipe - which might make it less dry.

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      in my part of Italy (treviso/friuli), more butter than olive oil is used. or you use a mixture of butter and oil. I find that the flavour of the carbonara is much better with the butter than a strongly flavoured olive oil. And in my family, my father makes his own salumi, so we will use whatever is open at that moment.

                                      1. re: icey

                                        Interesting. I guess I'd thought of carbonara as a more Southern Italian dish, and so always associated it w/ olive oil.

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          It is, but it's universally popular in Italy and thus you'll find recipe's like Marcella's that uses parmigiano with the romano, etc. Local adaptations are half the fun.

                                2. I agree with all the other old schoolers - if it's got cream, it's not carbonara. As far as variations on a theme go, though... I think as long as you acknowledge it's a variation, it's fine. I've used speck, pancetta and bacon over the years, added a bit of finely sliced onion, sliced mushrooms, even asparagus before. I usually use an aged gruyere because it's what I've got in the house. So quick, so easy, so delicious.

                                  Another question for the carbonara fans - what pasta shape do you use? A couple of Italians have told me that it HAS to be penne, but we're not such penne fans at my house, preferring linguine, and most restaurant menus I've seen use spaghetti. Thoughts?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Gooseberry

                                    I use penne, but lately have been using orcchiette (sp?).

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      gosh, haven't seen orecchiette in my local store in ages. And I never order it in restaurants because it ALWAYS seems to be paired with broccoli and chili, which isn't one of my favourites.

                                      Hadn't thought of making it with carbonara though...

                                      1. re: Gooseberry

                                        It's actually really nice with carbonara - catches all of the "creamy" goodness very well.

                                        Edit - and, for the OP, when I made it last week with bacon, it was delicious - no pancetta or guanciale in the house. My preference now is guanciale, then pancetta, then bacon.

                                    2. re: Gooseberry

                                      Penne is traditional in Italy? News to me. I've always read (and seen) only long pastas on the moderate to thick side (from spaghetti to bucatini/perciatelli).

                                      1. re: Gooseberry

                                        gotta be spaghetti, linguine or fettucine for me.

                                        1. re: Gooseberry

                                          It's traditionally on bucatini or some other thick spaghetti. I've never seen it on penne.

                                        2. traditionalism is overrated. it also harkens back to a past as false as the golden age.

                                          there were no tomatoes in europe before the 16th century. does that make every tomato based inauthentic? There were no chilis outside the americas until the 16th century. does thst make all indian and thai cuisine inauthentic?

                                          cuisines use what they use because that is what the people had, not divine writ.

                                          if you have bacon, use bacon.

                                          outside of restaurants, which rely on producing the same exact dish every time, cooking is variation, not rote repetition.

                                          20 Replies
                                          1. re: thew

                                            Thew, I think you greatly overreact and misrepresent what's being said here.

                                            Of COURSE people should always be changing, modifying, playing, etc... that's the creativity and the beauty of cooking. I don't think anybody here has said you shouldn't make something like a carbonara that uses cream or onions or whatever. Just don't call it carbonara, that's all, because it isn't.

                                            "there were no tomatoes in europe before the 16th century. does that make every tomato based inauthentic?"

                                            This is a silly assertion that has absolutely nothing to do with what's being discussed here. What's being discussed is a SPECIFIC dish with a SPECIFIC history that is widely acknowledged and well-researched. You're refuting an argument that nobody has made here, so I'm not sure what the point of this is.

                                            What's more, you assume people are making a value judgement when discussing traditional versus non-traditional. I certainly am not. Just because something is traditional doesn't make it better and I don't think anybody here has stated otherwise. Culinary history is instructive. It has cultural significance. Dishes that endure do so for a reason. These are all reasons that discussing culinary tradition is worthwhile. But nobody here said that "traditional" foods are "better".

                                            Speaking only for myself, I don't think carbonara with cream is bad because it's non-traditional, I think it's bad because it's lousy pasta. It's overly heavy and obscures the pork fat which is what makes carbonara such a great dish. When made well, you get a great creamy effect from the eggs and the cream is just redundant. Of course, you may love that cream and in that case you should add as much as you please. I think a traditional carbonara is better, but that's a matter of personal taste and I prefer the traditional because I think it tastes better, not because it's traditional. But it's worth considering that sometimes there's a reason something endures long enough to BECOME traditional.

                                            1. re: Dmnkly

                                              Agreed - I wasn't making any kind of judgement either, and didn't read other posters as doing so.

                                              1. re: Dmnkly

                                                When people use cream, do they use a large amount that dominates, or just enough to help form the sauce/coating? In my experience, with just eggs and cheese, it can be tricky getting the right balance. To little heat, I end up with slimy uncooked egg. To much, I get scrambled eggs. I don't usually use cream, but I can see where a small amount would allow me to use more heat to melt the cheese without over cooking the egg.

                                                I had a good rendition of this dish on Saltspring Island, BC. It listed cream in the ingredients, but it use was not obvious.

                                                Speaking of names, the first recipe for this dish that I used was in an older Joy of Cooking, where it is called 'Pasta with Egg and Cheese'. It calls for bacon, but who, outside of Italian neighborhoods, had access to pancetta, much less guanciale ? At home we called this 'cheese spaghetti'. The Joy recipes does not use cream, but it does include the reduced wine step.


                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  What recipe do you use? When I first started making it, I was worried about getting the coating right, but with Marcella's recipe, I've never had a problem.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    That's actually a common theory about how cream became such a popular addition, Paul -- as an attempt to make up for a traditional sauce that didn't come out quite right :-)

                                                    I beat the egg and cheese together in a large mixing bowl, then add the pasta right out of the pot and toss and that usually does the trick. Many people have good results if they temper the eggs by beating them with maybe 1/4 C. of the pasta water before adding the pasta. I feel that harms the sauce a little, but then I'm entirely comfortable with semi-cooked (or uncooked, for that matter) eggs. In any case, I'm definitely of the opinion that however you do it, the eggs should never be on the stove. I mean, they CAN be, but I think it's harder to get it right on heat.

                                                    1. re: Dmnkly

                                                      I notice that some recipes call for tossing the pasta with the bacon/fat first, then adding the eggs and cheese, but I've found, as you suggest, that the reverse works better in terms of creating the sauce.

                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                        Yeah, I've never done "fat then eggs" and "eggs then fat" close enough to each other to compare carefully, but my sense is that going fat first keeps the egg from integrating with the pasta in a way that the reverse doesn't.

                                                          1. re: Dmnkly

                                                            I did sort of a combination of versions from this thread last week... my first carbonara ever. Rendered the pancetta in a hot skillet, added some onions and peas. Mixed four eggs with about a cup of fresh grated parm. When the penne (1 lb.) were done, I added the bacon/onion/pea mix to the eggs/parm mix, then tossed with the pasta.

                                                            It was absolutely delicious (I had also added some crushed red pepper which gave it a nice kick), but I was surprised at how 'wet' the pasta came out.

                                                            The few times I have eaten carbonara -- it's not a dish I generally seek out when going for Italian -- the 'sauce' seemed to be much drier, and the eggs were cooked more....

                                                            Any reason for that? Again, it was certainly tasty, but maybe I used to many eggs?

                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                              That sounds like a lot of eggs to me - I usually use 2 to a pound or a little less of pasta. Plus, I would add the pasta to the eggs/cheese, and then toss in the pancetta/fat mixture, which I reheat quickly before adding.

                                                              1. re: linguafood

                                                                did you use the whole eggs or just the yolks?

                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                  I used whole eggs. I did throw in the pancetta/pea/onion mix into the serving bowl, which already had the eggs & parm in it. The sauce wasn't watery at all, in fact, the consistency was really nice -- creamy and all.... but I had just expected the eggs to cook more. Next time I'll try less eggs, and throw the pancetta in at the end.

                                                                  It came out so well that it won't be long until I make it again.

                                                              2. re: Dmnkly

                                                                This is a very interesting point, Dmnkly and MMRuth, and one I hadn't considered; the fat (in this case, prob a mix of olive oil and rendered pancetta/guanciale/bacon fat) coating the pasta, preventing the egg from fully binding with the surface of the pasta. If you mix the egg into the pasta first, where do you do it? In the drained past pot? Or do you pour the bacon/guanciale/pancetta and fat out of the frying pan, put the pasta in the pan, mix in the egg, and then return the pig meat and fat afterwards? Just trying to envision the most efficient way of doing this...

                                                                In terms of quantity, I usually do it by feel. I reckon my boyfriend and I make between 120g-160g linguine for the two of us, and for that amount I use one whole egg and two yolks (one yolk if it's one of the super-jumbo ones I get in my mixed size farm egg pack), and that gives enough liquid to be creamy but not too watery. I eyeball the cheese too - enough to make the egg mix a bit sludgy, if that's any help!

                                                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                  I mix the egg/cheese/parsley in the warmed serving bowl, toss in the pasta, then add the warmed pork/fat/wine mixture (which started w/ some olive oil and a garlic clove that was removed) and toss again.

                                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                                    Same here, except I don't bother warming the serving bowl.

                                                                    This is just my preferred method, however, I don't mean to present it as definitive by any means.

                                                                    1. re: Dmnkly

                                                                      The failure to warm the bowl (and serving plates) can result in a watery sauce.

                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                        Perhaps, but I've not had this problem. Straight from the water, I find the pasta retains all I need in the heat department. And I prefer to err on the side of undercooked, anyway.

                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                          I use the pot the pasta was boiled in and once all incorporated put it in the serving bowl.

                                                                2. re: MMRuth

                                                                  One problem that I encounter is poor distribution of the bacon. I'm not sure which is better for that, adding it first, or last.

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    I just pick out the pieces of bacon as needed for each bite ;-).

                                                        1. I like to use the recipe from Cooks Illustrated. It calls for bacon, eggs, white wine, parsley, pecorino, salt & pepepr, and spaghetti. It may also call for cream. (haven't made it in a while...for whatever reason.)

                                                          I will substitue parm for the pecorino if I have it on hand.

                                                          So, perhaps it's no longer Carbonara. I still think it's a great recipe, the acidity of the wine is great with the creamy-ness of the eggs. Such an extravagent dish, not expensive as far as the wallet is concerned...just expensive to my waist-line.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: jewel4352

                                                            What I love about it is that I always have eggs, bacon and pasta on hand. So it's a quick and easy dinner when I don't know what to cook and don't feel like going to the market. I use a combination of parm and pecorino - not a big fan of pecorino romano (love pecorino sardo).

                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                              my thoughts exactly. I keep a piece of pancetta hanging around my fridge for exactly this (and amatriciana-esque tomato sauce). Great quick Sunday night food.

                                                          2. there is an article/recipe in the new issue of fine cooking

                                                            1. Does anybody use wine in their carbonara?

                                                              9 Replies
                                                              1. re: takadi

                                                                Yes - I use white wine - added to the fat and pancetta/guanciale.

                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                  So would you deglaze after frying up the pancetta, toss the spaghetti in the pan, and then add the eggs and cheese?

                                                                  1. re: takadi

                                                                    Here's what I do, using Marcella Hazan's recipe:

                                                                    Heat smashed garlic cloves and olive oil, remove the cloves once "deep gold". Add the pancetta and cook, then add white wine and let it simmer for a minute or two. Turn off the heat. I then combine the eggs, cheese, pepper and parsley in the serving bowl and mix well. Add the cooked pasta, toss well to coat, while reheating the pancetta. Add the pancetta/fat/wine to the bowl and toss well again.

                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                      Sounds delicious, I'll try it out :) Thanks!

                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                        MMRuth - does your carbonara come out looking very yellow? I made it recently and the color was so not the same as Lupa's which almost doesn't have any color. I used 2 eggs. I don't know the exact measurement of my pasta but it yielded two very good-sized servings. I was tempted to add cream to lighten the color but know it's a big no-no. It tasted fine but I couldn't get over the bright yellow of the sauce.

                                                                        1. re: pellegrino31

                                                                          While I cannot answer for MMRuth...

                                                                          What colour were the yolks? That makes a big difference, I find. For example, in some regions of Italy, the yolks are actually called 'i rossi' - the reds of the egg, because the yolks are so orangey-red! It makes the pasta distinctively yellowey golden in Bologna, for example.

                                                                          As far as I understand it, the yolk colour is the result of both diet and the type of chicken that laid it. So try another brand of egg next time, and the colour will be paler... IF the yolks are paler.

                                                                          Oh, and I use 2 extra-large yolks for about 140g (4.9oz) of dried pasta, which is enough for two smallish portions (we find it quite filling and rich at my house!).

                                                                          1. re: pellegrino31

                                                                            Hi - I've not had it at Lupa (yet!), but mine doesn't seem to be particularly yellow. I *think* I use two whole eggs - whatever Marcella says to use. I usually buy organic/free range eggs - though I don't think I've ever made it w/ eggs from USQ Farmer's market - those yolks are usually more yellow.

                                                                            What proportion of other ingredients are you using? I usually use a good 1/2 pound of pancetta, slightly less guanciale.

                                                                          2. re: MMRuth

                                                                            Here's the ingredient list from MH's recipe, BTW -

                                                                            1/2 lb pancetta, cut into 1/4 " strips
                                                                            4 garlic cloves
                                                                            3 T EVOO
                                                                            1/4 cup dry white wine
                                                                            2 large eggs
                                                                            1/4 cup freshly grated romano cheese
                                                                            1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
                                                                            Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
                                                                            2 T chopped parsley
                                                                            1 1/4 lbs pasta (however, I know I use less pasta and the full amount of sauce when making this for two - maybe 2/3 of a pound?)

                                                                            Paraphrased instructions:

                                                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49775... (just above here)

                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                              Thanks Gooseberry and MMRuth - we usually have the organic/cage free eggs so I used those (fwiw, they were the Whole Food's brand). I would like to say I used 2 eggs for about half a package of pasta. I'll have to experiment a bit more. My main worry was that I wouldn't temper the eggs enough since it was my first time making it which wasn't the problem at all, I just was a little bummed at the bright yellow of the sauce!

                                                                    2. Re Karl S' vegetarian version, it occurs to me that a "meatier" variation could be made by searing button mushrooms (whole/halved/quartered depending on size) in butter and olive oil first, then adding the garlic. The first carbonara I ever had was in a trattoria in Rome, and definitely had a little cream, just enough to ensure that the eggs weren't scrambled. The color was white, not yellow. I generally use bacon and always include onion. As for pasta, I like Pipette. I like to add fresh or thawed (but not cooked) green peas to the hot mixture, which par-cooks the peas so they still are a little firm. This shape of pasta catches and holds the peas and bits of meat. Not authentic, but there's no law against tweaking to taste!

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                                        I occasionally use orecchiette for the same reason.

                                                                      2. --Three eggs beaten with about 1/4 cup of grated parm and a fair amount of black pepper
                                                                        --saute bacon/or pancetta, drain and mix with about 2 TBS of very finely chopped parsley stems and a bit of Olive Oil
                                                                        --Drain pasta (spaghetti) and toss with egg mixture and then the bacon mixture

                                                                        1. This website recipe here calls for the addition of cinnamon in the carbonara


                                                                          It sounds insane, but it might work

                                                                          1. I use a mixture of bacon and pancetta--I like the addition of smoked pork fat but find it too overpowering without some non-smoked fat mixed in.

                                                                            My new favorite addition to carabonara, however, is carmelized onions. Finely chopped onions, slow cooked until very sweet. I toss that into the bacon mixture and it is so delicious. It adds a nice sweet undertone to the pork fat. Yum!

                                                                            I don't think the addition of cinnamon or nutmeg is too bizarre as long as it is kept in moderation. Hazan puts a bit of nutmeg to her bolognese and it gives it a nice mild nutty flavor. So I can see how it can work with carbonara in theory. Maybe I will sneak some in as an experiement next time.

                                                                            1. Attached is a photo of what carbonara ought to look like. No cream, not too saucy, not scrambled eggy.

                                                                              Re: nutmeg. I don't see how nutmeg ought to follow from a ragu into a carbonara, they are two different beasts. In a ragu, the nutmeg can act as a complimentary piece, not really present up front but adding depth. In a carbonara it's much more likely to stand out, given the simplicity of the flavors - it has no aromatics, nor tomatoes. Secondly, nutmeg compliments the nutty flavor of parmigiano, it would clash with the sharp brine of the pecorino romano. Thus I wouldn't add nutmeg to an amatriciana either, even though it'd be less likely to dominate the dish.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                Did you make the one in the picture? Would you mind sharing your recipe?

                                                                                1. re: takadi

                                                                                  Yep that's mine. First thing, regarding the question of whether to toss the pasta into the fat first or coat it in the egg first. Most here seem to say egg first, fat second, but I don't think it matters. Fat gets sticky as it cools. Mixing the egg mixture into the pasta cools the fat enough to adhere the mixture to the pasta.

                                                                                  My "recipe" is pretty standard: a little olive oil, sautee the pancetta to render out the fat. Whisk some (tempered w/ pasta water) eggs with pecorino romano and black pepper. Toss the bucatini into the sautee pan, coat in the fat. Turn off the burner. Add the egg mixture. Mix well, stirring constantly until you reach the desired texture of the eggs. If eggs aren't cooking then turn the burner back on low and stir stir stir etc, until the egg is to your liking.

                                                                                  My problem here in western Mass is getting good pancetta. When I have mediocre (or worse) pancetta at my disposal, I add some garlic and red pepper to the pasta. Not "pure" carbonara, but you have to make due with what you got.

                                                                                  Re: bacon or pancetta, bacon is fine if it isn't especially smoky. Italians use pancetta affumicata (smoked pancetta) for carbonara all the time. Pancetta dolce (sweet pancetta) is more often used on amatriciana.

                                                                                  My eyeball proportions:
                                                                                  Eggs - roughly 3 per pound of pasta. If too dry, add some pasta water.
                                                                                  Cheese - one small handful per person.