The famous dish is iconic of Rome and yet its origins are still unclear today. One theory would have the paternity of carbonara lie overseas. In 1944 when American soldiers arrived in Rome it is said that the K rations they had brought with them were so terrible that they actually dissolved them in water and added them to hot, fresh spaghetti. The rations had a part of egg and bacon which mixing with the spaghetti became a preliminary version of carbonara. This theory has some truth to it as this dish was eaten by the Americans, and in fact there is no evidence of the dish before 1944!
The other theory sees the ‘carbonari’ or chimney sweepers although sometimes they become those felling wood in the mountains of Abruzzo to then turn into coal, as the inventors of this dish. They designed a dish that was nutritious and easily made with ingredients that were either at hand or could be stored easily.
The ingredients for carbonara are simple and affordable. Egg, pecorino, guanciale and pasta. These elements can survive without refrigeration and were therefore easy to carry as travelling food. Whatever it’s origins, it is undeniable that this dish has become possibly the most famous dish here in Rome! From cheap osterie in the narrow streets of the centro storico to the fancy restaurants everyone has their own version of carbonara. You can find it anywhere and you will want to eat it everywhere because carbonara is absolutely delicious. Decadent and rich, bursting with strong flavour it creates a terrible addiction!
People have gone as far as to create a Carbonara Club and every 17th of January there is a Carbonara Day!
The recipe as generally accepted by Romans:
The quantities are indicated per person.
• 70 gr of pasta (spaghetti or penne)
• 1 yolk
• 1 tablespoon of freshly grated pecorino and/or parmigiano
• 70 grammi di pasta
• 30 gr of guanciale
• freshly ground pepper
All of these ingredients are vital to the success of the dish.
First thing you must boil and salt the water where you will boil the pasta. In a non stick pan you will slowly melt the guanciale until it is frying in its own fat. Once it becomes crispy it is ready, turn off the heat and set it aside. In a bowl whisk the yolks and cheese. The consistency of this paste should be jelly like and very thick. Add enough pepper to darken the mixture completely. Once the pasta is done you must transfer it into a bowl (not into the pan as yolk coagulates at around 65°C) and transfer the egg and cheese mixture into the pasta as well as the guanciale. start mixing energetically in both directions making sure to mix everything very, very well. It is then ready to serve.