Creamy eggs, cheese, pasta and salty & crispy cured pork = spaghetti alla carbonara. Probably Italy’s most popular dish that doesn’t use tomatoes, which is saying something considering Italy’s insane universal culinary appeal.
Pizza, pasta, desserts, wine you name it Italy tops the lists of taste sensations. But the no-frills, downright foodgasm dish that is Carbonara is a stellar meal for one or with friends that excites the palate and elicits that pavlovian response of mouth-watering cravings.
Italian food is arguably the world’s most popular cuisine, and you can’t discuss recipes without throwing in at least something Italian. The enduring popularity of simple Italian cuisine and its ability to conjure up feelings of wonderment and nostalgia is the firm reason Italy is synonymous with a strong gastronomic identity.
Italian food happens to be one of the only cuisines that can be quickly prepared at high-quality home at amateur chefs and budding cooks alike but also eaten in fine dining restaurants without too much of a variance. No wonder it’s considered such a communal experience to share big bowls of pasta, slices of pizza and plenty of other incredible dishes to blow your mind.
The origins of Carbonara is shrouded in mystery. The term “pasta alla carbonara” does not seem to be found in cookbooks before the WW2. Many theories are thrown around detailing the origins of Carbonara, most of them debunked.
One popular theory surmises that Carbonara was prepared and eaten by coal miners, with “alla carbonara” translating to coal miner’s style. Another theory describes the abundant use of black pepper as the reason for the name, with the coarsely ground black pepper resembles coal flakes.
For all intents and purposes, Carbonara is one of the more modern dishes that only appeared during the latter half of the 20th century. Today, the most accredited, documented and never denied version is that of Renato Gualandi.
This young chef from Bologna was hired in September 1944 to prepare for the English 8th Army and the American 5th Army during the occupation of Italy, as the war was raging on.
“The Americans had fantastic bacon, delicious milk cream, cheese and egg red powder. I put it all together and served this pasta to the generals and officers for dinner. At the last moment, I decided to put black pepper which gave off an excellent flavour.”
After the war, Gualandi would get hired to cook for American troops in Rome which kickstarted the spread of Spaghetti carbonara spread in the capital and became a new Italian classic.
Learn what tools you need to make a superb, simple, and silky spaghetti carbonara.
What you’ll need:
Large Frying Pan
Mortal & Pestle (optional)
- 120g pound of guanciale or pancetta, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
- 7 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 3-6 cloves of garlic 9optional)
- Salt (to taste and for the pasta)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Half a tablespoon of dry chilli flakes (depending on how much kick you want)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino, plus more for garnish!
- ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.
- Parsley (optional)
The beauty of this recipe is that you can chop and change pretty much all of the ingredients you would like, as long as you follow the fundamentals of the recipe.
For example, you can use any type of pasta it doesn’t have to be spaghetti, sometimes fettuccine is preferred or even penne as it is easier to stir.
You can also opt for just parmesan and use bacon or lardons rather than pancetta.
Slicing and preparing ingredients:
Using the Kai Shun Nagare Utility Knife:
- Remove skin and any excess fat.
- Finely slice the pancetta into ⅓ inch or half centimetre cubes.
- Finely grate 50g pecorino cheese and 50g parmesan and mix them.
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with a little freshly grated black pepper.
- Finely the garlic cloves into even sizes.
- Break up black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle (optional)
It’s always better to seek higher quality dried pasta. Higher quality pasta clings to sauces better, creates starchier pasta water and generally has a better bite to it.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil
- Add salt to the water.
TIP for the best Ratio: 1 pound of pasta: 1 tablespoon Salt: 16 cups of water.
Be mindful of the amount of salt you put into the pasta water, the cheese and pork will also contribute to the saltiness so you don’t wanna overdo it.
- Add pasta.
- Cook at a constant simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until al dente.
Bringing it all together:
- Sauteed the pancetta, rendering the fat and crisping up the cured pork. Roughly 5 mins.
- Throw in the garlic and dry chilli.
- Before the garlic gets too brown, turn the heat off.
- With a pair of tongs, drop the pasta into the pan.
- Spoon a few tablespoons of the starchy pasta water.
- Toss in the pan.
- Pour in egg mixture slowly and few more tablespoons of pasta water.
- Toss in pan until the desired creaminess is achieved.
- Serve on a plate immediately
- Garnish with black peppers, more cheese and parsley.
Using the Kai Shun Nagare Utility Knife was what you would expect from Kai knives. Durable, well-balanced, ergonomic and versatile. All their knives are manufactured in Seki, the knife capital of Japan. This Japanese utility knife has a sophisticated design, forged from traditional Japanese blacksmithing techniques that result in an exceedingly high-quality blade that enables simple precision cutting whilst also retaining its sharpness.
The Kai Shun Nagare Utility Knife is forged from traditional techniques, consisting of two different types of steel that are bonded together (flexible VG 2 and hard VG 10 steel) into a 72-layered piece of Damascus steel.
Comfortable, balanced and sturdy. Although lighter than most knives the Kai Shun Nagare is by no means flimsy. This utility knife is a must-have “all-rounder” for any kitchen that any chef, cook or foodie should have in their kitchen’s arsenal. Suitable for both left-handers and right-handers alike. When using the blade, you’ll notice that very little pressure is required to make neat and precise cuts.
Looking at the blade you’ll notice the beautifully crafted radial pattern that adorns the Kai Shun Nagare Utility Knife, making it a unique feature in any kitchen. Kai Shun caps off an elegantly designed functional blade with a handle made of mottled grey-black pakkawood, which is a waterproof and highly robust wood veneer, giving the knife an added depth of warmth.