This carbonara recipe is everything, the key ingredients are guanciale, pecorino and eggs and obviously pasta. I’d never eaten carbonara before I met Damiano. Actually, I never even knew what it was. I thought it was a heavy pasta dish with cream and sometimes peas. Pretty sure I’ve also seen people add chicken and mushrooms to their ‘carbonara’. It never took my fancy and I’m so glad I never ate this ‘carbonara’ because wow, real proper Roman carbonara is the best thing in the world and you need it in your life because it will blow your mind.
Spaghetti alla carbonara originated in or around Rome in the Italian region of Lazio. It is one of the 4 Roman pasta dishes. The other recipes include cacio e pepe, bucatini all’Amatriciana (I’ve tried these 2, they are delish) and pasta alla Gricia.
Of all the pasta dishes Damiano has made me his carbonara recipe is my favourite (or maybe it was the orecchiette con cime di rapa or the lasagne, hmmm but what about the fresh homemade pasta with ragu, ok it’s all amazing).
The below carbonara recipe seems simple enough. The recipe ingredient list is short, the method seems easy… however it’s very easy to get wrong. Scrambled egg kinda wrong.
To save you from scrambled egg pasta and to perfect your carbonara like a true Roman, I’ve asked Damiano for his tips.
You must use guanciale in your carbonara recipe.
Damiano says a true carbonara uses guanciale. But what is guanciale? It’s cured pork jowl or cheek and it’s delicious. It’s fattier and it will change the flavour when compared to bacon or pancetta. However, it may be a little harder to find, so if you can’t get your hands on any guanciale use pancetta as the second option and then last resort use bacon. When you order it from the deli, ask for thick slices (about 1/2 a cm), I usually order about 4 slices for 2 people. Before you cook it cut off the rind, leaving the fat… the fat renders and this is what makes the delicious sauce.
You must use pecorino cheese.
It’s a sharp sheep’s milk cheese. It’s a salty, hard cheese and it’s delicious!
Ahhh, look how drool-worthy Carbonara is! I really do love it with rigatoni because you get surprise bursts of guanciale as you bite into the pasta. As you can see all these pics were taken fast so I could eat my delicious plate of pasta.
Don’t overcook your pasta, cook it Al Dente.
If you’ve never heard of Al Dente then you’ve definitely been overcooking your pasta. And of course, we should do as the Italians say when it comes to pasta!
Al dente (Italian for “to the tooth”) is where pasta is firm, it holds its shape in whatever sauce you put it in. Definitely cook it for less time than the packet says.
If you make this authentic Roman pasta dish, send us a photo we’d love to see it.
Ps. you can find this recipe on the Get Merry Recipe App too!
STUFF YOU NEED
For the carbonara
- 150 g. Guanciale, slice rind off and cut into small strips
- 1/4 tsp. chilli flakes optional
- 2 fresh eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- grated pecorino cheese
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 180 g. spaghetti or rigatoni pasta better if 'trafilata al bronzo' (higher quality pasta)
- Cook the guanciale in a large pan over medium heat with the chilli. Don't cook too long, about 2-3 minutes, you'll notice the fatty part begins to go a little clearer but not crisp. Remove the pan from the heat when you notice a good amount of fat melting away. The fatty juice of the guanciale is what gives the flavour. Set aside for now.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, grated cheese and a generous amount of black pepper until well combined.
- When the pasta is al dente, keep one cup of the pasta water before you drain it.
- Return the guanciale pan to high heat, add the drained pasta to the pan. Stir and make sure the pasta is evenly coated with the fat.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg mixture. You have to stir quickly until the egg mixture thickens 'mantecare'. The heat from the pan will cook the eggs but it's very important to work fast otherwise you'll get scrambled eggs. If the sauce seems too thick, stir in a little bit of the pasta water.
- Serve with a little extra cheese and enjoy! Buon appetito!