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Monday, November 26, 2012


An Unlikely Thanksgiving Stand-In - Pasta Carbonara -

"[It has been] turned into an Italian tradition that, like many inviolate Italian traditions, is actually far less old than the Mayflower...

According to one Italian food historian, there are at least 400 versions, from the most classic Roman to variations that are delicious but drive traditionalists mad.

Though Mr. Trillin did not address the subject, carbonara can be tricky to make well, partly because it is so simple: at base, egg, cheese, cured pork, pasta and black pepper. There is little margin for error. I learned this to my great embarrassment at a poolside party a few years ago with a bunch of posh Italians and their sunburned, hungry children...

Eggs, bacon, cheese and pasta taste great, almost no matter what. It’s worth the effort, though, to get right, and that’s what I’ve striven for since, to the point of curing my own guanciale at home, which is less difficult than it sounds. No obsession here, I swear...

Which carbonara you would take to the other side. One with guanciale, pancetta or plain bacon? Only pecorino cheese, made from sheep’s milk? Or is a bit of Parmesan O.K.? Peas or not? Onion? Whole eggs or yolks?

Or, heaven forbid, the ingredient that most divides devotees of a dish that, above all, aims for creaminess: actual cream?...

What seems clear is that carbonara, like many so-called old standards in Italy, is a fairly new invention. Al dente pasta became the benchmark relatively recently. Pizza was often considered revolting, some food historians say, until Queen Margherita of Savoy sanctified it in a trip to Naples in 1889, inspiring the name of the most famous pizza. Some old Italian cookbooks treat even garlic with suspicion.

Tradition is often invoked in Italy, but often it means what you kind of like or what Mamma made...

An unapologetic apostate (“I’m going to get angry e-mails,” he said as he made it one recent night), he invokes science for the use of cream: it makes it less likely, he said, for the eggs to scramble under the heat of the fat and pasta. That is vital, he added, in a dish that is either great or wrecked right at the end.

“This dish really is about the last three minutes,” he said"

"I also enjoy the fact that Italians have such strong opinions on the right way, and wrong way, to make something. When I'm am there on our active culinary tours, I just listen, and agree, and learn. There is little point in arguing. Then I return home, and make it my own. It's just shows how much they care about their food - paying attention to ingredients, being passionate about what you create all contributes to a great meal."

"One trick that has helped increase my success is to combine the beaten eggs and cheese in a bowl and then temper them with a small amount of pasta water. Then I add this to the hot pasta, and quickly toss with tongs adding small amounts of pasta water until I get the right consistency. There's something the starch in the pasta water that magically brings it all together."

"I finally got it right after going to and searching for videos of Italian chefs preparing the dish. I now use the recipe from one of those sites - it uses cream, with the chef's note, "lo so che non è ortodossa, scusatemi" (I know it's not orthodox, forgive me)."

"Well of course those "posh" Italians mentioned in the article did not want to eat your Carbonara. It was summertime."

"Do you now how ridiculous this article sounds to people who have trouble putting food...any food on the table?"
"oh for heaven's sake Can't anybody write anything about food without someone making this kind of comment? Do we have to suspend all food writing everywhere till every last person on the planet has enough to eat? "

"who wants to live forever when there's carbonara to be eaten? I'd rather die young-ish than deprived of joy."
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