This Italian pasta recipe is the heavy weight champion of the world. Carbonara packs a heavy punch that is perfect for a chilly day!
Many food historians say that this pasta entree was given the name Carbonara during WWII, when Italy had an abundant supply of eggs and bacon that were rationed by American troops. Many say that the carbon part of the word carbonara refers to large amounts of black pepper that were sprinkled on the pasta. That all may be true during WWII, but there may be more to the history of this Italian recipe.
In all likelihood carbonara previously had a different name. Many european food historians say that pasta carbonara has origins in either charcoal making regions like southern Italy or in an area where charcoal was used extensively for industrial purposes. In fact the origins of carbonara could possibly be connected to coal mining or an industrial area where coal was used. Everyone knows how cold and clammy that coal mining can be and pasta carbonara is definitely an entree that is perfect for cold clammy weather. Coal used to be used to heat houses in northern Italy and in mountainous regions, so the theory fits.
In all likelihood, the carbon word in carbonara has no association with the color black or a reference to black pepper. What it does possibly refer to is the warming effect that pasta carbonara has, just like how charcoal or coal warms a house. The reason that I drew this conclusion is because I apprenticed with Italian chefs from Venice, Modena, Sicily, Genoa and Napoli. None of those chefs used hardly any black pepper in a pasta carbonara recipe. A few of those chefs made remarks in the restaurant kitchen about how it was not winter and it was not even cold outside, when a customer ordered pasta carbonara on a hot summer evening!
Pasta carbonara is a cold weather pasta that was created to fuel the fire in someone who was cold, tired and hungry! Pasta carbonara is heavy enough to warm up a freezing elephant!
Pancetta and prosciutto are traditionally used instead of bacon to make pasta carbonara. Bacon can optionally be thrown in the mix, because bacon became part of the recipe during WWII. Egg yokes are used to tighten the cream in the carbonara sauce, just like a liaison of egg yolk and cream is used in French cooking. Most Italian chefs that I worked with preferred linguini for carbonara, but a few preferred spaghetti or fettuccine.
Linguini Carbonara is a rich heavy pasta for those who work hard in cold harsh weather. Even if the hard work is skiing in the Italian Alps! Heavy and delicious!
A food processor can be used to create a paste like puree of garlic onion, pancetta and prosciutto for this recipe. Those same ingredients can also be ran through a meat grinder to create the thick paste. Hand mincing those ingredients with a chef knife takes time, but that was the method I used to make the carbonara sauce in the photographs above. The choice of how to start the carbonara is up to you!
Boil 1 portion of linguini pasta ahead of time, till it becomes al dente.
Cool the pasta under cold running water.
Drain the water off of the pasta.
Toss the pasta with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, so it does not stick together.
Set the pasta aside.
Finely mince each of these items together as one to create a thick paste:
- 3 ounces of pancetta
- 2 to 3 ounces of prosciutto
- 2/3 cup of onion
- 2 to 3 garlic cloves
Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
Add the minced meat, garlic and onion mixture.
Saute and lightly brown the ingredients. Stir occasionally, so the ingredients all brown evenly.
Saute till the ingredients caramelized to a light brown color.
Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth.
Scrape and deglaze the pan, while stirring.
Simmer and reduce the chicken broth, till only about 3/4 cup remains.
Add 1 1/4 cups of cream.
When the cream starts to gently boil, add 1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese while stirring.
Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
Reduce the temperature to low heat.
Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
Add add 1 pinch of coarse ground black pepper. (No salt is needed!)
Place 1 ounce of cream into a small bowl.
Add 1 egg yolk.
Mix the cream and egg yolk together.
Add the egg yolk and cream mixture to the sauce, while constantly stirring.
Immediately add the reserved portion of al dente cooked linguini pasta. (The pasta has to be finished quickly after adding the egg yoke.)
Quickly toss the pasta and sauce together, as the egg yolk tightens the sauce and causes the sauce to cling to the pasta.
Place the linguini carbonara on a plate.
Spoon any extra sauce over the pasta.
Sprinkle a few pinches of finely grated parmesan cheese over the pasta.
Sprinkle some finely grated hard boiled egg over the pasta.
Sprinkle finely chopped Italian parsley over the pasta.
A true carbonara recipe has the sauce clinging to the pasta and the pasta is not swimming in the sauce. Carbonara is a delicious pasta entree!
Of course a bold Italian red wine is the best pairing for linguini carbonara. I had access to some very cheap prices on closeout french wines in Chicago, so I paired this pasta with a French Moulin De Gassac-Le Mazet 2002 Red Table Wine that I got for $2. Thats a bargain! This is a good choice of French wine to go with this great Italian pasta. Ciao Baby! ... Shawna