Ciao di nuovo! It’s been another long while since I’ve posted. I have not been cooking anything interesting. In fact before making this yummy Carbonara, I made a mushy pot of black beans and brown rice . . . trust me; it wasn’t blog-worthy. Also these past few weeks have been stressful because of constant teaching and grading. So in order to retain the little bit of sanity I have left from my busy schedule, I still think about my blissful months in Reggio Calabria, Italy.
MARIANGELA VERSION: While in Reggio Calabria, my boyfriend’s mom, Mariangela (the same who shared her pizza dough and pizza recipe with me), asked me what was my favorite pasta dish, and without hesitation, I said, “Pasta alla Carbonara.” For my birthday, she surprised me with this dish but made it with proscuitto instead of pancetta and spaghetti in place of bucatini. It was AMAZING, and I knew I wanted to recreate this dish upon my return to the States.
In the past, every time I made Carbonara, I would have to go on a long search for guanciale or pork cheek, the official meat used in traditional Carbonara, and I could never find it. I am confronted with perplexed stares and am asked to repeat my request multiple times by supermarket workers. I have always had to resort to pancetta, but now that I have tried Carbonara with proscuitto, I am happy that I no longer need to look far and wide for guanciale because I have found a good, substitute version of traditional Carbonara.
Even though the Carbonara originated in Rome, when I think of this dish with proscuitto, I think of the best moments of my life in Reggio Calabria…
TRADITIONAL VERSION: I started with the “Mariangela version” of Carbonara because it is a nostalgic dish for me; it is my preferred version, and it is not considered the traditional way to make the dish.
A traditional Bucatini alla Carbonara is comprised of bucatini (the pasta), guanciale(pork cheek), parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino romano or both (the cheese), eggs (the sauce), black pepper (spice), and pasta water, if needed. However, many Italians may substitute guanciale with pancetta, or in Mariangela’s case, with proscuitto.
In the States, however, Italian-American restaurants serve Carbonara with pancetta or bacon, cream, and sometimes peas or other add-ins! *gasp!* I much prefer the more traditional way or with prosciutto served with a crusty knob of hot bread.
Bucatini: A few weeks ago, I was happy to find bucatini, which is the pasta used in the traditional version of Carbonara. My boyfriend encouraged me to use spaghetti instead of this type of pasta, but I wanted to try it out for myself and for the blog :).
As you can see in the photos, this pasta is much thicker than spaghetti, and there are holes in the middle. Once I took a bite of the Carbonara, I understood immediately why my boyfriend had discouraged me from using it!Even though it is more traditional to use bucatini, in the future, I will use spaghetti since they are thinner and more manageable to eat and enjoy.
Bucatini alla Carbonara
75-115 grams of spaghetti or bucatini per person (reserve some of the pasta water)
1/2 Tbsp of a light oil such as sunflower oil (I had only extra virgin olive oil on hand)
2-4 Tbsp guanciale, pancetta, or proscuitto
1 large egg per person
2-3 Tbsp parmigiano reggiano per person
black pepper to taste (q.b.)
Boil water and prepare pasta. Be sure to salt your water until it is almost as salty as the Mediterranean Sea (as they say). Once the pasta is 3 minutes away from being done, start cooking your pork of choice in a hot skillet brushed with light oil (I used a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, but Mariangela used soybean oil because it is lighter.).
While the pork is cooking, put the grated cheese and egg in a bowl and mix together well. Once the meat is ready, remove the skillet from heat and transfer the cooked pasta to the skillet. Stir the pasta and pork together well. Next pour the egg and cheese mixture on top of the pasta and pork and mix well. Serve immediately and sprinkle the top of the dish with plenty of fresh black pepper.