To be fair to the Italians, they have a point: carbonara, a Roman speciality, is claimed to have been the traditional favourite of Apennine charcoal burners, or carbonai, who needed a simple dish that could be prepared quickly over a campfire. If those guys could take two pans up the mountains on their grimy backs, then their Gallic neighbours, never people to shy away from overcomplicating things in the kitchen department, should surely be able to wash a couple up in the comfort of their Parisian apartments.
More importantly, the offending video (which has since, and wisely, been taken down) is a travesty against taste as well as tradition. Real carbonara relies on gently rendering the salty fat from pancetta, grating the cheese into fluffy clouds, infusing olive oil with a little garlic – and then swiftly, decisively, tossing these with hot pasta and raw egg until the whole thing comes together in a rich savoury sauce. It’s pure kitchen alchemy.
Boiling action-man bow ties in the same pan as bacon, onion and a bit of water is never going to produce anything half as glorious – and as for adding creme fraiche and few mean shavings of parmesan, well, I can’t put it better than one Italian Facebook user: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Here’s a version I hope they would approve of:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
75g pancetta, cubed
250g dried spaghetti
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
25g pecorino romano, finely grated
25g parmesan, finely grated
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Put two bowls into a low oven to keep warm, or boil a kettle and half fill them with hot water. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat, then add the garlic and cook until well coloured, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the pancetta and cook until translucent and golden, but not brown around the edges.
2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and the extra yolk and then stir in the the pecorino and most of the parmesan, reserving a little for garnish. Grind in plenty of black pepper.
3. Scoop out a small cupful of the pasta cooking water, and then drain the pasta well. Tip it into the frying pan and toss to coat with the pancetta fat.
4. Take the pan off the heat and tip in the egg mixture, tossing the pasta furiously, then, once it has begun to thicken, add a dash of cooking water to loosen the sauce. Toss again, and divide between the warm bowls, finishing off with a grating of nutmeg and a little more parmesan. Eat immediately.