Last time I made Carbonara on here,(a long long time ago) I got harassed a bit in the comments for putting cream into the sauce. Honestly, I made a decent version of the dish, but just because I added a splash of cream, people got mad. I have looked since, and there are some really really awful and offensive versions of carbonara out there on the web with nothing but nice and happy comments, so I’m not sure why I was singled out. (might have been the aggressive cheesy bread?) Either way, when I was in Rome last week, I made it my duty to seek out some authentic carbonara and see what the fuss was about.
My journey led me first to a dish called Rigatoni Alla Gricia, followed by Bucatini Alla Amatriciana, and then Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. These dishes had 3 things in common. First, the pasta was very al dente. Like, to the point that I apparently didn’t know what al dente really meant, because the pasta was straight up crunching in my mouth. Second, lots of pecorino romano cheese, and third, ample bits of crispy guanciale, a cured meat similar to pancetta, but made with the jowl instead of the belly. Alla Gricia predates the other dishes by a long shot, and is sort of the vanilla of the three dishes. Add some tomatoes and chile flake, and you have Amatriciana, add some eggs instead, and there’s your carbonara.
When I got home, I was dying to get into the kitchen to make these two dishes. I wanted to do it for redemption for my last carbonara post, but also to see if it was really just as simple as it seemed. These were my favorite two plates of food I had my entire time in Italy, could they really only take 20 minutes and 5 ingredients to make? You might be tempted to add onion or garlic like many recipes out there… DON’T DO IT! You may also think you can substitute pancetta or even bacon, (like 2008 Dan) but please please go out and find that guanciale. Then just take your time and enjoy cooking and eating something that has been made the same way for hundreds of years.