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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.

                      2. Thanks, everyone. As I said in my reply to Paul, we won't be going back to this restaurant.

                        1. It seems every restaurant here considers it to be cream sauce with peas and ham. Would live to have real carbonara to try. Tried to make it once and it was awful. The whole egg concept ending up turning out awful but I don't know what it is supposed to taste like.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: melpy

                            I've been making it for years, starting with the recipe in an old Joy of Cooking. My son used to call it 'cheese spaghetti'. At one level the taste is just what you would expect from the ingredients, especially the cheese and meat (bacon, etc). But the consistency does depend on your skill. My own results vary from time to time. And frankly the dish might have a mystique that exceeds reality.

                            Don't forget that 'carbonara' originates (depending on the story) with charcoal makers or bacon and eggs provided by American GIs. Neither of which conveys a sense of high culture or cooking skill. It is a quick and rustic dish (even if Mario Batali serves it on ICA with a raw egg yolk). You can fix it in the time it takes to fry some bacon and cook the spaghetti.

                            1. re: paulj

                              His method of using the yolk in the well helps bring that dish closer to what its meant to be; this is why so many incorporate the cream. As you had previously indicated, getting the texture just right is difficult but not impossible.

                              1. re: paulj

                                thanks for advocating the recipe from JOC - I will look it up. I am intimidated to try after reading the difficulty of achieving the creaminess without adding the cream and not ending up with scrambled eggs!

                              2. re: melpy

                                It is easy to screw it up. Somewhere I learned to add just a little bit of the hot pasta water to the yolk while whisking quickly and it works like a charm.

                                1. re: EM23

                                  Maybe that tempers the yolk a bit and readies it to become a good sauce. I'll remember that tip!

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    Egg-actly! I should have explained that - my bad. I first whisk the egg yolks with the cheese to combine and then add about a tablespoon of the hot pasta water to temper the egg/cheese mixture. And a little more, if needed, to loosen it up to a saucy consistency before combining it with the pasta/ pancetta.
                                    I actually learned that tempering tip on CH http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/613228 a few years ago.
                                    And another tip, come to think of it, is to keep some of the pasta water aside just in case the carbonara ends up too thick.

                                    1. re: EM23

                                      Thank you. I had carbonara on the brain at the farmers market this morning. I picked up free range (*real* free range, outdoor-scratchin' hen) eggs and artisinal guanciale. I'm going to use Parm Reg and Fulvi.
                                      Can't wait!
                                      (pondering making the pasta homemade...)

                                      1. re: monavano

                                        Now I'll bet that was very tasty Mona:-)

                                2. this came up in conversation the other day (someone ordered it at a restaurant, and swore what she got was alfredo, not carbonara.) I subsequently googled it, and you tubed it. About a million variations. Seems that the original has no cream (or butter), but cooks less skilled put the cream in - probably to avoid making scrambled egg pasta. Some use mostly yolk, some whole eggs. Some put in parsley, some insist on bacon, others on pancetta. I was amused that the video with Gordon Ramsey used quite a bit of cream. So much for his finesse in the kitchen, but what do you expect from a guy with that accent cooking italian (or is it Italian American?) I don't have the skill. I would have to temper the eggs somehow or I would have scrambled eggs.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    In a old-school sense, Alfredo is butter and cheese, Carbonara is eggs and cheese (plus the cured jowl). But a certain restaurant style has developed in which both use cream and cheese (or a cream sauce), with Carbonara just adding bacon and peas. Some insist on lots of black pepper, though I wonder if that due to the idea that 'carbonara' refers to black pepper flecks.

                                    By the way, what is pasta seasoned with just olive oil and cheese?

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      Cacia de pepe...we always use Romano...and it needs a good splash of pasta water.

                                      1. re: escondido123

                                        "Cacia de pepe"

                                        I'll be a stickler and correct you: it's cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper). :)

                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                          You are so right, my mistake. (Don't tell my husband, he's half Italian!)

                                  2. i have worked in fine dining most of my life and many recent culinary school grads are as close to clueless in the kitchen as a child. i don't know what they teach these kids, but it's not a credential that would lure me to a restaurant -- ever.

                                    many classic italian dishes are just a few, very simple ingredients. it was (and in many areas remains) an incredibly poor country. too often now, american chefs try to gussy up the recipe and it's no longer the thing at all.

                                    slab bacon is an american thing -- it's not for carbonara. there is no cream. the heat of the pasta cooks the eggs.

                                    1. No one else mentioned garlic?? Or wine? It's one of our favorite dishes to make, but we use a ton of raw garlic - more than whatever the original recipe called for, I'm sure, but we're garlic people.

                                      Raw garlic crushed or minced fine, mixed with an egg and fresh grated parmesan - in a skillet, minced pancetta cooked to almost crispy and a splash of white wine to clear the pan and stop the cooking - hot pasta in a hot bowl, quickly toss with the egg/garlic/cheese, then toss in the contents of the pancetta pan. Top with chunky salt if it needs any (usually doesn't, or not much) and pepper. Our absolute go-to when we both work late!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: thursday

                                        The JOC recipe that I started with reduced some wine with the bacon. I have probably included garlic at that step. Raw garlic would over power this dish, at least in my opinion.

                                        1. re: thursday

                                          I think no one mentioned garlic because it isn't in the original recipe. Ive eaten this dish all over Italy and its five things: pasta, egg yolks, meat (almost always pancetta in Italy), cheese, and pepper. That's it, anything else is a play on original. And Ive never seen peas ever. Thats totally an American variation. I know some say guinciale is traditional, but I've rarely seen it during my travels. Guessing it isn't as easy to source and pancetta is cheaper.

                                          My secret for not scrambling the eggs is that I remove the pan from the heat. I cook the meat, then add the cooked pasta, cheese, and a laddle or two of pasta water. I let that cook for a minute or two. I then take it off the heat, add the egg and pepper, and beat it vigorously for a minute or two. I get a nice creamy consistency every time. The pasta cooks the eggs but without the extra heat, they stay in a cream like consistency. Please note when I say eggs, I mean yolks only too.

                                          You can use bacon in a pinch, but it will add a smokiness to it that isn't "authentic". But it's also not the end of the world.

                                          1. re: Db Cooper

                                            I've made it with or without wine/garlic, and the key is to use very very little of it because you can easily overpower whatever little ingredients are in there. But I find that if you use the right amount, the balance of flavor is much better. Mixing a little bit of parmigiano with the pecorino also gives a much rounder flavor. I've experimented with using bacon, onion, cream...those three things shouldn't be in there for sure.

                                        2. Carbonara should contain eggs, freshly ground black pepper, pecorino romano or parmigiano-reggiano cheese or a combination (pecorino romano would be the most authentic), and guanciale or pancetta. It doesn’t have peas. It should taste like what it is: pasta, eggs, cured (not smoked) pork, cheese, and pepper. The sauce should be creamy and not make you think either of raw eggs or of scrambled eggs. It should make you think it contains cream, but it doesn’t.

                                          3 Replies
                                            1. re: mbfant

                                              last night on a menu, i saw a carbonara dish that was described as "authentic red creamy" blah, blah. :o no, i did not order it, but it sounded like nothing it should have been.

                                              1. re: mbfant

                                                It's the best thing (along with a giant beer) after skiing all day in the Dolomites! And yes to what mbfant says re: ingredients (though I knew a guy from Pesaro who put sliced olives in, as well).

                                              2. I recently made Hazan's recipe - it was quite good, although I think I prefer it without the white wine myself. I also think that pasta water is really the key - I always need a lot more than I think I will. The last batch I made took two whole eggs, one egg yolk and probably a cup of pasta water, maybe more - and it could still have been looser/creamier for my taste. Here is a thread with comment and a link to the recipe:


                                                1. An old boyfriend who'd lived in Italy for a couple of years used to make "carbonara" for me, but what he did was throw a half-pint of half & half, a 6-oz wedge of parmesan, and four eggs in the blender till it was smooth. Then he'd fry up a half-pound of bacon that was sliced thinly crosswise, cook and drain the spaghetti, throw in the hot bacon and grease, then stir in the egg and cream mixture to heat the eggs to cooked. Obviously, it wasn't really carbonara, but with a lot of pepper ground up on it it was really good. I rarely if ever make it because it's such a gut bomb, but remember it very fondly.

                                                  What would you call that dish if it isn't carbonara?

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                    I would call that an Americanized version of carbonara - it's the same basic idea, after all, so it's just the addition of half and half that isn't particularly authentic.

                                                    1. re: EWSflash

                                                      Pasta with custard sauce. I would never call that carbonara, with a cup of H&H...

                                                    2. To put this debate about authentic carbonara in perspective, I have a picture-cookbook of Italian cooking (500 best ....). it has 120 pasta recipes (not counting the lasagnas). Carbonara is just one of many.

                                                      1. I like to get maximum pork flavor in my carbonara. I whisk 2 eggs, a generous handful of grated pecorino romano and a few good grinds of black pepper in a stainless steel bowl. I saute guanciale until crispy while the spaghetti is cooking. Once the pasta is al dente I strain (reserving some pasta water) and toss in the pan with the guanciale and rendered fat. Once the pasta has absorbed the fat, I toss the spaghetti/guanciale mixture into the bowl and mix until creamy, using the reserved pasta water if it looks dry. I find the stainless bowl holds in the heat and produces a nice sauce. I have never had success tossing my pasta directly in the pan - I only get a grainy sauce that way.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: principessa del pisello

                                                          Try whisking your egg sauce in the pan off the heat. I've found that when I do it on the heat, it tends to get grainy as the eggs cook too hard and don't stay creamy. Frankly, they scramble. If you can do it in the pan, you still have the residual heat from the pan along with the heat from the meat, fat, pasta, and any remaining pasta water to help warm up your egg mixture. I promise if you do it off the stove and beat it for a minute or two hard with a whisk , it won't get grainy. I just made it last night.

                                                          You system is very similar to mine except I add my pepper and cheese (I use parm reg too, but that's neither here nor there IMO) to the pan at the same time as the pasta along with a ladle or two of pasta water. IMO, this helps it distribute better and melts the cheese a bit more uniformly. Once it gets absorbed/cooked off, I take the whole thing off the heat and add my egg yolks (I don't use the whites). I then beat it with a whisk for a minute until it all comes together.

                                                        2. It IS funny, I made spaghetti carbonara for the first time just to use what we had in the fridge (no cream), and we enjoyed it. The hubs enjoyed it so much that he ordered it at a restaurant the next time we were out, and he hated it - what most places seem to serve is a cheesy cream sauce. So the girl who had never had carbonara before made a tastier, more authentic version than any we've had outside.

                                                          The secret really is to STIRSTIRSTIR like crazy into the hot pasta. We don't add any pasta water, but the noodles probably have water coating them. The stirring seems to really prevent the eggs from cooking on their own.

                                                          1. I made it a few months ago with the basic ingredients and then followed I think a
                                                            Batlli suggestion and put a raw egg yolk on each serving.....a little too much for me.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: escondido123

                                                              I've had it served with a raw egg yolk on top and like it that way too. The trick is to serve the dish while the pasta is still hot enough to cook the yolk. Also, as the diner one must stir the yolk in thoroughly to get the maximum effect of creaminess from it.

                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                And the pasta must have been mixed and served in bowls that were warm enough not to cause the pasta to loose more heat quickly. That's one of the most common problems that amateurs (and even ignorant professionals) can have with this dish.

                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                  "And the pasta must have been mixed and served in bowls that were warm enough not to cause the pasta to lose more heat quickly."


                                                            2. I just thought of something...

                                                              Do we dare discuss the place of cream in an authentic risotto? :)

                                                              10 Replies
                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                There are so many risotti out there, and you can use whatever ingredients you like, but if you cook it like a risotto, it is still a risotto -- i.e., if you stand over a pan adding broth a little at a time, etc., it is risotto. The ingredients make it one kind of risotto or another, but it's the technique that makes it risotto.

                                                                This carbonara thing is getting wild. First of all, "alla" as a hedge word is a non-starter. The dish is called spaghetti alla carbonara. Normally variations, and there are many, are called something like spaghetti della casa or dello chef or allla name of the restaurant. The customer asks the waiter so what is the spaghetti della casa like, and the waiter will reply, it's a sort of carbonara but it has prosciutto instead of guanciale, or it has peas, or it has onions. If the carbonara contains a LITTLE cream, which it probably won't except in a place where you shouldn’t be ordering it anyway, it will still be called spaghetti alla carbonara and that is probably legit, even if you might not order it twice there. I am still reeling from my recent reading of the recipe in Il Talismano della Felicità which contains both butter and cream, but I think -- but would have to verify by checking the original edition -- that this is a 1960s thing. As I have mentioned, things got a lot more "philological," as the Italians say, in the 80s and later. So, to the question whether if it contains a small amount of cream, can it still be called carbonara, I would answer reluctantly yes, but I wouldn’t go back to the restaurant. And I would add that my Roman husband and I nearly gagged watching a YouTube of Giada De Laurentis making what she called "carbonara," which contained about a quart of cream and was generally disgusting. Whatever it was, it had no right to be called carbonara. (She even said it was just like you'd get in Rome, which was a lie.)

                                                                1. re: mbfant

                                                                  Yes, definitely if anyone uses cream in their dish, the amount is almost negligible. That dish is rich enough already without adding a quart of cream (shudder), but I will take a little if it means that I won't be served dry, greasy pasta and scrambled eggs.

                                                                  1. re: mbfant

                                                                    "She even said it was just like you'd get in Rome, which was a lie."

                                                                    I think if you went to some of the restaurants around the tourist landmarks, you might find some with cream. You know the ones, they have the signs out front with pictures of all the foods and the prices. Total tourist traps where you are getting bad Roman food while in Rome. I find it tragic when I see people eating in those. Maybe those are the places Giada eats at now when she goes to Rome. I'm just thankful I don't.

                                                                    If you do it right and take the time, it doesn't need cream. Same goes for risotto. To me, it's just that simple.

                                                                    1. re: Db Cooper

                                                                      "I think if you went to some of the restaurants around the tourist landmarks, you might find some with cream".
                                                                      I'll leave the discussion since I rarely enter threads about authenticity, and I kinda got lured in. Let's just say that there are natives (that have never stepped a foot outside of their native country) that will have a bit of cream with their carbonara which is a fact - rather than make assumptions about what's getting served in tourist restaurants in Italy.

                                                                      1. re: Db Cooper

                                                                        I live spitting distance from a major Roman tourist landmark and our local trattoria makes truly delicious, very traditional carbonara, but yes, there are quite a few places in the nabe whose doors we will never darken. The worst almost certainly use factory-made "carbonara sauce" -- whose existence was revealed to me when I went to a wholesale supermarket. I doubt that is what Giada was referring to. In any case, her recipe was not the tablespoon of cream that purists avoid and novices find makes the job easier but a huge amount, so as to drastically alter the nature of the dish. My husband nearly had apoplexy watching her and then began to find the cynicism of her remark fascinating.

                                                                      2. re: mbfant

                                                                        "First of all, "alla" as a hedge word is a non-starter. The dish is called spaghetti alla carbonara."

                                                                        Thank you for verifying this, mbfant.

                                                                        1. re: mbfant

                                                                          This carbonara thing is getting wild. First of all, "alla" as a hedge word is a non-starter. The dish is called spaghetti alla carbonara.

                                                                          The dish with pasta may be called spaghetti alla carbonara.....but the egg sauce itself is carbonara, no?

                                                                          1. re: fourunder

                                                                            "but the egg sauce itself is carbonara, no?"

                                                                            Is there really a "sauce" to speak of? It's the combination of ingredients (including the pasta) that makes the dish. The eggs, cheese and meat on their own are really not a sauce. At least I've never thought of it that way. That is why a "carbonara sauce" in a jar just doesn't make sense (to me at least).

                                                                            1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                              Yes, it's a sauce: it is semi-liquid emulsified condiment to the pasta. Not all sauces can be jarred.

                                                                              By contrast, simply adding cheese would be a condiment that is not a sauce. But melting and emulsifying the grated cheese in the starchy pasta water (for best results, use less water than you might otherwise think to use - starchier water works best for emulsifying; this is a classic technique to avoid graininess) would make a sauce.

                                                                              One of the lovely things about a good carbonara is that there is only enough sauce to glaze the pasta: the pasta is the star, the sauce is the condiment. There is no pool of sauce, no sense that the sauce is the star with the pasta just as the vehicle. You can taste the pasta with this sauce; the sauce amplifies without obscuring. The complaints about cream in part arise because the introduction of a noticeable amount of cream reverses this equation.

                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                I guess because of the way I make it (mix eggs and cheese together and add to pan where I have sauteed the pancetta and tossed the cooked pasta, adding pasta water at this point only if needed) I don't think of it as a sauce. But I see your point Karl S.

                                                                      3. I make authentic carbonara linguine with goat cheese, créme fraîche, red pepper flakes, and tons of garlic. Oh, and 3 duck eggs, of course. Canadian Bacon.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: linguafood

                                                                          You forgot the oregano or basil. Spam, too.

                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                            There NEVER is oregano or basil in authentic linguine alla carbonara. That's insane.

                                                                          2. re: linguafood

                                                                            Haha! Well said, lingua, and if it's authentic to you...

                                                                          3. A question for the purists who contend what *alla carbonara* or *carbonara* really is? If you all maintain what the dish is called and any variation of the ingredients and or recipe itself would disqualify it as either....How can you all be so sure what it really is , given the facts there are multiple stories as to the origins of the dish over the years. I have no idea of what the credentials of any historians are , but reading what is available on the internet seems to me that what they have researched offers a few different explanations, including the use of lard and or olive oil, which differ from your ideas..... so how is it that you all seem so sure of what your position is fact, and not just opinion?

                                                                            Also, it could be argued which cheese should be used properly for the dish.....and whether whole eggs or simply yokes should be used. Taking the eggs into account further, it has been suggested that the recipe is sacred.....doesn't that mean the preparation should be exact and without deviation from from steps or method, i.e., the separation of the egg yoke from the white...and whether egg whites should even be included? Given two types of cheese and three ways to use eggs...my math may be suspect, but that leaves 9 recipe variations using eggs, but down to 6 if the contention is yokes must be included..

                                                                            If history cannot be determined for it's origins... how can you all be so sure?

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: fourunder

                                                                              you will never win when it comes to "authentic" or "traditional" - especially in Italy where they can't even agree on what to call pasta shapes from town to town. it is what I love about traveling and eating through Italy.

                                                                              But in this case it is cream specifically that is creating all the fuss - the peas, bacon/pancetta/guanciale, pasta water/no water, whole eggs/yolks only, etc people will discuss but adding cream really gets people worked up.

                                                                              I'm firmly in the "no cream" camp but I love how upset people get about it.

                                                                              1. re: thimes

                                                                                I agree with you about the passion. I'll check for sure, but reading some of the stories for the possible beginnings of the dish, one famous restaurant in Italy did in fact use a small amount of cream.....until then, I found this to be a particularly good read.


                                                                                1. re: thimes

                                                                                  The reason is that this dish often is just a custardy Alfredo with bacon in many American restaurants. If someone could come up with a distinctive name for that other than Carbonara, it would help matters a lot.

                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                    " a custardy Alfredo with bacon in many American restaurants.If someone could come up with a distinctive name for that other than Carbonara, it would help matters a lot."

                                                                                    Pasta alla'v Gardinara

                                                                                2. re: fourunder

                                                                                  "A question for the purists who contend what *alla carbonara* or *carbonara* really is? If you all maintain what the dish is called and any variation of the ingredients and or recipe itself would disqualify it as either....How can you all be so sure what it really is , given the facts there are multiple stories as to the origins of the dish over the years."

                                                                                  Speaking for myself, I have had this dish in Italy a number of times and based on what I have eaten in traditional trattorias I expect to find pasta, eggs, some kind of pork product (preferably pancetta or guanciale) and cheese. That's all. So when I have the dish here in the US and the menu makes no mention of cream and it is served floating in cream, I am dismayed. That's all. Anything else I have said in this thread may have been in the heat of the moment and I apologize if I have come off as surly or difficult.

                                                                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                    I didn't think anyone was surly - I find these threads interesting because people are so upset about things.

                                                                                    That said, I just sit back and smile with the knowledge that carbonara should never have cream and so the detractors are just wrong or misguided in their passion (hahahahahahaha)

                                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                      No apologies necessary....but I appreciate the polite response.

                                                                                  2. I am in the camp that believes carbonara does not contain cream, but if a chef wants to modify carbonara with cream, peas, onions, dried cranberries, whatever; why insist on calling it carbonara? Just call it Chef's Billy's pasta and then whatever is in the dish. Why not just call it what it really is than try to pass it off as carbonara?

                                                                                    29 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Fowler

                                                                                      That naming issue applies to almost any item on the menu. How far can the chef go in customizing a dish before the name nor long applies, or no longer is useful. Innovative chefs are, in a sense, playing with the customer's expectations. staying close enough to tradition or convention so the customer does not feel lied to, but straying far enough to be memorable. Different expectations complicates things. You expect something close to that traditional Roman dish, others just expect a pasta dish with bacon.

                                                                                      1. re: paulj


                                                                                        As always, you have made some very strong points and I commend innovative chefs that take a classic dish and tweak it to make it something different and memorable.

                                                                                        But perhaps look at it this way...If someone were to attempt to sell you a Ferrari, but did not mention that the car had a Ferrari body but also actually had a Ford engine, a Chevy transmission and Honda accessories would you still consider that car a Ferrari? Should they not just describe what it really is as opposed to claiming it is a Ferrari?

                                                                                        1. re: Fowler

                                                                                          If you were to buy a Ferrari.....wouldn't you open the hood to see if Ferrari is on the engine block?..

                                                                                          If you want Spaghetti alla Carbonara....ask how its made......then decide...Simple.

                                                                                          1. re: fourunder

                                                                                            Is there any dish that gets people as worked up as carbonara? A few points, in no particular order:
                                                                                            - I watched the Giada YouTube again -- wanted to show it to my Italian friend/colleague who wrote "Encyclopedia of Pasta" (which I translated). It was worse than I remembered: Giada adds cinnamon. My friend nearly went out of her mind. In addition, she claims fresh pasta is what you get in Rome, which it isn't, but that is not a crime. The quantity of cream, and even the quantity of pork (which in the Giada version is half bacon, half pancetta), are bizarre. My friend will forgive a teensy spoonful of cream for beginners because it makes it easier to blend everything.

                                                                                            - The origins. If you think it was invented by post-World War II GIs, you probably think Marco Polo introduced pasta to Italy from China. The origins are in the Apennines, pretty much as described by Carole Lalli in the Departures article cited above.

                                                                                            - Room for variation. Italian food isn't codified, it is based on tradition. That leaves a good deal of room for variation, especially since most of these traditional dishes were prepared in conditions of poverty and other difficulties. People used what they had. If it was lardo instead of guanciale, they used that. However, tradition does dictate that carbonara contains pork, eggs, black pepper, and cheese and not anything else. People have a right not to find, say, something green in their carbonara. The restaurant Al Moro, very correct and traditional, uses red pepper in their carbonara, and calls the dish spaghetti al Moro, not carbonara, and that is the only deviation, but it's enough to change the name. Bacon introduces a smoky taste that comes from a different tradition, different place. Chefs can differ over the whole egg versus just yolk business, but one or the other doesn’t alter the nature of the dish. Peas do. Pecorino is without question the original cheese used. Parmigiano may be centuries old, but it became a national cheese relatively recently. But most people accept a portion of parmigiano-reggiano mixed with the pecorino romano because it's so delicious. And that is all the variation people can be expected to accept when they order carbonara. Everything else should have a different name (even just "carbonara al modo mio"). When you order a hamburger, you don't expect cheese. You order a cheeseburger for that. Different name.

                                                                                            - Condiment vs sauce. In Italian they are all "condimenti". Some are prepared separately, others directly on the pasta, like carbonara. "Carbonara sauce" is not an Italian concept. Nor, for that matter, is "Alfredo sauce," which is, correctly, only butter and cheese. No cream there either.

                                                                                            1. re: mbfant


                                                                                              Thanks for the response....

                                                                                              The quantity of cream, and even the quantity of pork (which in the Giada version is half bacon, half pancetta), are bizarre.

                                                                                              Copied from the Departures article for those who did not see or read it....

                                                                                              Not far from the Campo de' Fiori, in a pretty 17th-century building, is the Ristorante Vecchia Roma, which also serves carbonara. The proprietor, Antonio Palladino, reinforces the rural theory: "It is not refined," he says. "It is common...of the people—a country dish." Over in the Testaccio neighborhood, Checchino dal 1887's Elio Mariani, a keeper of old Roman meat-based dishes, adds, "It comes from a peasant dish that was called unto e uova [fat and eggs]. Originally it was made with lard and eggs, then, in time, guanciale supplanted the lard. It was a little more flavorful and less greasy."

                                                                                              ......But in Palladino's opinion, a fifty-fifty combination of pancetta and guanciale would provide "a true carbonara."


                                                                                              It seems some Italians have different opinions too.....maybe not so bizarre

                                                                                              : 0)

                                                                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                                                                But both pancetta and guanciale are unsmoked; they are salt-cured only. American bacon has a strong hickory flavor.

                                                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                  "But both pancetta and guanciale are unsmoked; they are salt-cured only. American bacon has a strong hickory flavor."

                                                                                                  Crucial difference.

                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                    In my experience the smokiness that bacon adds to this dish is negligible.

                                                                                                    I worry more about how to get the bits of meat even dispersed than how it is flavored.

                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                      "In my experience the smokiness that bacon adds to this dish is negligible."

                                                                                                      While I like bacon in certain things, I do not like it in a carbonara. I find the smokiness to be too overpowering.

                                                                                                      "I worry more about how to get the bits of meat even dispersed than how it is flavored."

                                                                                                      This is where the "pan jerk" works beautifully.

                                                                                                2. re: mbfant

                                                                                                  mbfant, that is as clear and as definitive a description of carbonara (and Italian tradition) as I have seen. Brava! But given that this is CH, and everyone has an opinion on how Italian food should be made, this thread will continue with endless arguments about semantics, peas vs. parsley, guanciale vs. bacon, etc., etc., ad nauseum. For me, however, your post is the last word!

                                                                                                  1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                    Cinnamon??? Seriously? Giada adding cinnamon blows my mind. It kind of makes the whole bacon vs. guanciale issue seem silly now. Cinnamon----shaking my head.

                                                                                                    1. re: sparkareno

                                                                                                      Here is the list of ingredients for Giada's "Cinnamon-Pancetta Carbonara" from the FN site:

                                                                                                      * 4 slices bacon, chopped
                                                                                                      * 4 slices pancetta, chopped
                                                                                                      * 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
                                                                                                      * 2 cups whipping cream
                                                                                                      * 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
                                                                                                      * 6 large egg yolks
                                                                                                      * 18 ounces fresh fettuccine
                                                                                                      * Salt and freshly ground black pepper
                                                                                                      * 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

                                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                        Doesn't the fact that she includes 'cinnamon-pancetta' in the name count for anything? Plus it is only 1/4tsp.

                                                                                                        is another recipe without the cinnamon, and only half a cup of cream.

                                                                                                        'Giada carbonara' turns up 4 recipes on FN.

                                                                                                        A restaurant in Rome can get by with serving one version of 'carbonara' day after day, along with a dozen other pasta dishes. But a TV chef has to keep coming up with new dishes, and variations on the old standards all the time. With the Network playing reruns, she can't recycle old recipes on new episodes.

                                                                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                                                                          "A restaurant in Rome can get by with serving one version of 'carbonara' day after day, along with a dozen other pasta dishes. But a TV chef has to keep coming up with new dishes, and variations on the old standards all the time. With the Network playing reruns, she can't recycle old recipes on new episodes."

                                                                                                          Yes, that's true but as mbfant said up above about this recipe after viewing the episode on which it appeared on You Tube:

                                                                                                          "And I would add that my Roman husband and I nearly gagged watching a YouTube of Giada De Laurentis making what she called "carbonara," which contained about a quart of cream and was generally disgusting. Whatever it was, it had no right to be called carbonara. (She even said it was just like you'd get in Rome, which was a lie.)"

                                                                                                          The part in which Giada says "it was just like you'd get in Rome" is why she's being taken to task here.

                                                                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                            I watched the Aspen video, and heard the 'like Rome' comment about half way through when she was talking about using fresh tagliatelle. So was she claiming that her whole preparation was just like Rome, or just the use of fresh pasta?

                                                                                                            What really struck me as odd was that she was cooking the 'sauce' (eggs, cream and cheese) before adding the pasta. In fact she seemed to be cooking the pasta in that sauce. With that sequence it makes sense to include more cream. But the link to conventional 'carbonara' has been reduced to the use of eggs (or was it just egg yolks).

                                                                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                                                                              Yes, the second time I watched it I saw that "like Rome" applied to the fresh pasta. Of course in Rome fresh pasta is not normally used for carbonara. Aside from just custom, most people would find it too heavy. The implication of the whole thing was, however, that this was carbonara and the cinnamon more an enhancement than an aberration. I had even forgotten about the cinnamon. What I remembered was the sea of cream in which the bacon and pancetta were boiling. The Italian comments on YouTube were very funny, indignant often.

                                                                                                              1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                                Ah...you folks mean this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMN2vO...
                                                                                                                Heh. Regarding the Italian comments - you mean like the "best rated" one at the top of the comments section? :-)
                                                                                                                She *does* say you can substitute (i.e. use dry pasta instead) but that it "will never be like in Rome unless you use fresh (pasta)". :-D

                                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                  Oh, dear, dear, dear. (shaking head)

                                                                                                        2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                          Why does this sound like it will literally be drowning in creAm.

                                                                                                        3. re: sparkareno

                                                                                                          I once went to a highly regarded Italian restaurant and found they had used cinnamon (in a very pronounced amount) in their ragu bolognese. It was pretty obvious that some prepper had probably put cinnamon in the nutmeg bowl on the line. I explained the problem and returned the dish; the restaurant insisted that cinnamon had not been used. I ordered something else....

                                                                                                        4. re: mbfant

                                                                                                          Here's Barbara Lynch's version for the April Bon Appetit, just made freely available today:


                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                            That looks really good--I love the ratio of egg yolks to whole eggs. The rigatoni also looks great. I almost always use long pasta so this will be a change but I love tube pastas.

                                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                                              In restaurants, it's wise always to provide for short shapes - they are neater to eat, shall we say, and a lot of people won't eat long pasta in nice restaurants because of the messy factor.

                                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                "and a lot of people won't eat long pasta in nice restaurants because of the messy factor."

                                                                                                                We call them amateurs. :)

                                                                                                          2. re: mbfant

                                                                                                            "Is there any dish that gets people as worked up as carbonara?"


                                                                                                            on this board? yes, almost any simple traditional italian dish, lol.

                                                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                              "yes, almost any simple traditional italian dish, lol."

                                                                                                              "Simple" being the operative word. When others take the simplest of Italian recipes and add more ingredients and make the preparation more difficult than it needs to be, they are moving far away from the basis of what good Italian food is.

                                                                                                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                apparently for some, the addition of cream actually makes this dish easier to prepare.

                                                                                                                but there is a tendency here to get knickers in a pedantic twist over what is truly authentic, especially with italian cookery. at its essence, it's a cuisine of the hard-working poor, scrabbling to use what they had on hand, so as not to starve. dishes were very regional and very local. eventually, with improved transportation and shipping, ingredients moved around much more and dishes previously of one place became better known more widely.

                                                                                                                when people point to recipes from tv personalities like giada, i have to laugh, honestly.

                                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                  Speaking hard-scrabble versions, I wonder how it would taste if made with the GI rations that some claim are at its origins - bacon and powdered eggs.

                                                                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                    "Speaking hard-scrabble versions, I wonder how it would taste if made with the GI rations that some claim are at its origins - bacon and powdered eggs."

                                                                                                                    Probably like "crap-onara." :)

                                                                                                  2. and I chuckle and shake my head, having read the daily contributions and salivating all the while, thinking what would these CH friends of mine think as I am attempting to creatively find weight watcher substitutions to try to re-create this in a permissable fashion. NOT TO WORRY - It won't be passed off as authentic Carbonara in my household!

                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: smilingal

                                                                                                      Here's a hint: do cacio e pepe instead of carbonara. Just melt finely grated pecorino (you can add some reggiano, too) with spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water just before the pasta is done (the water should be well salted, and you should cook the pasta in less water than you may typically do, so that it is starchier). You don't need to use a lot of cheese, and you can get a creamy glaze; pasta should be eaten with some fat (getting rid of the fat is what makes carbs like pasta more likely to create problems for people...) anyway.

                                                                                                      Anyway, you won't be using cream, that's for sure!

                                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                        Karl S - thanks so much for the helpful hint! If this thread doesn't calm down then I fear this dish will have to work it's way to my table sometime soon!

                                                                                                        1. re: smilingal

                                                                                                          You will find recipes that involve adding butter - butter is not needed. This redaction of the Cook's Illustrated approach uses cream for cacio e pepe, but I think it's not needed (though, as with carbonara, it makes emulsification easier....), so long as you carefully melt the cheese with the salty extra-starchy water by the spoonful:


                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                            now i MUST make it - maybe next week - after the WW mtg this weekend! :) surprised no bacon in this version - I was going to add the bacon - and maybe use FF cream!

                                                                                                            1. re: smilingal

                                                                                                              I wouldn't use FF cream over heat. Try evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed) instead - it's a simple product, already tempered by evaporation. But avoiding fat entirely is something of a mistake for the reasons noted earlier.

                                                                                                                  1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                                    It's something of a variation on sweetened condensed milk for those unfamiliar with the more traditional product.

                                                                                                                    People have forgotten the wonders of simple old evaporated milk. Use the pointed end of a bottle opener to open a large and small hole in the top, use what you need, stick the can back in the fridge (though back in the day, a lot people didn't refrigerate it, but just kept it on the counter for creaming coffee).

                                                                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                      i thought nothing was safe to remain in the can?!
                                                                                                                      And please understand -these compensations in the recipe would not be my choice way to prepare this!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                        I loved Evaporated Milk as a kid, but that was because I like the flavor of it, it is not neutral but very specific. I can't stand it now as a replacement for cream of any sort.

                                                                                                                        1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                          Evaporated milk works quite well when making the sauce for mac-n-cheese. As note it is more stable when heated.

                                                                                                                          Inspired by several threads, I'm thinking of making Spam and grits ala carbonara. And I have some evaporated milk in the fridge (left over from making a barley and cherry pudding), so maybe I'll use that when cooking the grits. Or in more Italian terms Mortadella y polenta alla carbonara

                                                                                                          2. re: smilingal

                                                                                                            I'd make it as is and serve it with chicken breast and a lot of vegetables. I'd rather have a small amount of the real thing than a large serving of nearly fat free carbonara made with ff cream.

                                                                                                            If you REALLY want to eat a lot, you could use more pasta water and use a combination of whole eggs and egg whites. Sprinkle cheese on top before serving. I've seen it made w/ fat free cream cheese but I just can't imagine that. If you want bacon, make it and then toss a few chopped pieces on top of the serving.

                                                                                                          3. Inspired by this thread I am going to make carbonara tonight.

                                                                                                            After I saute the pancetta/garlic a la Marcella Hazan, my idea is to remove the meat from the pan and then saute half a small shredded cabbage or savoy cabbage, and toss it with the cheese/pasta/mixture.

                                                                                                            Will let you know it it went.

                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                              Along those lines, this cabbage and pasta dish is really good. I'll bet it would be even better if you did it w/ egg like a carbonara.


                                                                                                              1. re: Roland Parker

                                                                                                                i don't eat pasta anymore so love to sub out cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus for something like this. traditional? of course not, but well within my low-carb way of eating.

                                                                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                  Have you tried "carbonara" with spaghetti squash? I might give that a try.

                                                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                                                      I'm going to give it a try. I'll call it low-carb-onara so as not to offend the purists.

                                                                                                              2. I did a little looking and I can't believe how many variations of Pasta Carbonara there are. I've even seen a few that contain milk and vinegar (?)

                                                                                                                I believe the classic method contains pancetta, eggs & cheese

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: ctfoodguy

                                                                                                                  the interwebs can be a dangerous place. :)

                                                                                                                2. MrsJonesey,

                                                                                                                  I'm going to give you my recipe for what I believe is a classic carbonara. As best as I can tell, this is the base of the dish I've eaten most frequently when I've had it in Rome and the surrounding areas. No peas, no cream, no garlic. Just the most authentic I can give you. I've messed with this at least 100 times over the past few years and this is the one that I find gives me the best and most consistent results. At the end, it should have a creamy texture tasting of a mixture of egg, fat, meat, saltiness from the cheese, and pepper.

                                                                                                                  1 pound of pasta - Fresh or Dried.
                                                                                                                  1/3 pound pancetta or 1/4 pound of guanciale.
                                                                                                                  1/2 cup freshly grated cheese - Most use Parm, Romano is fine as well.
                                                                                                                  3 Egg Yolks
                                                                                                                  Salt for the pasta cooking water
                                                                                                                  1 Tsp Pepper
                                                                                                                  1 tbs Olive Oil

                                                                                                                  -Cook pancetta slowly in olive oil slowly until crisp. If there is an excess of fat, drain but reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan. Keep warm.

                                                                                                                  -Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook your pasta to al dente or just short. It'll cook more in the pan so OK to be a tad short of al dente. Drain, but reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Please note that this works easier if you can time steps one and two so that they finish together. But if not, do step one first, then return it to the heat about a minute or two before the pasta finishes cooking.

                                                                                                                  -Add pasta and reserved pasta water to the pan with the pancetta over medium heat. Add your cheese and pepper. Turn off the heat and stir for one minute to incorporate and allow some of the water to cook off.

                                                                                                                  -Remove pan from heat. Add all the egg yolks at once (I separate and hold in a bowl before step one) and beat them furiously for one minute. The eggs should not scramble, but mix into a creamy sauce. Taste for seasoning. You shouldn't need more salt as you have the pasta water and cheese to cover it. But some like a tad more pepper. Serve immediately in a warm bowl or plate. This, depending on portion size, should serve between 2 and 4 people. It's very decadent and very rich so you don't need to serve Cheesecake Factory like portions.

                                                                                                                  To me, that's how it should taste. It's a simple dish of only five ingredients that meld together in a beautiful harmony. Of course, you can vary of this all you want. Bacon, peas, garlic, shrimp, scallops, cinnamon, whatever you or Giada's runway for a forehead want to add, feel free. But as a base, I think you'll have a hard time improving on this one.

                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Db Cooper

                                                                                                                    If I could jump in here - do you "furiously beat" the egg yolks in the pan *with* the pasta as well? Meaning the entire mix is "beaten furiously"? If so wouldn't that shred the pasta into minuscule pieces? If not, how exactly are the egg yolks positioned relative to everything else?

                                                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                      Yes, everything together. If you use a whisk, the pasta won't break. And unless you've cooked the pasta to mush, it'll have enough tensile strength to hold up.

                                                                                                                      I usually pour eggs in middle, then start my whisk on outside and begin working counter clockwise. When I say beat, I guess I mean vigorously stir or whisk the pan to bring it all together. I hope that helps to clarify.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Db Cooper

                                                                                                                        Yes, that does, thanks.

                                                                                                                        When you said "furiously beat" the egg yolks, what I envisioned was, for example, using a fork or a pair of large chopsticks (let alone a wire whisk) to BEAT eggs in a bowl where one holds the bowl at a slight angle with one hand, the fork (e.g.) held in the other hand and the fork propelled into, through and out of the egg mixture forcefully and rapidly in a circular motion swinging the fork through the air before striking the mixture on the downstroke again, repeatedly, maybe at a cycle per second, whipping the mixture and generating a froth. Any cooked pasta, even al dente stuff, would be reduced to mashed starch in such a process, it seemed to me. :-)

                                                                                                                    2. re: Db Cooper

                                                                                                                      The difference in the amount of one lb of dried pasta, unprepared, and one pound of fresh pasta, unprepared, is about +50% post-cooking, and will greatly throw off the final sauce proportions here (i.e. they are exchangeable if you are citing post-cooked weights, but NOT pre-cooked weights).

                                                                                                                      Also, even if using one lb (prior to cooking) of fresh pasta (which would yield less food than dried, given the same pre-cooked weight), this is an enormous quantity of pasta for two people.

                                                                                                                    3. I know this thread died a while ago but I just have to revive it. This video says it all. Look at that finished dish...perfection! And it does not seem difficult at all.


                                                                                                                      42 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                        Tom? - Thanks so much for posting this here - yes - it is encouraging for those of us who haven't made this with concerns for the egg yolk to see how it is done - quite dramatically and simply!
                                                                                                                        And the first couple of ladles were oil but the last few to thicken must have been pasta water. Magnifique!

                                                                                                                        1. re: smilingal

                                                                                                                          All of the ladles were pasta cooking water. The oil was in the pan with the pancetta/guanciale.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                            thanks for the clarification - upon watching it again I realized the same! Thanks!

                                                                                                                            Shows how much pasta water (perhaps more than one might think) and how important it is to make the dish come together.

                                                                                                                            1. re: smilingal

                                                                                                                              And you get the best effect by having the water very starchy (so restaurants that re-use their pasta cooking water get better results than home cooks who use a higher water:pasta ratio...). That starch in the water helps emulsify the grated cheese with the oil and rendered pork fat, and the lecithin in the egg yolk crowns that emulsification process.

                                                                                                                              1. re: smilingal

                                                                                                                                "Shows how much pasta water (perhaps more than one might think) and how important it is to make the dish come together."

                                                                                                                                He does dip into the water quite a few times but I don't think they are full ladles.

                                                                                                                                I am going to attempt this exact recipe and technique in the next week or so and will report back on the results. If anyone else does the same, please let us know what happens.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                  He's using about 3-4 fluid oz at a time (it's a half cup ladle), so it's probably more than you think. Professional cooks are fairly generous ....

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                    I watched the video again and it seems like he is not using the full ladle every time. Of course, it doesn't matter exactly how much water he uses, just the fact that he keeps adding more and more until he is satisfied with the end result.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                      It's a substantial amount of water. When I am generous with water, I end up w/ soupy pasta. Could it be that my water isn't starchy enough? I don't use nearly as much as videos I've seen.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                        1. Use a wide pan over medium-high heat enhances evaporation; easier to do when one is making the amount in that video, of course...

                                                                                                                                        2. Use a lower ratio of water to pasta to enhance starchiness.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                          I think my problem is #2 since I use a skillet. Thanks--I have to try w/ less water when I made the pasta.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                          "When I am generous with water, I end up w/ soupy pasta. Could it be that my water isn't starchy enough?"

                                                                                                                                          Could also be that your pasta isn't absorbent enough. The small-producer high-end pastas soak up water like a sponge and give you nice starchy water too.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: mbfant

                                                                                                                                            I use a bronze cut pasta but grocery store one. The price on the high end pasta is a turn off but maybe I'll give it try to see if it makes a difference.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                              The other thing it to take the pasta out of the cooking water sooner than you think (but here restaurants have an advantage of re-using their water so the starch content is higher than a home cook's abbreviated use....)

                                                                                                                                        3. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                          Love the Music! Doesnt look bigger than a 3 oz ladle to me and it looks like he's dropping in about ~2oz of water at a time.

                                                                                                                                          The water isn't starchy! That whole 'starchy water' thing is a romantic story with a small kernel of truth at the center. If you really want starchy water, make a slurry the flour in pasta doesn't have magical properties.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                                                            Indeed, you could use a slurry, but you'd need to cook it long enough for it not to taste raw - and you don't need to when you have what you already have. The marginal amount of additional starch in the water (especially if you reduce the water:pasta ratio and reuse the water repeatedly as restaurants do) is sufficient to assist emulsification of sauces and grated cheeses into the sauce, et cet. and also marginally bump up the flavor (you can taste the difference between plain water and pasta cooking water...). You can consult the food science geeks on that one; all I know that is that it does work better than plain water.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                              restaurants don't re-use pasta water! Seriously it's convenient and and thrifty to use your pasta water. but those pasta cookers get drained, cleaned and re filled after every service. It's the water and good technique that is important. The starch is a nice side benefit that helps if you are a line cook in the weeds and and need your sauce come together. .

                                                                                                                                              1. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                                                                Do mean they are drained after each serving is made? There is no re-use at all? I can accept that they will be drained after a few servings are made over the course of time, but I am less sure that they are drained afresh every five minutes....

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                  Service.. Ie lunch service. But you always start with clean well salted water. carbonnara does not require starchy water, just water.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: AAQjr

                                                                                                                                                  Not so in restaurant kitchens I've seen. In fact, the pasta water gets better with each batch of pasta. I'm sure they change it every day, but during evening service?

                                                                                                                                                  Doubt it.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                                                                    That's what I thought linguafood. What would be the use of changing the water and bringing it up to temp with each new pasta order, especially in an Italian restaurant?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                                      According to Harold McGee, you don't need as much water to cook pasta as usually recommended. I have followed his suggestions for cooking pasta in much less water, and when I do that, the pasta water is much more starchy and definitely improves the taste of the final product when I add some to the pasta that I've transferred to the sauce.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                        Yes, it's the inimitable Harold McGee who is responsible for popularizing this professional knowledge.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                    Nice video. Hmm, the tossing/flipping might dump some stuff over my stovetop though. :-)

                                                                                                                                    How about this one? Done in a bowl.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                      That's pretty much the method I use now.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                        BTW it *is* guanciale that is used in that recipe/demo, not "smoked bacon". Watching the video in the original Italian makes that clear.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                          I tried it last night. TOO SALTY for my taste, although I used pancetta instead. Need to reduce the amount of pancetta, or use less salt in the water for the pasta.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                            Less pancetta, less salt in the pasta water, drained the pasta just a little more. Used just egg yolks. More ground black pepper. Splash of pasta water in the mixing. The result was wonderful.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                      I just noticed something about the video I posted...No black pepper??? Or did I miss something?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                        It's in the pan with the rendered fat - all those black specks; toasting the pepper that way enhances its flavor (you won't need as much - a way to control marginal costs in a restaurant...).

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                          I thought maybe it was black pepper but then it also looks like bits of fond from the pancetta.

                                                                                                                                          btw Karl S., I'm no stranger to professional kitchens and the restaurant business.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                            That didn't look like the fond from pancetta to me.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                          will have to go look again but it's late (almost 2am in rome) but it could very well exclude black pepper, which would have been a very expensive luxury in the post-war era when the recipe was born.


                                                                                                                                            1. re: katieparla

                                                                                                                                              The recipe antedates World War II; the popular myth about its postwar origins is exactly that, a popular myth.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                What are the pre ww2 references to this dish?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                  Well, just for one easy to find source, though I've certainly seen other discussions debunking that myth:


                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                    That history looks familiar. While the author tries to debunk the GI link, he still has trouble finding pre WW2 evidence. But I suspect the main thing against the GI origin is the likely nature of GI rations. Their eggs were most likely dehydrated, not fresh, and their meat most likely Spam or chipped dried beef.

                                                                                                                                                    Supersizers Go ... Wartime (BBC, Cooking Channel) talk about wartime Brits getting a lot of dried eggs and Spam from America, and even coming to like them.

                                                                                                                                                    oops, I may be repeating myself

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                                                                                                      The GI business is absurd, and looking for written evidence of traditional dishes is futile. The very nature of the carbonara ingredients tells you what it is: Dried pasta, cured pork, aged cheese, and eggs are all easily carried around by shepherds, charcoal makers, woodsmen, and others who prepared their own meals out of doors in the Apennines of northeast Lazio and western Abruzzo.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                                                                                            This is GREAT, thanks! I skimmed this thread a few days ago after being led to it from another thread. Of course, I haven't stopped thinking about making proper Carbonara since. After a visit to the local Italian market for quality pasta, cheese, and pancetta, plus the usual Sunday morning at the Greenmarket for fresh farm eggs, I came back here for details and am thrilled to have now seen this vid. Okay...time to prepare dinner soon. A little nervous...I hope I can pull it off!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Justpaula

                                                                                                                                              ...or do it in a big mixing bowl, if you feel nervous about the repeated pan-flipping...
                                                                                                                                              (see my post under ttoommyy's)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                THANK YOU SO MUCH, huiray! Just before making the dish, I told my husband i was concerned about my lack of pan-flipping abilities (actually, lack there of). At the last minute, I checked back here and so this last post of yours. I ended up preparing the pasta according to the method in the video you posted. It was EASY and came out PERFECT (although after three or four bites, my two year old started getting annoying and I put eating aside to get him in bed which led to cleaning, etc....and I never made it back to eating). I know it is a dish best eaten fresh, but I will enjoy the leftovers and my husband praised it enough to satisfy me (sometimes I cook to cook, not so much to eat). It may detract from the authenticity, but I did soften about two tablespoons of finely minced shallots in the rendered pancetta fat and it was a good decision. Anyway, now that I know how easy it is, it will definitely show up on my dinner table again. This threads is one of the reasons I really appreciate Chowhound!