Any recipes for Alla Carbonara out there?

I’ve tried google and yahoo, but every recipe I have come across is too different from the next one. One calls for a cup of cream, the next calls for a few tablespoons, and the varying amounts of olive oil is enough to make me cock an eyebrow. Once I finally settled on one, the result was a bland disaster that tasted like little more than simple eggs with butter and parmesean cheese. I want the flavorful, creamy, heart stoppingly unhealthy Carbonara I’ve been enjoying in family owned family resteraunts these last few years. The same dish with a small pool of olive oil at the bottom of every bowl, and there’s a faint taste of pancetta on every strand of pasta.

And I would like to take a page from one of the many family, friends, and time tested recipes offered up from this board. It’s one of my favorite pasta dishes, and none of my roomates have ever tried it. Damn shame I tell you. If anyone cares to share a recipe with me, I’ll be forever grateful and be sure to report back with my results.

Also, I plan on making garlic knots. if anyone knows how to make those, feel free to drop a few lines. I already know how to make the dough, I just need to know whether to apply olive oil before or after baking them until they’re golden brown, and what are the best seasonings and herbs to top them off with

This is the recipe I use:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
generous ½ cup pancetta, or lean fried bacon, diced
1 garlic clove
1 box Barilla Bucatini Rigati (or spaghetti)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/2 C Romano cheese, freshly grated
1/4 C heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pan, add garlic and cook until the garlic turns brown. Remove and discard the garlic. Add the diced meat, heat through. Meanwhile, cook the pasta, then drain and add to the meat. Remove the pan from the heat, Add cream, pour in the eggs, add half the Parmesan and the half Romano. Mix well so that the egg coats the pasta. Add the remaining cheese, pepper to taste, mix again and serve IMMEDIATELY.

Try the Food TV website for variations you might like better.

There are tons of recipes online out there, most of which require eggs and cream. For a quicker and healthier (?) preparation:

Saute some bacon and drain
Saute some onion and garlic in the drippings, set aside
Grate some fresh parmesan
Make pasta of choice (I’ve even used macaroni)

Toss the pasta with a few tablespoons of butter and the rest of the ingredients, salt and pepper, and voila! This eliminates messing with eggs and cream and is pretty damn tasty for a hurry-up meal.

I suppose your recipe may be tasty but it sure as hell ain’t carbonara.

The trick (as such) is to use pancetta (not the same as bacon) and raw egg, unless you fall into one of the groups that may be sensitive to raw eggs. Like alfredo, this is not a recipe for the calorie conscious.

You can get away with certain types of bacon. The traditional pork fat is either guanciale, pancetta or even prosciutto. The key for the correct flavor is not to use a smoked pork product (like most bacon), but you can get away with it. But traditional carbonara does not contain garlic, and typically the type of carbonara you get in Rome or the rest of Italy does not contain any cream. That’s more of a northern European/American addition.

Here is a typical recipe. It’s a very simple dish.

After re-reading the thread, if you’re looking to recreate carbonara as served by restaurants here, you really can’t go wrong with Mad Pansy’s recipe.

I actually (accidentally of course) smuggled some guanciale back to the states on my last trip and I have to admit, despite all of the nonsense regarding authenticity, that I much prefer making and eating it with pancetta. I also prefer the subtle taste that pancetta adds over prosciutto.

I did :-/.

It was an anonymous agreement between me and two other people that it lacked flavor. Now before I go any further I’d like to say that I substituted cream with milk, because a roomate threw my cream out for some strange reason. Now cream is better than milk, but in my experience switching one out for the other doesn’t neccesarily break a recipe, or at least not when a recipe calls for so little of it in the first place. I also substituted Pancetta for proscuitto because after searching through three different grocery stores, I couldn’t find it anywhere…though I suspect a local deli that closes early in the day may have it.

Now other than these two things, I stuck to the recipe, and I got the same results as I did the first time. A pasta dish that tasted like noodles with parmagean cheese, butter, and little bits of egg. I couldn’t taste anything resembling meat in there unless I was biting right into it.

So what’s the deal here? Is the Pancetta neccesary, or am I doing something totally wrong? Should I be buying a different kind of pasta? Or putting something into the water while the noodles boil? Why am I still getting a bland taste over here?

With having asked those questions, I would like to say the garlic knots I baked came out very nice…even though I forgot to add salt to the pizza dough I made them with. If anyone feels like making these at home, here are the ropes:

1 tablespoon Yeast
3/4 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
3-4 cups flour
garlic powder
Parmesean cheese
Olive oil
Misc herbs/spices

Pour 1.5 cups of hot water into a measuring cup and immediatly apply sugar and yeast. Stand back and wait around five minutes or untill the fermented water has developed some bubbles. Throw into a large bowl with one cup of flour and the salt and stir until flour is completely dissolved. Then gradually throw in half a cup of flour until the dough has become too solid to stir comfortable. At this point throw a handfull of powder onto your kitchen counter (or some flat, clean surface) and drop the dough onto it. Powder your hands with flour, and knead away at the dough while adding additonal flour until it feels like a breat. Firm, but not too sticky.

At this point, you can either cut the dough in half and make garlic knots with one half of the dough and a pizza with the other, or you can use both halves to make garlic knots. Each half should make about 7-10 knots. More if you make them small enough. Or if you’d like, throw one half into the freezer (after bagging it o’ course) and save for later.

Anyways, now you’ll want to throw the dough into a bag, place the bag onto a plate, and place the plate onto an oven turned all the way up. If you have a pizza stone, you’ll want it to be inside the oven heating up. Once the dough is done rising, cut it into little strips and tie into a knot…or anyother weird, perverted shape you might want. Freak. Place it on a pan, or stone that has been rubbed liberally with olive oil, and then pour a drop or two of olive oil ontop of each knot after placing them down. Put into the oven until they turn golden brown.

While they’re still hot (or rather, while they’re still cooking), fill a bag not likely to melt, or large tupperware container, with a good mix of olive oil, your favorite Italian herbs and/or spices, and cheeses such as parmesean. Once the knots come out of the oven, throw them into the bag/container, and shake vigorously. Open up the plastic, take the knots out, throw them into another bowl, and place them on the table for all to enjoy

No, really? Technically, of course, any dish with cooked smoked meat would be “alla carbonara”.

Wha? Etyomologically, alla carbonara comes from the specks of pepper in the dish which reminded people of coal miners. I’ve never seen anywhere that suggests smoked meat was a neccesary or even authentic ingredient in carbonara.

In fact, smoked meat is not the traditional accompaniment to carbonara (at least the way it’s done in Italy), which is made from cured, unsmoked meats like guianciale or pancetta.

And here’s one cite, in case you don’t believe me.

I suspect it’s the quality of your ingredients then. The taste of carbonara should be simple and pure. You should have been able to get away with prosciutto, but I would add additional fat to the dish. Myself, at this point, I would have simply opted for the most subtely smoked bacon I could find. Most of the reason to use pancetta or guanciale is to use its flavorful fat, and skipping this will alter the outcome of your dish. But if you must use prosciutto, use high-quality imported prosciutto. I’ve tasted domestic versions at the local grocery and I don’t know what they are, but they’re not prosciutto. I’ve had the same experience with domestic parmiagianno-reggianos. Although I’ve never tried this dish with prosciutto, I suspect it might be too lean to be effective.

Personally, I would’ve skipped the cream all together, but definitely would not have used milk. It just doesn’t boil down and reduce the way you want it to, and the milk fat helps carry the flavor. I have a feeling your milk did more to water down the flavor than help it.

Thirdly, see my note about parmesean. I certainly hope you didn’t use the stuff in a green can.

When you have a recipe this simple, everything depends on the quality and types of ingredients you start with. And don’t forget to salt and pepper your food to taste at the end! There’s no reason the end result should not have been flavorful. Remember, even alfredo is simply butter, cream, and cheese, and I’ve never heard accusations of it being bland.

Humble contrition to all.

After reading your complaint, I made two batches, and sampled both (this is important, because I don’t like it. You’re welcome :smiley: )

Using half & half (I didn’t have enough milk), domestic prosciutto from Safeway, grocery-store eggs, and not-Barrilla spaghetti cooked according to directions: icky, but somehow still utterly tasteless. Salty snot-coated noodles. My victims . . . er, I mean, my Designated Tasters . . . agreed it was both dull and yucky in the same bite.

The batch with very fresh eggs (from the hens next door), heavy cream (generic), local butchers Bacon & barilla pasta: Tasty but still slimy. Everyone else whined because there wasn’t more.

Same chunks of cheese – no idea which brand, because I threw away the wrappers. Same (fresh ground, but unknown brand) pepper.

My conclusion? It’s the ingredients. Fresh eggs (get 'em from the back of the cooler, and don’t even think about the fake kind), grate the cheese & pepper yourself, and good bacon is better than crappy prosciutto.

BTW – I can cook noodles for almost as long as the box says, because I’m above the “high altitude” directions. If you’re lower, cut the time in half to start testing doneness. I also let the eggs & cream sit out for about 30 minutes in advance, just so the temp change isn’t so drastic. I don’t think anyone has mentioned that yet, but it helps. Sorry – I tend to cook on autopilot, and it’s hard to remember all the little details.

I have, on occasion, added fresh peas and mushrooms. Not even vaguely traditional, but my victims liked it.

Peas go very nicely in a cream and bacon sauce. But coal vendors’ spaghetti is just eggs, cheese, butter, cured pork and a good dusting of black pepper.

I’d also say the eggs should be nearly raw, but I dunno how that is health-wise in the US.

Nope, it was fresh Romano and parmagean, right off the block…but I do have to admit I’ve used the stuff from the green plastic containers for some alfredo sauces and it’s come out ok.

Whoah! You didn’t have to go all out and trace my steps to find the problem. Of course now that you did, I’m going to have to thank you. That’s one of the coolest things someone from the online realm has ever done for me. Thanks!

Your findings are really suprising. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a recipe where the quality of ingredients were so important. Who knew a little milk over cream could make such a difference? Or switching out one brand of Proscuitto for another? I’m stunned.

I suppose I would toy around with the idea of trying out Boars Head Proscuitto, but I think I’ll be better off just looking for a nice, thick, brand of bacon. Or I’ll try and hit up the local deli again and see if they sell Pancetta.

As for the leftover Proscuitto I still have, well I think I’ll be using that to wrap up shrimp to throw on the new grill I just spent $150 on. After I’m done getting my fill of BBQ and have got some more money in my pocket I’ll return to this recipe and thread and then report back. I’ll conquer this dish yet :slight_smile: .

A very big thanks to all parties contributing to another one of my food threads

You’re very welcome. The thread aroused my curiousity, and my victims thank you for convincing me to make it again. So everyone is happy.

:eek: I’m not sure what to say. The stuff in the green can…don’t taste like cheese.

There are many, many recipes where this is true. Remember, like I said, the fewer ingredients, the more important the quality of each. My favorite Italian tomato sauce (an arrabiata) contains only tomatoes, olive oil, onions, and hot pepper flakes (and perhaps a dash of salt and/or pepper). That’s it. The quality of it depends all on the ripeness of the tomatoes–either grow your own, find a good farmer’s market, or stick with the best Italian pomodoro pelati you can find. And make sure you use a great olive oil. I’m partial to Frantoia. Same with the ingredients for a bruschetta or alfredo or whatnot.

I worked briefly as a kitchen porter (kind of a combination washup boy/prep guy) at a Michelin starred restaurant in Scotland. I asked the talented chef there, a Kevin Livingstone, what the secret to cooking was. His answer was simple, but true. “There is no secret. Just use the best ingredients you can find and prepare them to the best of your skills.” And it truly is that simple. The best foods I’ve always had are simply prepared meals with minimal ingredients–like sashimi, BBQ ribs (no sauce), pork chops, penne al’arrabiata–but the quality of ingredients and mastery of technique is so good, that they’re simply transcendent. Lots of herbs and spices != flavor. Quality ingredients = flavor. (Don’t get me wrong. I love heavily spiced cuisines like Indian and Thai, just that it’s not a necessity for flavorful meals.)