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Italian food recipes: Capellini Carbonara

While I have always cooked this recipe mostly with thin spaghetti, I must say that this dish is so tasty that it will work with any long strand pasta version.

The word “carbonara” derives from the Italian word meaning charcoal. According to Wikipedia, it was thought that once this dish was primarily served to Italian charcoal workers. However, there seems to be a bit of controversy as others believe that this dish is called this way because it was cooked in ancient times over charcoals, yet some believe its name derives from the presence of the pepper resembling bits of carbon. In yet another version, people believe it originated and was created by “I carbonari” an old secret service club popular in Italy many years ago.

Regardless of its origin, this dish is very tasty. It is made with eggs and bacon which were supplied in abundance after the Second World War by the American troops stationed in Italy.

Nowadays, this dish is still very popular, especially near the Lazio region where it is believed to have originated. You can easily make this dish at home even though you should savor it in a typical restaurant near Rome where authentic ingredients such as “guanciale” a special cured meat made of a pork’s cheek is used. Here is a recipe:

SPAGHETTI/CAPELLINI ALLA CARBONARA

1 package Barilla spaghetti or capellini pasta

1 chunk guanciale or pancetta diced

12 cup white wine

4 eggs

Grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Butter

Oil

Salt

Pepper

Boil water. Salt and cook spaghetti/capellini according to package. In the meanwhile, in a saucepan place a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and add the guanciale or pancetta until nice and crisp. Add the wine to prevent sticking and cook for another 5 minutes or until reduced. In a bowl, beat the four eggs as if making scrambled eggs. Salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta once “al dente” and mix in the eggs, bacon bits and a nice twist from the pepper mill. Serve with grated cheese and savor.

As you can see this is a very simple dish but yet it is very tasty.

If you are concerned about the safety of using raw eggs, the good thing is that the hot pasta will kill most bacteria. However, if you are still concerned, use pasteurized eggs like the ones you find in cartons, that are 100% safe to eat raw.

You do not need to go to Rome to taste a good carbonara. Yet, Rome houses the authentic ingredients needed for this recipe such as guanciale. However, abroad you can still make a good, tasty carbonara that very likely everybody will appreciate.

Italian food recipes: Spaghetti Alla Gricia

We ‘discovered’ Spaghetti alla Gricia in the middle of last year: my wife, Lesley and I had travelled down to Rome to play a gig, and we came across a fantastic AND reasonably priced restaurant and it’s within 200 metres of the Pantheon. It’s called il Barroccio in Via dei Pastini: they do great pizzas as well, and the agnello scottaditto (lamb cutlets) is just to die for . Salsiccia and fagioli is fantastic too: good winter comfort food! Try and get a table downstairs and enjoy the banter: upstairs is a bit too cold’ for my tastes. We go there every time we play in Rome.

Essentially Spaghetti alla Gricia is a Carbonara without the eggs.

The Basic Ingredients:

Pancetta – ideally Guanciale: which is a cut that comes from the pigs’ cheek: in fact, in certian parts of Italy, such as Orvieto they refer to it as Baffo which normally means moustache!

Pecorino pecorino Romano

Garlic at least 1 clove per person for us, it’s up to you

Olive Oil

Spaghetti -it will work with other types of pasta of course. But it seems just right with spaghetti

Fry the pancetta, with the finely crushed garlic cloves together in oil: you need to use quite a lot of oil to prevent the garlic from sticking and burning. This also forms the sauce to coat the spaghetti.

Grate the cheese or chop it into small pieces and drop it into the mixture.

Cook the spaghetti in a large volume of boiling salted water in a large pan; put it in and return to the boil quickly and cook it for exactly what it is says on the packet! They know best, and if it’s decent pasta it will be perfect. Don’t buy cheap rubbish.

Cook the sauce until you can’t resist the wonderful smell any longer.

Take a spoonful of the sauce and oil and mix it into the cooked spaghetti. This ensures that the pasta is already coat ed with sauce: in fact, it seems you should never serve pasta without it being coated like this.

Serve the pasta and heap the sauce on top.

Pour a second glass of wine.. …sorry … what do you mean, you mean you didn’t have a glass whilst the pasta was cooking …what sort of cook are you?

What wine? I would suggest a red with this : Nero D’avola, would be fine. but nothing too sophisticated is necessary. This is everyday contadini’ food so normally we go for the house red.

OK. Pour your first glass of wine and enjoy!

PS No…. I haven’t put any quantities: no Italian I’ve ever met even knows what a set of scales is, let alone how to use them! Guess! Experiment! Above all enjoy!