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Feb 6, 2014 09:35 AM

Why make something so simple so complicated?

Last night I had the urge to make spaghetti carbonera. Simple, 4 ingredients including the pasta. Very quick and very easy. eggs, cheese, bacon or pancetta, and pasta.

Today on another board from FB a chef was offering a Valentine's dinner for two. He suggested carbonera and gave a recipe that required a roux of flour and butter thinned with heavy cream etc. etc.

As I stated above why? It is such a simple thing that I am puzzled that anyone would want to make it complex.

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  1. It's all part of the American fashion of requiring you to get a university degree in such mundane subjects as nose-picking

    1. Probably because the recipe is for people who aren't so much interested in traditional carbonara as they are in replicating what they had at the Olive Garden (who presumably makes their sauce the way they do so it can be prepackaged and shipped and require absolutely zero skill or training to warm up and add to pasta at their restaurants).

      1. Ever since the caveman invented the wheel, every generation since has tried to re-invent it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jrvedivici

          Yeah, apparently, it's actually rocket science. Look Ma, no wheels.

        2. Carbonara was likely invented as a simple pasta sauce for American GIs in Rome, using ingredients they had available. Your version seems to be dumbed down to its bare essentials. Marcella Hazan's version, in addition to eggs, cheese and pancetta (or bacon), has garlic, olive oil, dry white wine, pepper, and parsley.

          No doubt the author of the other recipe was trying for something more interesting than the most basic version of the sauce. Do you really think that there is no value in going beyond the minimum necessary ingredients for a dish? If so, I think there are some cookbooks which take that approach.

          10 Replies
          1. re: GH1618

            I don't see anything wrong with adding ingredients to a simple dish, but making a roux turns it into something else completely.

            Although the ingredient list is simple, carbonara isn't the easiest of pasta dishes to make well -- especially if it's your first time. It's easy to make something resembling a good carbonara but out of balance. Or pasta with egg scramble. Using a roux is actually more fail-proof than the traditional recipe, although different.

            1. re: calumin

              Granted, it's probably "something else completely." But innovation is not unknown to cooking. The question is, is the variation any good?

            2. re: GH1618

              I'm all for riffing on a recipe and going beyond the minimum, particularly because I'm famous for "using up" what's in my fridge.
              But, this is turning carbonnara into pasta with cream sauce.
              I won't even call it Alfredo, because that's a whole 'nother can o'worms ;-)

              1. re: GH1618

                I also make the Hazan version and think every ingredient is integral to the dish. I WILL make it if I don't have parsley but it suffers.

                @calumin, I find her recipe to be slam dunk simple. From the very first time. Here's her recipe and you don't EVER get "egg scramble".


                1. re: c oliver

                  Thanks for the recipe link. I like that it's foolproof.
                  I watched Anne Burrel (Secrets of a Restaurant Chef) make carbonara yesterday and she added 8 eggs to her pan of pancetta and spaghetti.
                  Big difference in egg amount.

                  1. re: monavano

                    And with Hazan's the cheese and pepper are added to the eggs and then the pasta so not scrambling.

                2. re: GH1618

                  I'm cool with going all baroque with flavors and such, but the egg vs. roux is a structural question. yes, too many steps.

                  in carbonera the egg IS the thickener. or as a friend once pointed out in my early days of Alfredo attempts "you don't need to make a white sauce, the heavy cream works as a white sauce."

                  1. re: hill food

                    As somebody said, bechamel Alfredo is another can o'worms, but a big peeve of mine. The only excuse for it - again - is that it's cheap'n'easy, especially if you're going to sell jars of it. Learning to do that right – reducing cream – set me off on a whole family of variations, all good. As is lowering the carb content!

                  2. re: GH1618

                    The GI story is only one of the origin stories. There are others that point to it being a country dish and/or something that charcoal-makers would eat when camped out making charcoal, and was the simpler preparation of pasta, eggs, hard cheese and pancetta or guanciale.

                  3. A "chef" gave this recipe?
                    It's not complex, it's wrong ;(

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: monavano

                      That was my thinking. Very wrong.