|Course||Primo (pasta course, Italy); main course (elsewhere)|
|Place of origin||Italy|
|Region or state||Rome/Lazio|
|Main ingredients||Guanciale (or pancetta), eggs, hard cheese (usually Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, or a mixture of the two), black pepper|
|Variations||(US) peas, mushrooms, or other vegetables, cream|
The recipe is not fixed by a specific type of hard cheese or pasta. The cheese is usually Pecorino Romano. Spaghetti is the usual pasta, however, fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini are also used. Either guanciale or pancetta can be used. Another common substitute outside Italy is lardons of smoked bacon.
The pasta is cooked in moderately-salted boiling water. The guanciale is briefly fried on the pan without the use of oil (the fat of the guanciale will behave the same as the olive oil and prevent it from becoming too crispy). A mixture of raw eggs, grated pecorino (or a mixture of pecorino and Parmesan), and lots of ground black pepper is combined with the hot pasta away from additional direct heat to avoid curdling the egg, either in the pasta pot or in a serving dish. The fried guanciale is added, and the mixture is tossed, creating a creamy sauce. Although various pasta shapes can be used, the raw egg can only cook properly with a shape that has a sufficiently large ratio of surface area to volume, such as spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine.
Guanciale is the most commonly used meat for the dish in Italy, but pancetta is also used and in English speaking countries bacon is often used as a substitute. The usual cheese is Pecorino Romano, or occasionally Parmesan. Recipes differ in the use of egg: some use the whole egg, others only the yolk, some a mixture.
Cream is not used in most Italian recipes, though there are exceptions; but it is often used elsewhere. Garlic is similarly found mostly outside Italy. Other variations on carbonara outside Italy may include peas, broccoli, mushrooms, leeks or other vegetables. Many of these preparations have more sauce than the Italian versions and subsequently types of pasta better at holding sauce are used, such as penne.
Origin and history
As with many recipes, the origins of the dish and its name are obscure.
The dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese, and pepper, such as spaghetti alla gricia. Indeed, it is very similar to the Italian pasta cacio e uova, dressed with melted lard and mixed eggs and cheese.
There are many theories for the origin of the name, which may be more recent than the dish itself. Since the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. In parts of the United States the etymology gave rise to the term "coal miner's spaghetti". It has even been suggested that it was created as a tribute to the Carbonari ("charcoalmen"), a secret society prominent in the early, repressed stages of Italian unification. It seems more likely that it is an urban dish from Rome, although it has nothing to do with the Roman restaurant of the same name.
Pasta alla carbonara is unrecorded before the Second World War; notably, it is absent from Ada Boni's 1930 La Cucina Romana. The dish is first attested in 1950, when it was described in the Italian newspaper La Stampa as a dish sought by the American officers after the allied liberation of Rome in 1944. It was described as a Roman dish, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States. It was included in Elizabeth David's Italian Food, an English-language cookbook published in Great Britain in 1954.
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