Pasta Alla Carbonara – best one ever from Rome!

paccheri alla carbonara Rome

I have been on the search for the best way to make Pasta alla Carbonara for years as there are many different opinions on this in Italy. In America they usually don’t have a clue as they don’t even use real eggs but cream instead.

So my last visit to Rome in September at an old standby restaurant where we know the owner, I confirmed the “secret of success”. We actually did not eat at his restaurant because he was full so we ate across the way at his sister’s restaurant. My husband had the Spaghetti alla Carbonara and it came with scrambled eggs throughout- the ultimate sin in my book for this sauce caused by the egg being overheated creating a scramble vs. a golden creamy decadent sauce! They key to the perfect sauce is more egg yolks than whole eggs and a warmed bowl- easily accomplished by setting it over the boiling water for pasta.
Remember the sauce always waits for the Pasta! that means the pasta is the last step! So important for great pasta dishes! Then the pasta and sauce come together stirring and combining so each noodle is coated with sauce but never swimming in it. The tricky thing about this dish is that you can’t finish it off in the skillet with the sauce as usual or you will end up scrambling the egg.

Pasta alla Carbonara Recipe from Ristorante di Pietro al Pantheon:

white wine and peperoncino optional
Serves 4 large or 7 small portions

Pancetta (Italian bacon) -1/2 cup cubed – a high quality bacon like Benton’s can be substituted and is delicious too!
Extra virgin olive oil – evoo- just enough to coat the pan

1 peperoncino (italian spicy red pepper) dried or fresh cut into small
peices – or about 10 red pepper flakes

Pecorino Romano cheese – can use Parmigiano, Grana or mixed–½ cup. I like half and half

Spaghetti (or other long pasta) – one pound package bronze cut- figure 1/4 pound per person

6 Egg yolks at room temperature
2 T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
White Wine ¾

Freshly ground black pepper –

Cook the Pancetta in evoo with the hot pepper slowly until crisp. Keep warm.

Always put the water on to boil first but wait to dump the pasta in last! (butto la pasta?)

Place the serving bowl over the boiling water to warm it up- this pasta cools too quickly otherwise

Sauté the bacon or pancetta in the evoo slowly until the fat is rendered. This is where you can spice it up with an Italian pepper (pepperoncino) chopped up seeds and all. If using bacon, you can discard the oil after its cooked- and add ¼ cup evoo to pan. If it’s Benton’s bacon keep the oil for flavor!
Add wine and let evaporate
Beat the eggs together with black pepper.

When the water boils add coarse salt then dump the pasta all at once.

While pasta cooks beat the eggs in your warmed bowl with fresh cracked pepper
When the pasta is extra al dente drain, leaving some water clinging to the pasta and reserving at least a cup of the pasta water.

add pasta  to the warm Pancetta and mix well over the heat to keep the pasta hot,  This is why it’s extra al dente as it will continue to cook.

Then dump all into the serving bowl with the  eggs so as to cook the egg and create the sauce – add hot pasta water  and  grated cheese alternating while stirring until  a cream sauce is realized. (a trick I learned from my Roman friend Alessandra – it’s what the top restaurants do)

Pass the cheese and black pepper around the table for those who would like it
Note: adding more cheese makes the sauce dryer and less creamy.

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Jane Biscarini From Rancho Santa Fe, CA to Rome, Italy to Chattanooga, TN I grew up in the San Diego area, down the street from the now famous Chinos Vegetable Market. We purchased our organic (wasn’t even a term then) veggies there. Their sweet white corn was a summer staple on our table. 20 years later Wolfgang Puck discovered them for his restaurants in Los Angeles and made them famous. Cooking fresh and delicious meals was always a part of my family life. My sisters and I all cooked. Then in my 20’s I discovered Italy- and my future Italian husband (from Milan). We originally moved to Italy to expose the kids (now Marco 22 and Isabella16 years old) to the Italian culture and language. Well, 10 years into it, we lived in Como, Florence ,Rome and my new favorite Puglia (the next Tuscany). At different intervals we have lived a total of a year with my Italian sister and mother in law, learning and integrating their cooking secrets from Lombardia, Liguria, and Piemonte. Our last year was spent in Puglia – Manfredonia to be exact- (not Macedonia although we kept slipping the tongue and saying that for months) a charming seaside town that is a new favorite and a foodie indulgence! I Completed a professional chef course for Italian cuisine in Terni (Umbria region) 2012. I taught Italian cooking classes for 3 years in Rome- to other foreigners, American embassy staff and secret service. For our work in Rome I prepared at least 2 lunches/dinners a week for Italians and this is what they say in their words: I have tasted many times the dishes prepared by Jane and I can say only this thing: “I’didn’t know that an American lady – I’m an Italian family – part time cook - could make so many tipbits of Italian, American, Mexican cooking, and the dishes are so good that I had to change my opinion about the quality of American food, and about the way used to combine various ingredients to obtain excellent results. Jane deserves a lot of congratulations for her work , for her commitment and for her passion!” Unforgettable her pumpkin soup and her New York cheese-cake, but also “amatriciana pasta” and “lasagna”! I never thought that an American pretty lady could teach me so much! Patrizia- Roma Hi, my name is Laura, I am italian and I live in Rome where I had known Jane since 3 years ago , so I have had the opportunity to go to her nice house many times and to appreciate her as hostess and good cook. Jane is able to cook perfectly every type of food, American, Mexican, Oriental but, above all, she is able to cook… Italian food better than an Italian!!!! It’s not easy to pass the exam of the “verdict” of Italians about different kinds of pasta, pizza, melanzane alla parmigiana, gnocchi and so on, but she is a great cook and she knows how to propose them in the best way as well. And in several occasions it happened that we – her Italian friends – asked her to give us the correct recipes! So I think you are lucky to have Jane as your cooking teacher, I am sure she ‘ll become one of your good friends too, and you’ll enjoy her cooking lessons! Laura Garassini Ho avuto modo di gustare la cucina di Jane, debbo dire che oltre ad essere meravigliosamente presentata i gusti non sono buoni, ma FANTASTICI!! Silvano Ferraro Translation: I had the chance to taste Jane’s cooking. I must say that on top of serving beautifully prepared dishes, their tastes are not good but fantastic! Per mia fortuna ho mangiato diverse volte cibo cucinato da Jane! E’ una esperienza sempre interessante per il palato e per la propria cultura gastronomica: Jane riesce, con poco e con grazia, a creare sapori perfetti che conducono in un viaggio sensoriale dalla tradizione italiana all’esperienza esotica… dove la certezza del buono si accompagna alla scoperta di nuovi gusti! Rosalba Translation: In my good fortune I have eaten Jane’s cooking various times. It is always an experience interesting for the palate and for the true cultural gastronomy. Jane can, with little and with grace, create the perfect flavors that conduct a voyage of the senses from the traditional Italian to the exotic experience…where the certainty of goodness is accompanied by the discovery of new flavors! Cara jane, ormai cucini così bene che meriteresti la cittadinanza italiana onoraria!!! Baci Gianluca Ievolella Translation: Now you cook so well that you deserve the honorary Italian citizenship!

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