Giada De Laurentiis' Cinnamon Tip To Elevate Carbonara

Carbonara is a pasta dish that's taken on many forms since its origin in Rome. In the most traditional sense, Roman-style spaghetti alla carbonara contains just five ingredients for a rich yet light dish: pasta, guanciale, eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper. However, there are a myriad of recipe variations and ways to make this dish.

You can opt for the more Americanized version, with the addition of milk or heavy cream for a thicker, heartier sauce. You can sub in Parmesan cheese for the Pecorino Romano. You can use anything from guanciale to bacon for the meat, and anything from fettuccini to rigatoni for the pasta. Or you can go for Giada De Laurentiis' version of the dish, which she elevates with a surprising spice addition: cinnamon. By sprinkling some ground cinnamon on top of the cooked, browned meat, De Laurentiis takes the classic pasta dish to a whole new level of warmth and flavor.

Cinnamon and carbonara: why it works

Admittedly, cinnamon probably isn't the first spice you'd grab to add to a carbonara sauce, or any kind of pasta dish for that matter. But it works wonderfully in this rich, creamy rendition of carbonara, and Giada De Laurentiis knows exactly why.

In a demonstration of her cinnamon-pancetta carbonara recipe for Food & Wine, the celeb chef explains that the addition of cinnamon to the sautéed, crispy pork adds not only a touch of sweetness, but also a substantial dimension of warmth to the overall dish. It's able to absorb into the meat itself as the fat renders, creating a dish that De Laurentiis says "you will dream about."

De Laurentiis uses a mixture of half bacon and half pancetta for the meat in her carbonara dish. She opts for fresh fettuccine instead of dried pasta because it soaks up the sauce better, and uses egg yolks rather than whole eggs. Her sauce includes heavy cream and Parmesan cheese, which strays from the authentic Italian preparation, but makes for a creamy, special-occasion dish.

More dishes that can be elevated with cinnamon

It makes sense that Giada De Laurentiis tops off the bacon and pancetta in her recipe, both slightly different versions of cured pork belly, with a sprinkle of cinnamon — the warmth and flavor of this spice pairs perfectly with fattier or richer meats. This means that carbonara isn't the only thing you can amp up with some cinnamon.

There are so many other dishes that can also benefit from the addition of this warm, slightly sweet spice. If you want to stick with pork, try adding cinnamon to a pork tenderloin rub, mixing it into some sautéed apples to pair with pork chops, or sprinkling it into the slow cooker the next time you prepare a pork roast. Another rich, flavorful meat that pairs wonderfully with cinnamon is lamb. For something hearty and warm, this cinnamon lamb tagine with apricots will hit the spot. Cinnamon also works great in a lamb stew, mixed into lamb meatballs, or to spice up a rice dish with ground lamb.