Discovering the Essential Carbonara

Like so many famous Italian dishes, there are many stories behind the combination of eggs, guanciale (cured pork jowl), cheese and pasta that is the magical pasta carbonara. Some ascribe the dish to Carbonari, a secret revolutionary society from the late 1800s.  Other than the similarity in name, there doesn’t seem to be much too that, since references to pasta carbonara don’t appear until after World War II. More likely is that in the 1940s, American servicemen would bring their rations of dried eggs and bacon to the locals in and around Rome, who logically turned them into a hearty, creamy pasta dish with pecorino romano. Over time, the locals swapped bacon for guanciale the local favorite cured pig jowl, and went from powdered eggs to fresh egg yolks. Ecco! We have a classic.

Here’s our Chef Lorenzo Boni’s take on the essential elements of carbonara:
“I love a classic carbonara – in my early cheffing days we would make it with whole eggs and pancetta. Today it’s all about the guanciale and egg yolks only! There are no wrong answers, but I would keep a couple of guidelines in mind to stay true to carbonara. First for me it’s got to have an egg element, whether that’s whole eggs, yolks, fish roe; you need that creaminess from something like an egg. Second, you need a bacon element, for saltiness and that meaty texture. How you get there is up to you!”

Here are a few of our favorite carbonara takes:

The classic version via Chef Lorenzo

The dish that won the pasta world championships in 2017! A seafood carbonara from Chef Accursio Lota of Trattoria Cori Pastificio in San Diego

A chili crisp-onara from Chef Yury, adding in a kick from chili crisp

Chicken carbonara over chickpea rotini, from Chef Kevin Paul at UMASS Dining

How will you celebrate Carbonara Day this April 6? Let us know, we’d love to help!