What amazes me is how often it is made incorrectly. I recently was a guest chef for Celebrity Cruise Line.
One of the demonstrations was how to make a “real” Carbonara sauce.
The cooking demonstration I gave on this dish was an open forum. People could ask questions at will. The number one question was: “Why no cream?” Unfortunately, most in the audience use cream in their Carbonara.
The number one thing one must modify above all other things when making a Carbonara is to not add cream. NO cream please!
Here is my reason as to why. First, the dish is a classic! The dish hails from the Lazio region of Italy, where, during the coal mining days of this area, the dish was made to be a hearty meal for the coal miners.
Carbonari in Italian means charcoal miners in English. Hence, we have what is today known as Carbonara.
Secondly, other than the fact that the dish is a classic and classically was not made with cream, we have the issue of “heaviness”.
This sauce is very rich! It is made with eggs, pasta, pancetta (Italian bacon) and cheese. Cream is an unnecessary addition that simply puts the “heaviness factor” over the top.
My personal guess as to why people use cream is because it does, in fact, act like a liaison and help to not scramble the eggs while making this delicate dish.
There is a technique to making the perfect Carbonara! The use of cream eliminates the need to master the technique. Therefore, in essence, using cream is cheating!
The tricky part of this simple dish is to NOT scramble the eggs but, while trying to obtain a creamy sauce between the bacon fat, cheese and eggs.
To obtain this, we need “moderate” heat! I’ve watched many a cook think they can cook this sauce like any other pasta sauce by tossing it over an open flame and ultimately they wind up with a strange version of a “pasta omelet”.
Here is the trick!
Carbonara making techniques: These are the technique that I use and demonstrated on Celebrity Cruise Line.
- Before preparing the sauce, bring the eggs to room temperature prior to (making the dish-remove). (Cold eggs need more heat, which increases the risk of scrambling the eggs.
- Use a metal mixing bowl, rather than a sauté pan to toss the pasta with the sauce.
- While the pasta is cooking, ladle some sauce into the bowl to slightly warm the eggs up by holding the bowl over the pot of boiling water, whisking the eggs gently to make sure they warm through. This warms the eggs and the bowl, so that when the hot pasta along with the pancetta and it’s hot fat are added to the sauce, the eggs do not instantly scramble.
- This is where many use the cream. The cream helps to reduce the scramble factor and unfortunately eliminates many people from using the classic technique.
Cooking is all about technique! So…”no cream please” and challenge yourself to master the techniques!
Tagliatelle alla Carbonara – (6 portions)
- Tagliatelle – 1-1/2 lbs
- Pancetta – 1/4 lbs.
- Garlic – whole and peeled
- Shallot (medium) – minced
- Eggs – 5 yolks, medium size
- Parmesan and Pecorino Romano – 3.5 ounces of both combined together using equal amounts of each. Or, all Pecorino Romano
- Olive Oil – as needed
- Salt – to taste
- Black Pepper – fresh cracked ( to taste)
- Italian parsley – Two sprigs of the leaves only. (rough chopped)
- Cook the pancetta in a saute pan along with the whole clove of garlic drizzled with a little olive oil. Cook until the pancetta has rendered and is nicely colored. Discard the garlic clove.
- Crack the eggs in a bowl and mix with a little cheese. Leave out to take the “chill” off the eggs.
- Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the pancetta and increase the heat under the saute pan to medium. Add a little pasta water to help bring up all flavors stuck to the pan . Reduce the flame to low and work on the eggs.
- Heat the bowl with the eggs holding it over the pasts water’s steam. Whisk until the eggs are warm to the touch.
- Once this is achieved add the eggs to the saute pan. Tossing quickly and vigorously to create an emulsion. Once this is achieved toss through some cheese leaving the rest of the cheese for garnish.
- Taste for seasoning. Adding the salt and fresh cracked black pepper at this point.
- Toss in the parsley and serve with the remaining cheese on the side.
For some history and facts click Tagliatelle alla Carbonara.