Before showing your significant other everything, look er in the eyes, exclaim "Stasera mangiamo una bella carbonara!", mix a short apertif with Campari for each of you, and try this recipe:

three shallots
one bunch basil
one head radicchio
one bunch Italian (flat leaf) parsley
5 oz pinenuts
grated parmesan, asiago, or romano cheese
olive oil
butter
half pound linguini

Sliver shallots, chop radicchio, chop basil, mince parsley. Toast pinenuts. Set pasta water to boil. Saute shallots in equal parts butter and olive oil. Add radicchio, parsley, and basil. Toss cooked pasta with sautéed vegetables and grated cheese. Throw pinenuts on top. Serve with a cheap Chianti.

Strange enough, the burnt taste of toasted pinenuts, the sweetness of the shallots, and the bitterness of the radicchio combine to suggest a hint of bacon to the now vegetarian.

After dinner, pour a glass of Frangelico to share, and show em Everything.

Thanks, baffo, for that excellent bit of Italian!

The "classic" pasta alla carbonara would be almost starkly simple if it weren't so incredibly rich: it's little more than pasta, pancetta, and eggs. If you can't get pancetta, bacon is a good substitute, but if you can't or don't want to get bacon, you can try the following vegetarian variation, which is in no way meant as a detraction of the recipe posted above by the lovely and talented Ouroboros, but rather as an alternative. Anyway...

What You Need (Ingredients)

  • sliced mushrooms (1/4-1/2 pound)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 3/4 pound pasta (I used linguine, but spaghetti or fettucine would probably be good alternatives)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano, or Asiago, or what have you --- something hard and sharpish and salty)

What You Do (Directions)

  1. Melt butter and olive oil in a medium to large frying pan on medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until they brown and soften and release their yummy mushroom juices, maybe two or three minutes
  2. Add the garlic and salt and pepper and thyme and saute another minute or so.
  3. Add the wine and simmer it all together until the wine has reduced to around two tablespoons, probably another two or three minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to low or remove pan from heat entirely.
  5. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. (Honestly, you could probably do this step first, and put together the sauce while the pasta's cooking, but I figure on your first run through it's a good idea to give yourself a little extra time.)
  6. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and cheese in a bowl big enough to serve the pasta in.
  7. When the pasta is done to your satisfaction, drain it and add it to the egg mixture. Stir/toss it together quickly, so the eggs and cheese coat the pasta instead of cooking and melting into one big gooey glob at the bottom of the bowl. (If, like me, you're still a little freaked out by raw egg, let me assure you that the heat of the pasta is quite sufficient for cooking it in this case.)
  8. Finally, add the mushroom-wine sauce to the pasta and give it a final stir so it's all mixed together and looks nice.
  9. Serve with extra grated Parmesan and maybe a glass of nice red wine if you've got it. Makes 2-3 servings in 20 minutes or fewer. Yum!

Possible variations on the sauce include the bacon/pancetta substitution mentioned above, as well as white wine instead of red wine if you're so inclined.


This has been a Node Your Dinner/Life Tastes Good production. My inspiration for this recipe came mostly from hunger, although I did consult a linguine carbonara recipe in Quick From Scratch Pasta by Food & Wine Books.

My God!

What has come over these poor misguided souls?! Don't they understand this dish needs meat?! They sully this hearty stampede with the absence of tenderly butchered pig flesh!

BLASPHEMERS!!!

Vegetables are just wonderful when kept in their proper place. However, some recipes should not be adjusted so that their collective chakras become more radiant. This is one of them.

Allow me, gentle noders who eat, to toss these vegestines from the temple of a savory, sumptuous kitchen. This place needs more decadence. Let's begin.

What You Will Need

What You Will Do

Cream the butter in a small bowl until it is light and fluffy. In another bowl whisk the eggs and egg yolks together until they are well-blended. Add half of the cheese.

Warm a large ovenproof serving bowl in a 200° oven. Make your pasta.

Get out your handy skillet and fry that bacon over medium heat until it is nice and crispy. Note: keep long-fingernailed bacon nibblers out of your kitchen at this point in the operation. If this is impossible, just make extra.

Pour off about half the fat and stir the cream and optional dried red peppers in to the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer and keep it warm until the pasta is finished. Once the pasta is drained, time becomes important because the heat of the pasta is vital to the welfare of this dish.

Get the serving dish out of the oven. Transfer the pasta to the dish and add the butter. Toss and turn the pasta until the butter lovingly coats every micrometer of every strand. Then stir in the warm and inviting bacon-and-cream combo. Finally add the eggs and cheese. Mix everything together with passion and heightened anticipation. (Note: the heat from the pasta and other ingredients will cook the raw eggs on contact.)

Serve this immediately with the remaining cheese. If you have thought ahead, you will have a warm loaf of Italian bread waiting for company. A hearty red wine goes along with this quite well.

This is so incredibly yummy and rich. In my house this is a Special Occassion meal, usually contained within the Thanksgiving -- Christmas -- New Year's window. I normally boost the bacon, butter and cream just a wee bit to go with the two pounds of pasta I make.

If you're the type that needs to balance your indulgences, you may want to try something lighter the next day.

Enjoy.

Oh, okay, i'm going to bite...while all of the above sound simply perfect, to me, carbonara is the dish that gives the best ratio of taste:effort imaginable. So i cook it when i've worked late at the office and need something awesome in less than 15 minutes. And it's still good enough to serve at a dinner party if need be...

Before i begin, i can't stress enough the importance of using good quality pasta. I'm not talking paying through the nose for supermarket 'fresh' pasta, which tastes like foam rubber - go to your nearest delicatessen and buy some proper Italian dried pasta - expect to pay a quid per packet, which won't break the bank, but is at least double the price of normal supermarket pasta. You'll notice the difference.

Put your pasta in to boil - it should take about 11 or 12 minutes. As soon as it's in, take three rashers of smoked back bacon (or six of streaky) per person (pancetta is obviously better but it's difficult to get hold of the proper stuff over here), and dice them.

Fry your bacon off in a tiny bit of olive oil, crisping it nicely. Meanwhile, whip up two eggs per person and add a good couple of tablespoons of creme fraiche per person. Whisk together.

Crush a clove or two of garlic depending on taste (i use 3) into the bacon and stir well. With two minutes left on the clock, pour in half a glass of dry white wine and reduce by two-thirds.

Drain the pasta and return to the hot pan. Combine the bacon/wine/garlic in the pan with the pasta and the egg/cream mix and stir over a low heat until the sauce is warmed through, but not scrambled egg. Throw on some fresh basil and cracked black pepper and serve with freshly-grated Parmesan.

15 minutes well spent, i'd say.

Ah, Pasta Alla Carbonara. A hearty and thoroughly fulfilling meal claimed to come from the hills outside of Rome, which has probably risen to become one of my favourite pasta dishes. Far better than any spaghetti with a meat or tomato sauce.

But... what is pasta alla carbonara? We already have four dishes above that claim to be it, and they're all quite different. None of them are the way I make it. How come?

Well, my friend, pasta alla carbonara is a relatively young dish (or, at least, it was historically relatively unknown), with numerous variants. It didn't gain popularity in Italy until the end of WWII, when it became a sort of smash hit that all the yanks brought with them home. The G.I. recipes seem to differ a bit from the Italian dish, frequently adding cream to the basic recipe.

Taking all these factors into consideration, I will now try to create a modular recipe for the dish. Oh, yes, I am typing not one but several recipes, all packed neatly into one.

The basics

Pasta, usually spaghetti
Bacon (unsmoked works best, I've heard. Pancetta or guanciale are considered the peak choices for the dish)
Parmigiano Reggiano1 (Pecorino is commonly used as well)
Egg yolks
Salt and whole black pepper

Obviously, you're going to boil the pasta and fry the bacon. This is common sense. The bacon should only be lightly fried, and should not become crispy (I believe the term is render). At a guess, I'd say 200-300 grams of dried pasta and 6-8 slices of bacon should work well for two persons.

You then have to finely grate the Parmigiano. Please don't use pre-grated stuff. Thank you very much. My experience tells me half a cup should be quite perfect for two people (I use a fairly standard medium-sized coffee cup here). Mix this with egg yolks, approximately 1 per person (though adding an extra yolk on top of this never hurts). This will give you a really thick mixture which doesn't look much like a sauce.

Drain the pasta, and make sure to save a bit of the pasta water. You're going to add this to the cheese-and-egg mixture shortly. Mix the pasta with the meat (make sure to remove the pan from the heat first). Once the pasta water has cooled down slightly, add about 1/4 of a cup, or slightly less, to the egg yolks, and mix. It is important to let it cool a few degrees so that the eggs don't end up scrambled. Pour the sauce over the pasta, season with lots of freshly ground black pepper, as well as salt to flavour, and mix it all well. Your basic carbonara needs only be arranged on a plate, and it will be ready to serve.

As a side note, I personally prefer the peppercorns to be coarsely ground for this dish, and frequently use a mortar and pestle instead of a pepper mill, just crushing them.

Variant Ingredients

A common variant ingredient is onion. I would suggest shallots instead of normal onions, on the ground that shallots are very good.

Cream is commonly used instead of the pasta water in American versions of the dish. I haven't tried this myself, but I do make a very good pasta dish with egg yolks and considerably greater amounts of cream, which I find pleasantly eatable. American versions of carbonara is also often saucier, which probably comes from the adding of somewhat larger amounts of this ingredient.

Chopped parsley has been mentioned as good in this dish. I am honestly a bit skeptical, because I fear it can upset the taste balance.

The same goes for pine nuts. I love pine nuts, but I don't know how well they go in this dish. This needs to be tested experimentally.

Some people use the whole egg instead of just the yolk. I suppose this is less wasteful.

Mushrooms are a popular additive in america, I believe. The above-mentioned recipe of mine with cream includes mushrooms, with great success.

Well, that's a pretty good listing, I think. I have no vegetarian versions, as I prefer my veggie dishes to be served with a side dish of fried meat, and also since the eggs and the cheese, both non-veggie ingredients, are strictly necessary.

I note FastEddie suggest a dry white wine to this dish. Personally, I've always imagined it more as a red wine dish.

1The usage of the Italian name for parmesan is done as a service to any american readers, so that they can avoid the god-awful pre-grated Kraft fake stuff. Get some real Italian parmesan, please!

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