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« Covered in chocolate from head to toe: coffee beans | Main | A healthy candy: liquorice »

March 29, 2004



I'm a bit of a carbonara addict myself, but have yet to find *the* perfect recipe... I must say, the one on Leite's website looks like it could be a winner! And if you ever find someone to sponsor that Carbonara research project, let me know! I'll be ready, armed with a fork and spoon...


i fell in luv with the dish while studying in uk. now, i get cravings for it here but luckily there are restaurants here who can do it better than me. :)


Ria: if enyone decides to give me any money to research carbonara, which I sadly doubt, I'll count you in!

Wena: you should really try to cook this yourself: it's very easy, actually one of the first recipes I made on my own.


Yay a carbonara recipe without cream, this will not break my calorie bank. I've always cooked it using eggs, bacon and parmesan but now I will add that extra egg yolk, pecorino, and pancetta too, if I can find it here in Singapore.

David Leite

Yesterday I interviewed the erudite and very funny food writer Jeffrey Steingarten. During the interview he mentioned that the equally erudite and funny food writer Calvin Trillin had lobbied for spaghetti alla carbonara to become the national Thanksgiving dish. I didn't follow that topic, as I had other things to accomplish, but I thought that was a very interesting and original idea.


oh, i know how to do it but somehow can never make the cream as thick as those found in restaurants. :)


David, from what you write I would assume that carbonara is quite popular in the States. Or was this just a provocative idea from Calvin Trillin? In any case it would save a lot of time compared to turkey roasting :-).

David Leite


With this ridiculous Atkins craze going on, all pasta has been vilified. But I have always been a carbaholic, so I may have a skewed perception. In any event, yes, I think it's a popular dish here. Unlike Italians, though, most Americans eat it (and most pastas) as their main course. In fact, I made the dish last night, and I, too, was gulity of serving it as the secondo.

I think I would still hold out and have my turkey on Thanksgiving. But a side of carbonara wouldn't be a bad idea...



I have to admit that the idea of pasta as "secondo" or "contorno" still unsettles me a bit :-). Still, after living in and visiting a few European countries I must admit that we Italians are probably the exception with our love for "primo".


Believe it or not my favourite place for Spaghetti alla Carbonara is at the Pennisula Hotel in Hong Kong. Everytime I am there I just must have this yummy dish.

I have tried to make it and although I am an excellent cook this perfection escapes me.

Last night I made it with excellent quality ingredients of freshly grated regiano-parmesano, eggs at room temperature, cream, onions sauteed, even some sliced mushrooms for a change, salt, pepper, and nope just not the same as it is there.

Mary-Anne in the continuing search for the perfect Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe


Mary-Ann, i'd love to help you find your "perfect carbonara" but I fear that I have no clue where to start since the dish has been modified and changed so much. My impression is that many restaurants today go really heavy on cream when it comes to this sauce, so maybe that's the trick. It annoys me a bit that they still call it carbonara even when it's not but on the other hand that's a personal thing of mine :-).


I have often tried carbonara, but always felt it was much too heavy for my taste. Of course, the dish always had cream or milk in it. Today, I was watching Lidia's Italian Table cooking show on tv and she made a version totally devoid of cream. I was shocked. Is it authentic? More importantly, is it GOOD? I decided to do research online and came upon this site. I made the carbonara according to Lidia's recipe that I saw on television and it came out delicious, something I will definitely make again.


Courtney, happy you like the "authentic" carbonara, if such a thing really exists. However, carbonara is not something known for its lightness :-). Even the creamless version IMO is quite heavy. It's a dish I keep for those cold days when I need some comfort pasta.


I stumbled upon your blog whilst trying to settle a bet about the origins of this recipe. My family is form the island of Ischia off Napoli however I have family in Rome. My cousin there, in his youth, was facinated with this dish and claimed to have visited over 100 kitchens in restaurants throughout Rome to find the "perfect" recipe.

Here I will share whith you what I know.

First and fore most - NO CREAM. If you like cream then go and cook yourself a TV dinner or something and don't pretend to like Italian food.

Second: Pancetta is actually a substitute for the proper ingredient "Guancialla". Where pancetta is from the stomach of the pig, guancialla is from the face - is the jowels. It is very, very hard to find even in Italy and so it is understandable why pancetta is used as a substitute. There are some local butchers in a provincial town of Cori in Lazio that still prepare it. If you are in Australia or the US then good luck trying to find it. However here in Sydney there was once a butcher who did prepare it.

Thirdly: ratios of pepper and pecorino (keep the parmiggiano out of this recipe) are equal - about 50g per person.

Fourth: The guancialla is cooked over a moderate to simmering heat so as to retain as much juice as possible.

Fith: Once the pasta is coooked, it is added to the egg yolk, pepper & pecorino off the heat and mixed thoroughly. Only then do you stir through the carbonara.

Buon appetito :-)



Stefano, thanks for your interesting comments. A couple of things I'd like to add

1) I perfectly agree that cream shouldn't come in carbonara but there's no need to offend people who do. Many people who live abroad only get to know what is sold to them as Italian cuisine so it ain't their fault if they don't know what the "real deal" is. It's the Italian (or fake Italian) chefs abroad you should address your anger to. If you insult people you're certainly not going to convince anyone to try what real carbonara is. Furthermore, there's quite a few top Italian chefs (in Italy) who add just a dash of cream to carbonara.

2) Sorry but guaniale is NOT hard to find in Italy: any good "salumeria" (cheese and meats shop) will carry some. Regarding it's use in carbonara: we could argue for hours if guanciale is the original ingredient or not. I just prefer a good pancetta because guanciale has much more fat and, for an already rich dish as carbonara, I find that a bit too much. Guanciale is great on Amatriciana and Gricia, on the other hand.

3) Ever tried eating 50 grams of ground pepper? Or even (in cas I got that wrong) 25? There should be plenty of pepper in carbonara but not THAT much. Regarding the cheese: I think the parmigiano addition is quite recent but has a reason. Pecorino Romano used to be produced in a different way, i.e. with less salt, a few decades ago. If you only use pecorino in your carbonara the flavour will tend on the salty side, more than it probably should. So, to avoid this, you either use a pecorino that's not Pecorino Romano, or add a little Parmigiano

Ciao e buon appetito a te


I just returned from Rome, determined to replicate the carbonara that I fell in love with. I have done so, if I may boast. Good pasta (cook 12 minutes), pancetta, parm-reg and peccorino in equal amounts (@1 Cup for 1 LB.Pasta), 4 egg yolks and 1 whole egg, NO CREAM...it was not served with cream anywhee in Rome. Garnished with fresh parsley. Ravishing...

gerard duguet-grasser


stefano give the perfect recipe for carbonara, guanciale, pecorino ( instead of parmesan .. and alberto it's 50 grs of pecorino, not pepper, also guanciale is not an option, or whatever, it's the thing to use for carbonara, but if you like pancetta make some pasta with eggs pancetta and parmigiano, not carbonara ... you might even try cream ... but if you want carbonara follow the recipe of stefano ) egg yolk only ... i write this little note cause i wonder we can still find that kind of discussion ??? i wonder how a blog like this one can carry this subject and not give the right recipe, i wonder how people interested by food regionale have such difficulties to find the right recipes ??? sometimes there is some "option", some difference between recipe that can be both right, there is many "variation" possible, from one village to another ( it's was the same in france, in my home town every family got her personal variant of recipes traditional, but the base was always the same ) it's the same with carbonara, but if you look at three four good regional books you find the recipe, i wonder how the owner of this blog can come with the article of david leite as an interesting one, it's just wrong, it's absolutly irrelevant ???
it lead to wonder ??? i suppose that there is something that i don't understand, probably the love to talk ?
some napolitan put ognions in carbonara, some use parmigiano, soem use the entire eggs, etc etc but the basic and in my point of vue, the absolute best recipe, is the stefano one, you have some options maybe about how to cook the guanciale, you can come it to a very brown point ( carbonara ) but beside that, use the stefano recipe, at least please try it ... just try and you maybe fidn that is one of the best pasta you ever have, but i wonder what you know about pasta ???


Gerard, just wondering if you're a friend of Stefano by any chance? Since you seem to have tasted his carbonara I guess so. Sadly, what you write seems to serve the only function of taking his parts and it is a real pity that the tactic you choose for defending your friend is of insulting me, David Leite and those who read this blog. If I wanted to reply in the same tone you can rest assured that your message gives me plenty of ways to insult you back, but I won't. It is childish and serves no scope. So, if you want to discuss in a civil way, I'd be happy to, otherwise no thanks; I'll just delete any further message with a tone similar to the one above.

I will reply to your objections because, while I understand where they come from, there really is no consensus on them and I hope you'll see that while we can disagree about what I've written, I made my points with a reason.

1) guanciale. I still disagree on this one. There's no evidence that guanciale is the original ingredient of this dish. Furthermore, since Carbonara is a dish of simple origins I would rather believe that people used whatever they had at hand, be it guanciale or pancetta.

2) I agree on the yolks and no cream, still there's plenty of good Italian cookbooks that give a recipe with whole eggs, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was so in origin. Could you imagine poor coal miners throwing egg whites away?

3) Pecorino: I've made my point before. Sure, Pecorino is the original cheese but there are acceptable reasons to use some parmesan there since the cheese we know as pecorino today is not what it was 50 years ago.

BTW, for all three points I could quote to you some well known Italian regional cookbooks or recognized Italian chefs who use pancetta, whole eggs and a mixture of parmigiano and pecorino.

The real problem is simply that if you believe that Italian cooking has fixed coded recipes you have very little understanding of what Italian cooking is and its history. The French have had Escoffier and his fixed recipes, Italy never had something like it so there really is no sense in talking about only ONE correct recipe. THE recipe for carbonara simply does not exist: there are many, each with its little variation. That said, I'm not saying that Stefano's carbonara would be anything short of delicious, just that you should stop seeing things in such a black and white way. Oh yes, one last thing mind you, I do know my pasta quite well dear Gerard.

P.S. Thanks for correcting me about the pepper, my mistake.

gerard duguet-grasser

i rarely write over the internet, almost never, exactly for that reason... i mean for what's happen, i have no intention to insult ( while your menace are slightly insulting but really it's out of order ) ... i don't even know what is black and white, do you ? escoffier got a book that is at the basis of french cuisine, but he's not alone, and you read any others book from that period, from ali bab, montagné, pellaprat whatever, they all have difference, even important one at the very basis, so i can easily ( and by the way i know pefectly that most italian use pancetta, that many chef make carbonara in a different ways etc etc ) but "you" was talking about "carbonara", about tradition, of course even here i know that nobody make the same carbonara, i know that we are talking about cucina, etc etc but the consensus of the books (and people i know ) about carbonara is relatively simple and clear, you can argue, but not present a recipe as the one from david who is as far as it's almost possible to be from carbonara, there is three ingredient, beside pasta, david got the three worng, can we start talking about carbonara with that ? unless you talk about - as i said, but you seems to read my letter one way - we talk about pasta with this and that but not carbonara ) it's for me very simple, and i do write to make a point and you exactly react where you expect to react, tradition is moving, and there is some relatively precise "ricette", those ricette are basic, in general, with a lot of variations ( in my letter i said that in my home town every family make the same recipe differently, of ocurse there is not "one" recipe, i do come here to say something, in reality, not to insult anyone, or talk just to talk, i come here to bring something up, and you react exactly where i think the problem is, my point is that a tradition exist that we should know, understand, for that we need to stay as close as possible from it to start with, specially when it's so simple as pasta alla carbonara, then everything is possible, absolutly, this is the way of freedom i think, and it's just my point, it's nothing, but believe me you are far away with your comments of my previous post, incidentally my english is so-so ) when tradition exist it's a point from where we can follow a thread, something from the past to today, some reflection of ways of living, the day by day life from yesterday to today, communicate with the past, we our history, there is the way to find what's tied us, what's behind cooking, behind carbonara, it's like art, music, poetry whatever, do you really believe that i think there is "one" recipe for carbonara, absolutly not, but the one from stefano in on the right tracks while david is off, it's as simple as that, from there you go no where, you off tracks, i don't want to argue, once more don't forget that my english is so-so and my tone maybe agressive, maybe, my goal is not, i am a writer, my writing is as much far from eveyrthing from the tradition you can find probably, but i know the tradition, i know what they do at the time, in some case i know exactly, and at a lesser degree it's the same with carbonara, something a recipe can take you far away in the future sometime they can only take you back, above all that, carbonara is a simple recipe, and... another point very important i believe is the taste, the taste no ? try the one for stefano and the one from david and you'll see ... try it with a good pecorino ( which is so difficult to find it's the problem ) and with parmesan,you can argue that it's a matter of taste, then the conversation is over, cause in cucina, like in art, when it's perfect we know it, we know and it's difficult to explain, very much, cause if someone disagree there is a great chance that it doesn't understand ) ...................................... i hope i am more clear, hope you don't feel insult, cause it's not my point, at all, i do write for the sake of art, which is the sake of the truth, which is - whatever you can think about - always at the same place
gerard duguet-grasser


Gerard, I want to sincerely thank you for your last message: I was really happy to read it. I admit that your previous message seemes rather agressive to me, hence my reply. Unfortunately having had a few people comment on this blog in a very insulting way in the past I probably tend to react too strongly, and I'm sorry if I offended you in any way and also for missunderstanding you and thinking you were advocating a unique carbonara recipe. I see your point, though I still might disagree on one or two things you say about the recipe. It is sometimes sad that a discussion as this one, that could probably be friendly and open face to face leads to incomprehension because of the internet medium.

Regarding your points about the recipe you touch something that is very important, which is taste. As I tried to make clear in my reply before, I think Stefano's recipe is very good though I do not agree (still :-)!) about the guanciale. One reason is the "right tracks" you mention: having read many Italian sources on this dish I assure you that I'm not alone in thinking pancetta should be used. But that, I hope we can agree on this, in itself is not so important. Taste in the end is the real judge, and it is the main reason why I prefer pancetta. I find the richer guanciale makes this dish too fatty for my taste. I can perfectly understand if others prefer guanciale, but still do not agree. Or maybe I should try your carbonara sometime and give you a chance to convince me. Again, you're perfectly right about pecorino but for those who cannot find a good one the mixture of 50:50 pecorino Romano to Parmigiano is a good solution since it gives a better result than all Romano.

One last thing regarding David's article and recipe. As he wrote in his mail to me, the focus of the article was not aimed at finding THE recipe for carbonara but rather he... was writing about my experience with the legend I that I encountered and how it sparked a quest to eat the dish in as many places as possible. In this view I quite enjoyed what he wrote. Sure, I think my own recipe and Stefano's are better than the one in the article, but I don't think that one is off the track considering that loads of recipes from well known food personalities have cream, onions and, god forbid, even peas! For someone who grew with this idea of carbonara (and that's not only abroad, I know quite a few Italians who make it in a similar way unfortunately) Devid's article is a good place to start seeing things in a different way and I appreciate that.

gerard duguet-grasser


no problem at all ... but my point is at the absolute opposite of what you said at the end of your last post, but it's very difficult subject and maybe it's not the place, whe we use tradition to 'open' something we should start from tradition, not from errance, unless you wanna go nowhere which is where many goes those days, everybody wants to do things form scratch, it's possible, but let's ignore fully tradition in this case, that's theory and probably not the place to talk about, but i hope you see my point, my original post was to point that, to point to the fact that we have a lot to learn from tradition, ( carbonara might be not a perfect example but ) but in order to understand we have to give it a try, my grand mother use to say "mettre la charrue avant les boeufs" ... i know that carbonara with peas, onions, cream, i know it, in fact in napoli many put onions and it's quite good, it's not the point, the point also is not to know who create carbonara, where exactly it come, but we should and can have a picture of it, an "idea", a sense, and it can only start with a recipe as close as the originale, original that doesn't exist in another, it's myth, nobody ever does the real carbonara and nobody will, tradition, cuisine, art, life, it's above, under, but along the way there is "facts", those facts are there to find our way back, without them we can live, but we can't talk about tradition, unless we have some times to lose, which is also possible, and fine with me .......... so Alberto it's not a point to agree or disagree with guanciale ( carbonara should be made with guanciale .. i have to laugh but i do believe it and i hope i can some from you, yes, one day, why not trying wihtout less guanciale to avoid to much grease ? i think the way you cook the guanciale, for the recipe, is a critical point, i do cook it a little differetly than stefano, i do try to flirt with "carbon", i mean burn it without burning it ) i do perfer to work that way with tradition, and here i use carbonara as a symbol, and of course i play with fire ( no pun ) and get easily out of tracks myself, but i hope i show my point, i like to play with "what's there" rather than trying to find different ways when i don't have yet understood what i was playing with, i do cook the guanciale in many ways, i do try many many ways to make the carbonara with the initial ingredients, etc etc but really when it comes to the real thing, the pasta in the plate, if you ever try the one Stefano and i talk about you'll have a hard time after to go back to those with cream for example, those with parmigiano, yes pancetta can be use of course, it's lardo, and really the difference is small, but of course the original - imagine that stefano one is - recipe iis relatively greasy, relatively, you can play with that, with guanciale, but keep in mind that if you use guanciale is cause it's greasy, of course ......... and when i want pasta with cream i try the alfredo ? another roman recipe.
take care
ps i know my pasta also, by the way which one you use ?


Gerard, I think I understand your point about tradition more than might seem from my message, but I know that tradition is somethingthat has a meaning for some of us that grew up with that concept, but much less for those who did not and I try to talk to everyone who's interested in food, not only those who share my own values .

I'll definitely try carbonara with guanciale again "flirting with carbon", as you say. I'm always ready to try something new and I'll definitely let you know how it went.

When I can find it I use pasta from "Pastai Gragnanesi", having lived a long time in Naples I'm partial to local products from Campania. Unfortunately here in Germany it's hard to come by, so often I end up using Garofalo which is a fine industrial pasta. What about you?

gerard duguet-grasser


industrial pasta ??? ... then it's difficult and i don't what to say ... gragnano setaro whatever from campania, abruzzo ... everything but industrial, you can order on the internet i suppose ... ciao


Maybe you should give it a try if you happen to find some nonetheless. If you're thinking Barilla or similar you're way off. Garofalo's pasta (coming from Gragnano) is the only "industrial" pasta I know that has characteristics similar to artisanal one. It's not as good as Pastai Gragnanesi, Rustichella or Latini but it's not too far away. Sure, if I could afford it I would be ordering Pastai Gragnanesi over the net every couple of months, but I'm not so lucky. Ciao.



An interesting debate. So the authentic recipe would be as follows??

6-10 slices thinly sliced guaniale
1 pound spaghetti
3 large eggs yolks, one whole egg
Grated Pecorino Romano approx 50g per person
Freshly ground black pepper to serve

Does this sound about right?

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