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Carbonara

Tried it for the first time a couple nights ago at a new restaurant whose chef supposedly trained at CIA. Have not had the green can "parmesan" in a long time, but this seemed maybe one step above it. Even the peas were not pleasant. Please tell me what good carbonara should taste like.

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  1. Good carbonara should be ethereal and creamy (no cream btw!) and since it is a simple dish, the ingredients should be top notch.
    Use good, fresh eggs- the BEST you can find, guanciale/pancetta/slab bacon and Parmigiano-Reggiano. No Parm from a can!
    Peas are optional but I'm not sure they're authentic in any way.

    7 Replies
      1. re: AAQjr

        You bet! Chunkier is better for me in this dish-- that's why it's the "coal miners pasta".

      2. re: monavano

        I'll second the no cream part. I hate when you get a carbonara that tastes indistinguishable from alfredo.

        1. re: monavano

          I would not use American slab bacon since it usually has a smoky taste; pancetta and guanciale does not. No smoky flavor in a carbonara as far as I am concerned.

          1. re: ttoommyy

            It's a respectable substitute. n.b. I put it last in the lineup.

            1. re: ttoommyy

              Nieman ranch has a very very good pepper bacon that is very close to pancetta and makes an excellent carbonara

            2. re: monavano

              The best Carbonara I've ever had was in Rome - several different restaurants over the years and NEVER saw a pea in any Italian's version of the dish.

            3. Carbonara is one of my favorite dishes - so you must have had a bad batch.

              It should be like monavano said - creamy and rich. I also agree - no cream.

              Pasta - egg - pancetta (I can never get guanciale here) - parm - some pasta water to help it all come together - and lots of black pepper.

              It's wonderful.

              1. Tastes kind of like scrambled eggs and bacon... with pasta.

                1. Have you ever tried to make it yourself? The basic sauce ingredients are eggs and grated cheese. The heat of the pasta (and a judicious use of the stove) should melt the cheese, and lightly cook the eggs, creating a creamy sauce. But timing and temperature can be critical. Too much heat scrambles the eggs. Not enough leaves them raw. The addition of cream makes cooking more forgiving. Without cream the dish needs to be eaten right away (though I enjoy leftovers for their right).

                  The bacon, jowl or what ever gives a nice texture contrast and added flavor, as does the ground pepper. Peas are also for contrast.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: paulj

                    No, I've never tried making it myself. As someone else said, I got a bad batch. I would never have tried it had it not been for the chef's credentials. Needless to say we won't be going back to this restaurant.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      I thought it was weird nobody mentioned parsley. Peas are good in an Alfredo variation, such as Straw and Hay, but with no cream I'd leave them out. Good fresh parsley, though, is vital as far as I'm concerned, though many who've made it for me have left it out. People just tend to think of it as a garnish, rather than as a (highly nutritious) ingredient.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        I'm with you ...the parsley is as essential as the eggs, pork, cheese, noodles and black pepper........the pasta water is arguable, but I like a little garlic, and or onion on occasion

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Pepper yes, parsley no. This is one of those decadent dishes where I get to eat absolutely nothing green.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            To each his or her own. I don't consider the presence of vegetation to be any sort of penalty, ever, and to me that bright color and bright flavor add sparkle to what can otherwise be a stodgy dish. My bro-in-law and his wife, whose carbonara is otherwise impeccable (and they make it a lot!), are in agreement with you. Luckily, they always have a nice salad with it.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              Agree 100% escondido123. I've never had it with any green in it in Italy. To me, a carbonara is pasta, pancetta, eggs, parmigiano reggiano and black pepper. Nothing else.