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Jun 8, 2012 03:15 PM

Marcella's Carbonara-add basil or not?

I'm making spaghetti carbonara tonight, closely following Mrs. Hazan's recipe. I've got some real nice basil growing outside the kitchen door. Can't decide whether to chiffonade some for garnish or not.

I guess I could put it over to one side and flip it off if it's better without.

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    1. I don't think Mrs. Hazan would approve. If you do, probably best not to say it is her version.

      3 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          So, if you put a pinch of fresh Basil on top of a classic spaghetti carbonara it is no longer carbonara?

          1. re: kengk

            it's not a classic carbonara. Basil is not typical for that dish, any more than it would be typical in an New England Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. That is, basil is not some universal Italian herb for indiscriminate use in pasta sauces. It's a very pungent herb. Carbonara already has a very defined balance, and basil would upset the typical balance. If a restaurant served carbonara to me with basil garnish, I would remove it if I could, or return it if I couldn't.

      1. No! Use your basil with fresh tomatoes.

        1. Good god. Don't let the authenticity police tell you how to eat your food. If you enjoy your carbonara with basil, knock yourself out.

          I don't think it would go well together, flavorwise -- I agree that basil is a rather strong-tasting herb that can overpower more delicate dishes such as carbonara, but I doubt Mrs. Hazan would give two shits about how you garnish *her* sacred recipe.

          8 Replies
          1. re: linguafood

            No, Hazan (infamously) would care, and would give you several reasons not to do so, and look at you with a gimlet eye if you ignored her. She says what she means and means what she says, and all that.

            1. re: Karl S

              I'll take your word for it that she would.

              But she's not in my kitchen eating my food, so I frankly couldn't care less what she thinks of my riffs on her recipes (or anyone else's, for that matter). It's hypothetical. It's --ssshhhh -- only in your head '-)

              Besides, I agree with others that basil would not be a good addition to carbonara in terms of flavor, but I don't need an imaginary authenticity cop ruling what I can or cannot add to my dish. Crazy, I know.

              1. re: linguafood

                And it's not so much about authenticity (for me; for Marcella, it would be), but communication. That when we speak of dish X that has a strongly defined array of ingredients and technique, that's what we mean when we say it. If not, then we call it something else, say, Lingua's Linguine. Calling it dish X and straying from the typical ingredients and technique is wasteful, equivocal communication. (That's editors at work, not police.)

                1. re: Karl S

                  Throwing a basil leaf on top of a dish of carbonara makes it carbonara with a basil leaf on top. Oh, the humanity '-)

                  1. re: linguafood

                    A chiffonade is not a leaf, and is much more difficult to remove once served, as it tends to blend in. YMMV.

                    1. re: Karl S

                      My mileage doesn't vary, because I don't use basil on or in carbonara.

                      But I'm glad we had a chance to talk about it.

            2. re: linguafood

              Authenticity police? Nobody has said, gee that sounds great, but it's not authentic so you daren't do it. Everybody has said it sounds like a bad idea, period. Fresh basil goes a lot better with tomatoes than with eggs. And as for authenticity, I'm inclined to trust the generations of Italians who have perfected these combinations, and nobody needs to show a license to the cops.

              1. re: linguafood

                I'm completely with Linguafood on this one. That's how new dishes come into being. Use your wonderful homegrown basil with everything until you decide what you like it in and what you don't.

              2. I don't care if it authentic, but to me it doesn't sound good.

                1 Reply