Spaghetti Carbonara


I first had Spaghetti Carbonara on the Greek island of Paros.  I was 18 and was there with my great Italian friend, Dodi, visiting some friends of hers from her town, Varese.  One of the friends was Giulio.  When I met him, he was standing on steps leading to a roof top apartment on one of those white-washed Greek structures trimmed in a vibrant blue.  He was negotiating with the landlady, struggling to communicate with her in his best ancient Greek which of course she didn’t understand. She was dressed all in black, and seemed quite old.  Dodi and I had just arrived.  He looked at down at me at the bottom of the stairs.  In Italian it is called un colpo d’amore, an attack of love.  In English: love at first site. That night he made a big group of us pasta carbonara, using bacon because he couldn’t find guanciale or pancetta in the food stores.  It was as simple and as delicious as the following recipe, and I have been making it ever since and every time I make it I am 18 again on a Greek island, filled with possibility.

Pasta Carbonara

3 eggs (use the best because they are only cooked by the heat of the spaghetti fresh from the boiling water.  I use eggs from my mother’s farm.)

1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of grated parmigiano

1 pound of bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces and cooked until crisp (carbonara refers to the coal miners who invented the dish in mid-century Italy.  Take apart carbon – ara and you get carbon.  The bacon becomes the little bits of coal.)

1 pound of spaghetti (don’t use anything thinner — spaghettini or angel hair NO NO NO.  I absolutely love how Italians have put a lot of thought into which shape of pasta works with which type of sauce.  A thinner noodle would wilt under the weight of the bacon and egg, become mushy.)

FACT and HINT: A real carbonara should have NO cream.  Mistrust any recipe that involves cream.

Cook the bacon.  Boil the pasta.  Break the eggs into the serving dish.  Stir swiftly with a fork.  Then stir in the cheese. Just before the pasta is ready to strain, toss the bacon with the eggs.  Strain the pasta and while still wet and very hot pour on top of the egg/bacon mixture.  Let stand for about a minute, then toss, as you would a salad.  Serve with more parmigiano.

Warning: Heart Attack On A Plate, as my brother-in-law liked to describe Carbonara.

Or, as my daughter likes to say: Breakfast for dinner.

3 thoughts on “Spaghetti Carbonara

  1. looks good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. May I comment on a couple of inaccuracies. In Italian love at first sight you can say “colpo di fulmine” (thunderbolt strike) or “amore a prima vista”. We do not say “colpo d’amore”.

    In the spaghetti alla carbonara you have to use spaghetti number 9 size, or eventually bucatini.

    The secret is to mix parmigiano cheese and percorino romano (a cheese from sheeps breeding in Lazio).

    Not inidcated if you are on a diet, great if you are very very hungry.

    1. Thank you for your corrections. I HATE BEING WRONG. “Colpo di fulmine” is so beautiful. I wrote a love story, L’America, a few years ago and used “colpo d’amore” and none of my many Italian friends and relatives corrected it. Who are you? I also didn’t know about mixing pecorino with the parmigiano. Thanks for that tip. Of course, I did know about the spaghetti as I warn not to use anything thin. We muck up carbonara over here in the worst ways — with cream and angel hair and other awful renditions. I’m glad the only thing wrong with my recipe, that you found, was the cheese. Some people put in garlic. Do you? Again, thanks.

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