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I agree with albiston. To use a more basic of an example than carbonara, I'll use crème anglaise. It is a custard of milk and egg. You can make it with chicken liver and bananas if you want, all th epower to you, but don't call it crème anglaise.

-- Jason

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I agree with albiston.  To use a more basic of an example than carbonara, I'll use crème anglaise.  It is a custard of milk and egg.  You can make it with chicken liver and bananas if you want, all th epower to you, but don't call it crème anglaise.

OK crème anglaise is milk and egg. What flavouring is authentic? At what point does the definition of the product end?

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Last night on Jeopardy there was a question: noodles, egg, parm, pancetta and cream.....the answer Carbonara. But then I said "everyone said no cream!!"  :hmmm:

I watch Jeopardy every night and try to yell out the questions (answers) at the TV before the contestants do. (I know: Dork.) Last night I yelled, "What is FAKE CARBONARA, Alex?" :laugh:
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Think about the following pasta sauces

cacio pepe --- pecorino and black pepper

alla gricia --- pecorino black pepper and pancetta

carbonara ---- ' ditto plus egg

alfredo --- parmesan plus cream and butter

burro e parmigiano -- parmesan and butter

and so on.

Clearly pretty much any combination of these ingredients can and is eaten. And most ofthese will be pretty good. It is just a question of giving the right name to things. Now I agree with the food police element here that carbonara has a particular taste and texture. It shouldn't be very smooth and creamy. Smooth and creamy pasta sauces can be nice, but they aren't carbonara. It's not really a question of ingredients but rather of the result.

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Had Carbonara two nights ago. Back when I was working full-time outside the house, this is the go-to dish. I always have eggs, pasta, cheese and bacon. On the table in the amount of time it takes to get a pan of water boiling and the pasta boiled. I even learned to fill the pot with water in the morning so it didn't take so long to come to a boil. It was one of Peter's first foods when he was all of about 4 months old.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I have an idea I've been playing with for a little while now - very thin, small  ravioli filled with a dab of cream and a smallish salted, peppered and unbroken egg yolk.  The short cooking time would leave the yolk runny - plated with rendered pancetta, a drizzle of melted butter and shards of cheese.  Maybe a couple crisp-fried sage leaves.

One would get a plate of innocuous-looking ravioli with butter sauce, but would be suprised by the run of egg yolk.  A few judicious swabs of the plate, and you'd have a delicious bite on your fork.

Just an idea.  Think I'll try it tonight.

I've had this, and one good way to do the ravioli is with a disc of fontina cheese, or some other mild white cheese with a little integrity, underneath the egg yolk. It makes it easier to handle the ravioli without it breaking and falling apart.

There are quite a few good combinations I can think of, but I know that shaved truffles or truffle oil make a good addition to the finished ravioli.

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I agree with albiston.  To use a more basic of an example than carbonara, I'll use crème anglaise.  It is a custard of milk and egg.  You can make it with chicken liver and bananas if you want, all th epower to you, but don't call it crème anglaise.

OK crème anglaise is milk and egg. What flavouring is authentic? At what point does the definition of the product end?

I guess what I mean is, you can do what you want but why not give it a new name? I once had a pasta dish with a sauce of pancetta, black pepper, parmesan, cream, saffron, and egg yolks. The person who made it said it was inspired from carbonara, but since it contained saffron and cream she instead called it Vermicelli allo Zafferano. Here we have a variation of carbonara, but without calling it a carbonara.

-- Jason

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I made my egg ravioli yesterday. It's so gorgeous outside, pics will have to come later...it was delicious and pretty successful, though there are lots of tweaks that could be made.

The basic technique: verrry thin sheets of cracked-pepper pasta...

gallery_15769_345_1099929679.jpg

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with a light sprinkle of grated pecorino, more pepper and salt at intervals to "anchor" the yolks. The yolks deposited on top....

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folded over and sealed with a whole beaten egg...

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and a little pancetta

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Just about 90 seconds of cooking was perfect - as soon as the ravioli started floating, the eggs were perfectly done.

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Really tasty. Though, I don't know that I could in good concience ask guests to eat more than one or two of these. I ate three, and then couldn't eat dinner. One on a pretty plate would be an excellent little plated first course, though.

gallery_15769_345_1099929583.jpg

Edited by eunny jang (log)
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Furthermore, the cream addition is IMO something that got into the recipe to make life easier for lazy cooks: no time or too sloppy to get your carbonara properly creamy? What the fuck, just pour some cream in there and hey pronto! problem solved. That makes me particularly angry.

Albiston,

I agree wholeheartedly: cream shouldn't be used, and it's a lazy way of making the dish. I heard an interesting theory as to how cream got mixed up in there. WW II GIs who were fond of the dish, returned to the States and, in order to recreate the creaminess of the sauce, turned to...cream. Don't know if it's true, but it's certianly a colorful idea.

David

David Leite

Leite's Culinaria

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Furthermore, the cream addition is IMO something that got into the recipe to make life easier for lazy cooks: no time or too sloppy to get your carbonara properly creamy? What the fuck, just pour some cream in there and hey pronto! problem solved. That makes me particularly angry.

Albiston,

I agree wholeheartedly: cream shouldn't be used, and it's a lazy way of making the dish. I heard an interesting theory as to how cream got mixed up in there. WW II GIs who were fond of the dish, returned to the States and, in order to recreate the creaminess of the sauce, turned to...cream. Don't know if it's true, but it's certianly a colorful idea.

David

David,

nice of you to join the discussion: the WWII GI role in the history of carbonara is an intriguing one in many aspects. Some even argue that they invented the dish, though that's quite improbable, as we discussed some time ago. I have my doubts about the cream story too.

My suspicion is that the trick started to be used in big hotel kitchens to make the dish more manageable in those conditions. There's even supposed to be a recipe from the early 50's coming from the Accademia della Cucina Italiana calling for some cream. Don't know if it's true, but if it were, the history of the GI going back home and using cream would sound less believable.

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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My suspicion is that the trick started to be used in big hotel kitchens to make the dish more manageable in those conditions.

albiston--I think you nailed it right there. But even if the academia has a cream-based recipe, I'm still a purist.

I have a question for some of the people on this thread (and it may be the start of another thread): What is your opinion of Grana Padano vs. Parmigiano-Reggiano? And I mean good, properly aged (18 to 24 months) Grana Padano. Not this 12-month stuff they try to pawn off as "Poor Man's Parmigiano-Reggiano."

David

David Leite

Leite's Culinaria

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eunny, your pics are making me drool at my desk, which is making me fear for my keyboard. :laugh: ever since i read about your egg yolk ravioli, i've been waiting to see how they turned out. thanks for sharing!!

here are my personal carbonara preferences:

bacon (i don't know san diego well enough to find a place that has pancetta)

garlic, minced and sauteed with olive oil

whole eggs, i don't add extra egg yolks

no onions or shallots

parmesan

lots and lots of black pepper :wub:

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I made my egg ravioli yesterday.  It's so gorgeous outside, pics will have to come later...it was delicious and pretty successful, though there are lots of tweaks that could be made.

...

gallery_15769_345_1099929599.jpg

It's no egg yolk ravioli -- thanks for the pictures, eunny! -- but I made my first carbonara tonight after lurking on this thread.

gallery_7453_323_1099959394.jpg

I used pancetta, linguini (all I had on hand), one whole egg and an extra yolk, pecorino romano, and parmigiano. And ground pepper.

gallery_7453_323_1099959436.jpg

It was very successful!

gallery_7453_323_1099959473.jpg

I had some scallop scraps left over from the other night, so I seared them in the pancetta fat and added a little jus. :smile:

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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eunny, I'm so glad you let us all know the proper timing on the egg yolk ravioli. I had done a lazy cook's try at a similar thing when I ran out of filling before I ran out of my pasta sheet, but I cooked the egg yolk raviolo with the rest of the ricotta ravioli and it came out overdone. So thank you for saving me further experiments.

As for carbonara itself, my recipe just includes the basics--guancale (or, most of the time, as this is my favorite go to I got home and I'm really hungry dish,american bacon (plus, to be honest, I like the stronger flavor of smoked bacon. I think it plays really well off the strong pecorino. I prefer subtlety in my writing and conversation and not so much in my food.) and shallots sauteed while the spaghetti cooks. The pasta cooking time also lets me warm up the egg I didn't plan ahead enough to take out of the refrigerator in warm water to bring it up to room temperature. I also grate lots of Parmigiano Reggiano and a good, strong, aged Pecorino and grind lots and lots of black pepper into this cheese mixture because it takes so long to grind it I won't have time later. I drain the pasta letting the water drain into the serving bowl, warming it and allowing me to grab some of that pasta water in case I need it later, pour the spaghetti into the warm bowl, followed by the bacon/shallots, followed by the egg, followedby the cheeses/pepper, and stirred after each addition. I usually need to add some pasta water at the end to ensure the proper, creamy consistency. If, in the beginning, I thought I wanted something a little lighter than carbonara I'll also add plento of chopped parsley in with the cheese/pepper addition, but not if I feel like a good, thick, creamy, fattening pasta dish.

And in the carbonaras that are not carbonaras category my mom has always made "spaghetti carbonara" that must have come from one of those all-american cookbooks that combines the spaghetti with bacon, onions, cheddar, parmesan, garlic and onion powder, and eggs over low heat. While carbonara it is not, it is incredibly delicious, more like a completely unshapen, rich spaghetti pie than the creamy pasta dish. It always pleased both us picky kids and my dad, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the digestive system, who is unreasonably paranoid about raw eggs and many other food products. Although I guess he's seen the worst case scenario when it comes to most foodborne illness, so I should give him a break. Plus, he ate my home-cured salmon.

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This is a great thread. I was so busy with blogging the past week, I missed it until now. Thanks everyone, for the input, advice, and interesting discussion about definition and authenticity.

Now I'm ready to soon make Carbonara for dinner, and also Eunny's Egg Ravioli as a first course some evening.

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I had:

1 small puddle of home made mayonaisse from my Chicken Schnitzel last night

1 small puddle of garlic cream from my Garlic Mashed Potatos last night

1 container of left over pasta from my Spaghetti Bolognaise 2 nights ago

Combine them all together, add some chopped salami I had in the fridge, a liberal grind of black pepper and some shavings of a very good organic parmesan reggiano and you get Ghetto Carbonara. But oh... my... f**king... god... is it good, I swear, it's better than the stuff I had in rome, the slight tangyness of the lemon juice from the mayo, the tiny dab of mustard, the really fucking fantastic cheese, it just brought it all together. Even that slight rubberiness you get from left over pasta contributed, being able to stand it's own against the occasional chunks of salami.

Sometimes, the most impromtu meal turns out to come out with all pistons firing exactly right... just don't ask me to figure out exactly how many grams of fat I just ate :D.

PS: I am a guy.

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When I was very little my dad took an Italian cooking class at the local community center. He cooked a couple of things every month for years after that that were perfect. Bolognese and carbonara.

The carbonara was made with spaghetti, onions softened in a little butter, pancetta, black pepper, egg yolks, parmesan, chicken stock, and frozen peas. Reading all of these posts for the right way to make carbonara I can't help but think that they're all wrong. The way I had it first was the way I will think of it forever. I think a lot of people feel that way. I've seen it on plenty of menus, but I'll never order it.

I won't even mention the ingredients for the bolognese...

If we aren't supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?

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I have an idea I've been playing with for a little while now - very thin, small  ravioli filled with a dab of cream and a smallish salted, peppered and unbroken egg yolk.  The short cooking time would leave the yolk runny - plated with rendered pancetta, a drizzle of melted butter and shards of cheese.  Maybe a couple crisp-fried sage leaves.

One would get a plate of innocuous-looking ravioli with butter sauce, but would be suprised by the run of egg yolk.  A few judicious swabs of the plate, and you'd have a delicious bite on your fork.

Just an idea.  Think I'll try it tonight.

Eunny, I had almost exactly that dish as part of a cook's tour of restaurants in Los Angeles. I can remember neither the chef's last name nor the restaurant, except that it specialized in pasta and was on Westwood Boulevard. The chef's first name was Pino, and he was excellent.

Pino made the pasta fresh, and added nothing but the egg yolk. The pasta were quite large to accomodate the yolk - about the size of wonton squares. Just one was served as an appetizer. The sauce was simply butter, parmesan cheese and sage. Excellent, and thank you for reminding me of it.

I have that recipe somewhere, printed out. It sounds like your own version would make Pino's instructions superfluous but let me know if you have special interest and I will dig it out.

--L. Rap

Edited by elrap (log)

Blog and recipes at: Eating Away

Let the lamp affix its beam.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

--Wallace Stevens

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  • 2 months later...

A year ago in Rome, I had the best pasta carbonara - the sauce was very eggy and the pasta was coated with its velvety smooth richness. The plate of golden heaven had a balance of salt and smoke from the perfect ratio of guanciale and pancetta. The sauce was silky smooth - not a lump or a curdle in sight. Kissed with a hint of percorino this dish will forever stand in my mind as a the benchmark for carbonaras in the future.

This weekend I had my first attempt at creating pasta carbonara. I used this speciality pasta I picked up a Coop store in Florence, Italy. It is like a miniature lasagne sheet - but the width and thickness of linguini. (I apologize, I don't know Italian so I'm unable to tell you exactly what type of pasta this is. Can anyone help out?) I thought the pasta was interesting and the ridges would be provide a good contrast to the smoothness of any sauce - and catch sauce as well.

Ooh, I love grocery stores in Italy - far more interesting than the ones in States. (I'm sorry, but it is true!) :biggrin:

gallery_19890_766_788600.jpg

gallery_19890_766_97523.jpg

I picked up the majority of the ingredients for my pasta in Florence - from left to right you'll see the pork products I got at the central market. I asked for guanciale and she gave me two types - the one that's mostly fat is the one from the jowl portion and the circular one is the one from the center cheek. The half fat/half lean piece on the right is a verison of pancetta. I used half and half and percorino from Whole Foods Market. Dang, I shoulda gotta some percorino in Italy as well...bah. :sad:

The bowl of yolks on the left is from the local farmer's market. Note the lovely "red" of the yolks. Glorious - this is how eggs SHOULD look. When I was separating the yolks from the whites in my hands I could FEEL the egginess of the yolk. They were plump and fresh.

Sidebar: When I get my film developed, I'll post the picture of the stand where I purchased these beauties. Can I just tell you I nearly fainted from pork fat pleasure when I walked into that place? It is sheer heaven for those who love pork. Pancetta, lardo, guanciale, prosciutto...heavenly. Forget buying Italian shoes, I'll be the first in line to smuggle some pork products back into the States!

I minced the two types of guanciale and pancetta into small pieces - turns out TOO small as when I was done cooking them over a medium flame, I ended up with something closer to lardons than slightly undercooked bacon (think British breakfast - soft bacon not BLT bacon). I believe I cooked them too long as well.

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Next time, I will adjust the size of the guanciale and pancetta. However, the crunchy pieces provided a good contrast to the pasta and egg in the final dish.

gallery_19890_766_221192.jpg

I cooked the pasta in salted water for 9 minutes, making sure it was al dente. After eating perfectly prepared pasta in Florence I didn't want to sully my palate by eating gummy strands of starch. (Pasta snob alert! :laugh: ) As soon as it was done I drained the pasta, swirled the pasta around the pan that I used to cooked the guanciale and pancetta in so that it could absorb the browned bitts of goodness and a little bit of oil (don't worry, I drained most of it off first!), added the yolks (lightly beaten - I was worried that adding the yolks whole to hot pasta would cause them to poach - I know, worrywart and silly) then thinned the yolks with half and half, added some percorino and black pepper.

gallery_19890_766_608421.jpg

I was careful not too add too much as I destest carbonaras that are pale with excess cream/half and half. Ai ya, if I wanted to eat alfredo I would've ordered it, ya know?

And here is the final product in its messy glory.

gallery_19890_766_54304.jpg

I would've added a little bit more half and half to the pasta to get a silkier consistency. Otherwise, I thought this was a pretty good first attempt. Now I have to control myself from making it for another 2 months lest my cholestrol go through the roof!

PS: I'm still learning to use the digital camera. Excuse the not-so clear shots!

Edited by Gastro888 (log)
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