Recipe: proper spaghetti carbonara

 

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Recipes are not protected by copyright law, probably as they are evolving all the time. And as much as I like to keep to tradition when it comes to certain dishes I love to experiment with others.

When it comes to pasta there is no reason to always stick to the traditional recipes, but I think it’s good to try to master them first.

Growing up in Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s, we had a lot of traditional Scandinavian dishes, usually including meat and potatoes. Italian dishes then, when the world seemed a bigger place, were often (very) bastardised versions of the real thing, and therefore not of great inspiration to me. Because I only had the school dinner version of lasagne to sample I thought for a long time I didn’t like the dish. But it turned out it was just that terrible (yes, terrible) version I didn’t like. It was the same with ravioli (and other non-Italian dishes); my reference points were bad. Whereas everything my mother (or grandmothers) cooked was always delicious, but more Scandinavian in heritage.

Now my relationship with Italian food is quite different. I have been to Italy a few times and tried the real thing, and also cooked proper Italian dishes at home. And the emulsion of water and Parmesan keeps fascinating me. First of all, it’s DELICIOUS, but also, once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult at all as this recipe proves. And once and for all, you do not need cream to make a creamy carbonara, just a little patience and using the method below. But I must admit I added one tablespoon of it during my first attempt, although it’s not needed. As always Gennaro Contaldo’s recipes are spot on. Grazie.

Spaghetti Carbonara, serves 2

Adapted from Gennaro Contaldo’s for Jamie Oliver recipe.

3 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

Put the egg yolks into a bowl, finely grate in the Parmesan, season with pepper, then mix well with a fork and put to one side. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Fry the pancetta in a little oil over medium-high heat. Peel the garlic and crush it and add it to the pan for flavour – remove if it browns or when finished cooking. Reserve some cooking water and drain the pasta and add it to the pancetta pan. Toss well over the heat so it really soaks up all that lovely flavour, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pasta back to the spaghetti pan, season and add a splash of the cooking water, then pour in the egg mixture (the pan will help to cook the egg gently, rather than scrambling it). Toss well, adding more cooking water until it’s lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of Parmesan and extra pepper. 

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Wonderful lunch in Rome (Armando al Pantheon)

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Book! That’s my best tips for visiting Rome. Book everything you possibly can beforehand; taxi from the airport, tickets to all the sights and tables at sought after restaurants.

During my lunch at Armando al Pantheon, which is a small and cosy restaurant, I saw the maitre d’ send away at least ten people that hadn’t booked as not a single table was available for walk-ins. So I was extra pleased I had made a reservation (you can do it online so no hassle at all) because this was a restaurant I certainly didn’t want to miss.

I took the old adage When in Rome seriously and had antipasti, primi and secondi. And wine. Oh, what a lunch!

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I started with bruschetta; one with lardo and walnut (nice!) and one with quail’s egg and truffle (wow!).

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I then had the spaghetti alla carbonara (a typical roman pasta just like cacio de pepe), and Armando’s version was lovely. Not too creamy but with plenty of flavour and nice pieces of pancetta this was exactly what I thought proper Italian pasta was about. Only downside was the size of the portion – if I had finished it I wouldn’t have been able to eat anything else, so I ate about half and saved myself for the next dish.

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It was one of the specials that I thought I might try if I could finish the pasta, but when the waiter told the table next to me about the specials I just could not not order the slow cooked veal with truffle. Although really full after the pasta, I almost felt less full after having had just meat, jus and truffle. The meat was very tender and the jus nice and light but with nice flavours.

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Armando’s is, as you can see, small and cosy. So cosy I made friends with the people at the next table (we sat very close) who loved the place so much they’d come back six times during their two weeks in Rome. Armando al Pantheon, Salita dè Crescenzi, 31, 00186 Roma, Italy