One dish that was always very popular in Rome and even had fans among the ecclesiasts is spaghetti alla carbonara. It is a very old dish that the carbonari (coal workers), who had to watch over the burning coal for a long time, made directly over the coal fire from what they could carry in their pouches: eggs, guanciale, pecorino and pasta. It is a very energetic dish thanks to the eggs and the meat and one must keep in mind that at that time poor people usually had only one meal a day so it had to be one that would sustain them in their hard work through the day.
I’ve tasted many carbonaras in my life, it’s a dish you can find anywhere in the world but somehow it’s never quite right. Either the eggs are overcooked, there’s ham instead of guanciale, parmesan instead of pecorino or there’s cream in it and it’s awfully heavy… let me tell you the one and only trick of the carbonara: it’s adding the eggs over the pasta in the plate and NOT in the pan so it doesn’t overcook.
Alibaba is our mysterious chef-photographer based in Rome, Italy. You can read his earlier columns and recipes here.
- 8 ounces guanciale, diced
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup Pecorino Romano, freshly grated
- In a large pan, fry the guanciale over medium-high heat until rendered and crisp, about 10 minutes.
- Beat eggs and pecorino together in a small bowl with a fork and set aside.
- Cook the spaghetti to al dente, then drain, return to pot, toss with guanciale and rendered fat over low heat and immediately transfer to shallow bowls.
- Pour egg/cheese mixture over each of the four bowls, add black pepper to taste and quickly mix with a fork to slightly cook the eggs with the hot pasta. The result should be creamy, not dry.
- Serve immediately.