The Carbonara Myth

Issue 78

On the 6th of April, Italians celebrate National Carbonara Day, paying homage to unquestionably the most famous pasta dish to emerge from Italia.

While there is some dispute as to the origins of the dish it is know that it originated in the Lazio region and the first documented mentioning of the word ‘Carbonara’ is believed to be in 1950 in the newspaper ‘La Stampa’ as a dish coveted by American GI’s.

It is unlikely that American GI’s were responsible for its creation as claimed by some, usually American, scholars or that it was created by the secret society of Carbonari. The Italian Freemasons. Far more likely is that it evolved from the Neapolitan dish Cacio e Pepe, a pasta dish with cheese and pepper, via Lazio in the form of ‘Pasta alla Gricia’ where Guanciale (pork cheek bacon) was added. At this point someone thought “what this dish needs is an egg!”. This evolution created the perfect quick and easy meal for ‘Carbonari’, charcoal men who would deliver coal from Umbria to Lazio and the most likely source of the name.

Irrespective of the origin, this simple and delicious dish is a firm favorite all over the world. The chefs at Punto prepare a very traditional version of Carbonara alla Romana as made by my nonna, the late Lidia Rea, which she would undoubtedly be delighted for me to share.

A few essentials are fresh pasta of a long strand type, such as spaghetti. Fresh eggs and guanciale (cheek bacon) or pancetta (belly bacon). I will mention that our butcher, Block & Bottle on Heaton Road, make their own exceptional guanciale. Finally, a plastic mixing bowl.

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