The Perfect Carbonara
Thursday, January 17, 2008 | posted by Mike
I hope you'll excuse me if today's post is a little bit more "food" and a little bit less "TV" than usual.
The folks over at Grub Street brought us word that today, January 17th, is International Day of Italian Cuisine. In order to celebrate the occasion, the sponsoring organization has issued a challenge to a number of chefs to make an "authentic" carbonara.
I'm going to assume that you have some familiarity with pasta carbonara, or at least some bastardized version of it. You can find said "authentic" recipe in PDF format here. The recipe has a number of additional notes, including:
In case you haven't already guessed, spaghetti carbonara may very well me my favorite dish in the world. It's also my white whale, having tried a dozen or more recipes without ever having it been "perfect." I've been getting closer and closer, and I do think that I can now consistently execute it very well. But "very well" is different than "perfectly," and that's what I'm shooting for here.
- You cannot make a Carbonara with pre-cooked pasta
- Cream is not an option but a gimmick, avoid it
- Make sure the plate or bowl is hot
- Do not overcook the egg, otherwise you will make spaghetti with scrambled egg.
The thing to note, and the reason you may be mistaken if you think you're a carbonara veteran, is the second bullet above. This is the sine qua non of authentic carbonara, and the factor that makes the whole process so tricky, since you're walking the tightrope between the egg's creamy coagulation and its soft-scrambled failure. The cream may better prevent it from going too solid, but it's cheating, and what's the sport in that? (As an aside, going straight to scrambled, while not optimal, still provides a tasty dish. Don't toss it in the garbage if this happens to you!)
The recipe that I've been working from lately has been Mario Batali's, although with one major difference. He reserves the egg yolks, dresses and plates the pasta and then puts the yolk on top, letting the diner break it. I've never been able to go that route (or get Mrs. TVFF to let me serve it that way), so I beat the whole eggs and dress the pasta in the pan.
Good news: I'm having pasta for dinner tonight. Bad news: It's not carbonara. However, this has encouraged me to give it another go in the very near future. Be sure to let us know if you give it a try, or if this dish is one of your favorites.
Bonus Fun Fact: Tom Cruise's carbonara recipe looks pretty legit!