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Dec 15, 2008 07:55 PM

Pasta Carbonara

I just made some for dinner and was curious about the proportions of egg yolk to cream to parmesan people are generally using. I did four yolks : 1/2 cup cream : ~1 generous cup of cheese. It turned out pretty good, but I've come across a lot of various different spins and was wondering if any of you out on the Internets had come to any consensus.

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  1. There's no cream in real carbonara.

    1. It's been a while, but I don't recall using any cream. And I used whole eggs...I think, and lots of pancetta, of course.

      1. Right, no cream. Whole eggs. Here's Marcella Hazan's recipe which is to die for, IMO.

        6 Replies
        1. re: c oliver

          I've got her book on my wishlist right now. That recipe sounds great. Now I want to make dinner all over again. Thanks Internet peoples.

          1. re: Veektohr

            Agree with the no cream. I use Mario Batali's recipe, you can find it on the foodnetwork website. Its easy to make and fantastic.

            1. re: ESNY

              Batali finishes with an egg yolk nestled into the pasta, right? I love that presentation.

              1. re: Veektohr

                Yes, you separate the yolk from the white and at the end add the yolk to the pasta in a bowl. Then each diner mixes it and it creates a nice sauce.

                1. re: ESNY

                  This only works if the bowls have been warmed properly. Carbonara on tepid or cold plates is mediocre at best.

          2. re: c oliver

            Thank you for posting the recipe. I've only recently become familiar with Marcella Hazan & am looking forward to trying out this recipe. I like the blending of the eggs & cheese prior to adding pasta. Have been a huge fan of Carbonara (no cream) ever since I discovered it in a neighboorhood Italian restaurant years ago.

          3. No. Cream.

            Cream belongs in Alfredo, not carbonara. It obscures the flavor of egg yolks that is distinctive to carbonara. (How did American recipes for carbonara start to feature cream, you might ask. Because it makes it easier to avoid curdling, but at the cost of destroying what is distinctive about the dish. I am not saying people are bad for liking cream sauces on their pastas, just that if it's got cream it's not carbonara.)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Karl S

              What I like about the Hazan recipe is that the eggs and cheese etc. being in the bowl prior to the pasta etc being added seems to just "blend" the eggs in. You don't see bits of egg. Probably because the pasta has cooled just a smidge I'm sure I'm not describing this right.

            2. I really enjoy a recipe from Northern Italian Cooking by Biba Caggiano. I'm not going to argue the point of no cream in real carbonara, but this recipe has 1/3 cup heavy cream to 4 egg yolks and 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan. It's very good and the cream doesn't overwhelm the pasta in a small quantity (I even use 2% milk sometimes to cut down on the fat and it's still great). I wrote about the recipe here:

              5 Replies
              1. re: Phoo_d

                That's pretty similar to how I prepared it last night. Twas delicious, but I'm curious now about the flavor without the cream.

                Do any of you experiment with adding other things to your sauce like peas or mushrooms for instance, or do you think it's best kept pure and simple?

                1. re: Veektohr

                  Pure. And. Simple.

                  I love mushrooms, but would not want their earthiness to muddy the simplicity of this dish . If I had a handful of shelled peas that needed a home, I might toss them in, but precisely because they would not take away or obscure the essence of the dish.

                  1. re: Veektohr

                    Suzanne Goin has a version with peas and pea shoots that is lovely, but other than that, I'm a purist.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I'm a purist. If I were going to add peas, I'd go with paglia e fieno. Peas and cream go well together.

                    2. re: Veektohr

                      I'd probably refer to it as either "carbonara with peas or mushrooms" or "kinda-sorta cabonara."