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Although not really that old, the history of the Spaghetti Carbonara is still not clear. Of course it’s Italian, but with that settled everything else gets a bit more muddled. The consensus seems to be that it was first served in mid-20th century Rome, where the Allied troops brought eggs and bacon through their supply chains. This was used to make the dried Italian pasta a little tastier in the tough post-war years.
The name carbonara means charcoal burner and alla carbonara “in the coal workers style”, but there’s no evidence at all that it was actually eaten by the charcoal-making Abruzzi woodcutters, as that story goes. There are also other Italian dishes similar to Carbonara, like the pasta cacio e uova from the souther parts of the country. But this is not the same thing.
What makes this version of the Carbonara stand out is the creamy sauce coating the pasta with the pockets of crunch and salt in the bacon and the black pepper, garlic and chili that provides balance for all the fat and richness. Parmigiano reggiano, onion and a little splash of white wine brings everything together and provides a good foundation for the dish.
This is not the way it’s made in Italy. Neither garlic, cream or chili is part of the standard Italian way of cooking Carbonara. The dish is loved in much of the Western world and adding these ingredients makes it even better. Universally important is that the eggs are not scrambled, that the sauce coats all of the pasta without becoming a stew and that the bacon are evenly distributed.
Preparation and time management is of the essence when cooking this dish. Let the pasta overcook and it will all be a mush, let the bacon and onion go dark and it will taste bitter. But, with all ingredients prepared the final cooking takes less than five minutes and it’s a very quick dish overall providing that primal satisfaction of mixing carbs and fat.
4 Servings (30 min to prepare and cook)
- 4 medium to large eggs
- 2 dl grated Parmigiano-Reggionano (+ extra for serving)
- 2.5 dl cream
- 1-2 shallots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 chili
- 30 ml white wine
- 300 grams dry-salted bacon
- 500 grams of fresh spaghetti
- Salt and black pepper
- Bring a large saucepan with water and salt to a boil.
- Put 4 egg yolks in a bowl. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream, salt and pepper and stir to a combined mixture. Set aside.
- Finely chop the shallots, garlic and chili and set aside. Taste the chili and adjust amount depending on hot you like your food.
- Chop the bacon into smaller pieces (about 2.5 cm by 2.5 cm) and toss into a heated pan. Stir the bacon in the hot pan for about 30 seconds and then lower the heat to medium and let the bacon slowly fry.
- When the bacon is almost done, cook the pasta (adjust the time depending on how long time your pasta has to cook, but fresh pasta usually only need 2-4 minutes).
- Some fat should have been rendered from the bacon by now (if it hasn’t, you can add some oil to the pan). Remove the bacon and let them dry on a paper tower.
- Toss in the shallots, garlic and chili. Let fry for 30 seconds, add the wine and set the pan to low temperature. Stir occasionally, until the onions are cooked through and the pasta is done.
- Drain the pasta, and toss it into the pan with the vegetables with a few table spoons of the boiling water.
- Turn the pasta a few times in the pan, making sure it soaks up as much as possible of the fat. Add enough of the cream mixture and stir everything in the pan until the pasta is completely covered.
- Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, some salt flakes and freshly ground pepper.
About Jessica Långberg
Jessica is the co-founder of Never Grow Up Mag. She has a professional background within legal where she works with privacy and data protection, but secretly loves the exquisite things in life, such as cooking. She has attempted several of Heston Blumenthals "takes more than a day to cook"-recipes and loves a good baking challenge every now and then.