Spaghetti alla Carbonara

by cakeduchess on July 15, 2011 · 43 comments

It’s official. My eating odyssey in Italy has come to an end. I may be am slightly depressed. I am going through Italy withdrawals. I miss my mother-in-law. Sniffle.

I miss hearing, “Mangia! Mangia!” all day long. I even miss hearing I need to gain 5 more kilos from Nonna Antonia. That’s Fabrizio’s 82 year old grandmother. She is my idol. She is full of stories and wisdom. I want to write a book just about her and her life. Gabriella asked Nonna one day towards the end of the trip if she’s allowed to wear any thing else but the black outfits she wears. She also asked why her hair is always in a braid in the back. Nonna Antonia has a sparkle in her eye and always ready with a quick witted response. She still cooks and cans food with her daughter Teresa. She was very sick last year and I wasn’t sure if we would get to see her this trip.

Here is Nonna Antonia (my hubby’s grandmother) trying not to obviously pose fo rme. She’s a fighter and was waiting to see us with her huge hugs and lots of baci.

I think I did gain the 5 kilos they thought I was missing. I miss the 3 course meals and then fruit and immediately after dessert.

Teresa’s house is full of food surprises. She has a cantina and a work room where she makes all her salame, pancetta, capicolla, and other cured meats when the months are cooler. She has a professional slicer from the brand Lario. Fabrizio told me it’s a really good brand and slices even better than the one he has at the restaurant. She also makes cheese in this room.

This is the pancetta they used in this recipe. That is her salame piccante on the right. A spicy salame that is hard to eat just one slice of. Before every meal there was fresh bread at the table and serving plates with her homemade charcuterie. Teresa needs to sell her meats. They are the most delicious meats I have ever eaten. It’s a shame it was not the right season for her to show me how to cure the meats. She does it in the cooler months.
Fabrizio had fun cooking with his mom these days. They both are fast movers and are bursting with talent. They kindly let me intrude to take some photos. They also put me to work on some occasions.

Pasticcini that my adorable friend Megan from Rimini and her fiance’ Giacomo brought over that day to visit us.  The chocolate one with pistachios on top was my favorite!!
Megan and Giacomo. Aren’t they a gorgeous couple?Smile

Like most recipes, the origins of the dish are obscure, and there are several hypotheses about it. As the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. The etymology gave rise to the term “coal miner’s spaghetti”, which is used to refer to spaghetti alla carbonara in parts of the United States. It has even been suggested that it was created by, or as a tribute to, the Carbonari (“charcoal men”), a secret society prominent in the unification of Italy.More recently, a restaurant in Rimini (one of my favorite towns in Italy) has claimed the original recipe was born during WWII. Powdered eggs and milk, along with bacon, were standard issue for the American troops and were widely used for bartering with the population. Italians would use those ingredients and pepper to make the sauce. The dish became popular among American troops stationed in Italy; upon their return home, they popularized it in North America.
Carbonara is a “poor man’s pasta”. But when you make it with delicious pancetta-maybe even homemade pancetta-you have something so rich and full of flavors. It’s a tricky dish to make because it could be too wet and runny or too dry. You want the texture to be creamy and not too saucy. Maybe it was the Italian eggs that made it this dreamy texture.
The eggs are not raw in this dish. They cook as soon as they come into contact with the hot spaghetti. Once you stir the spaghetti and egg yolks together, they cook some more. You want to achieve a creamy and not too thick sauce. It may take a few times practicing until you reach it’s luscious pasta perfection. You will be happy to keep practicing.

Cook this pasta dish for a date and your date may fall in love with you. You may even get a marriage proposal.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound spaghetti
5 large egg yolks, well beaten
4 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Pecorino Romano)
1/2 cup of boiling pasta water
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it ripples. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Set the pan aside. Beat the eggs with the milk and set aside.

Boil water in a a large pot and add the salt. When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti. Stir frequently and cook until it is al dente. Drain, reserving the 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Add the reserved pasta water to the pan with the pancetta, then toss in the pasta. Shake the pan over the heat a few times to combine the pasta with the pancetta. Then add the  add the Parmigiano and the eggs yolks. Add pepper to taste and stir until thoroughly mixed.

Sprinkle generously with pepper and serve at once. If you can’t get enough of cheese, sprinkle some more on!


{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Cait July 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm

that looks amazing :) and those desserts look might tasty! haha! great recipe!


Cookin' Canuck July 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm

This is such a wonderful post, Lora. It sounds as though you had some amazing moments with your husband’s family – his grandmother sounds like a character! Spaghetti carbonara is such a great comfort dish and you are making me crave a bowl of it right now.


In Katrina's Kitchen July 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Welcome home! WHat a wonderful wonderful trip! You are makingmemissItaly – and I’ve never even been there! lol


Pretend Chef July 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

A proposal worthy recipe!?! If you didn’t know I have a page on my blog titled “I Do Eats” so I need to try this. This is a pasta dish I order out but have never tried to make myself. Yummy!


Mari July 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm

You have me dreaming of Italy. I am glad you had a wonderful time. I am sure you still look beautiful even with those kilos you gained. I will keep posted to see your beautiful mangoes and the desserts you come up with.

Happy Friday :)


Pam @ From Apples To Zucchini July 15, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I am sorry that your vacation is over, but am so glad you shared this amazing recipe! I’ll be bookmarking it for a special occasion.


sliceofmylyfe July 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm

So inspiring. You are lucky to have an MIL who can share such lovely recipes and we are lucky that you blog about it so beautifully.Thank you.


Mrs. Jen B July 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Ooooh everything looks amazing. Just another of a million reasons I am going to visit Italy!

So glad I found your blog today :)


marifra79 July 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Non hai idea da quanto tempo mi piacerebbe farla… ottima! Un abbraccio e buonissima serata


Viviane Bauquet Farre July 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm

So rich and creamy – wonderfully authentic photos too! Thank you for this great post!


Roxana GreenGirl July 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Welcome back Lora. Such a wonderful post. Looks like all of you had such a wonderful time. You had me dreaming of my upcoming trip. Can’t wait to see my family!!
The spaghetti look amazing, the perfect comfort food!


Carolyn July 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I LOVE carbonara! Yours looks fab. Sorry your time in Italy is over, I can imagine how tough that is.


Adora's Box July 15, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Simple and delicious carbonara. Simply delicious! I love watching the Italian travel and cooking shows where they show the town elders expertly make delicious, rustic, local fare. they seem so wise in their ways and their cooking talent and energy never seem to wane. So admirable.


claudia lamascolo July 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm

She so reminds me of my grandmother that passed many years ago. She was from Rome Italy, she use to wear tied up boot shoes, dresses only and braided her hair, She passed at 94. I just can never duplicate the taste of her sauce, it was truly amazing. I so envy you, I am sure you feel sad leaving I would too, but this dish is quite a wonderful memory you made together!


Baking Serendipity July 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm

This looks delicious! You have me ready to pack for a trip to Italy too :) I can see how you will miss this.


Angie's Recipes July 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Love carbonara! No wonder you miss Italy ;-))


The Mom Chef July 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I love your husband’s mother! She looks so much like my Armenian grandmother did (though she always had hers in a French twist). I wish I could be a fly in that kitchen and watch her swirl around, cooking and making all those glorious foods.

You’ve made my absolute favorite pasta dish, you know. It’s my go-to comfort food above all others. And you make it exactly the same way I do (of course, an Italian taught me). :)


Susan Lindquist July 15, 2011 at 8:46 pm

It may be poor folk food, but it is one of my very favorite of pasta dishes! I love it with toasted walnuts turned into the pasta too.


Jennifurla July 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I have never made this, but I really need too. Looks great


Magic of Spice July 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Oh, sounds like you had a wonderful time…I am sure they miss you as well, and thank you for sharing your trip with us :)
This is a wonderful carbonara and my kids are crazy for pancetta in everything :)
Have a great weekend…


Michael Toa July 15, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I love spaghetti alla carbonara. This looks so mouth-watering! and that tray of desserts look gorgeous.


Erin July 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm

This is my Mom’s all time favorite Italian dish! Sounds like a wonderful trip, so jealous! Can’t wait to try this, looks amazing!


Maris(In Good Taste) July 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm

You are so blessed to have such a wonderful family to welcome you so warmly. Sounds like you had such a memorable vacation. I have enjoyed sharing it with you through your gorgeous photos.


That's Ron July 15, 2011 at 11:27 pm

wow …look at all the nonas there cooking… I’ll gain that 5 kilos for that anytime


Gloria July 16, 2011 at 2:45 am

all look amazing! gloria


SweetSugarBelle July 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Thank you for sharing. I hadthe most wonderful Easter dinner with an Italian family about eight years ago…it was like nothing this small town Texas girl had experienced…pasta as an apetizer with a sauce I wonder every day how they made…and struffoli…I love that best.


BakingWithoutaBox July 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Oh Lord. Everything just sounds so good from your trip. With all of Nonna’s good eatin, I’d have gained a ton.


Priscilla - She's Cookin' July 16, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Oh my goodness, Nonna Antonia’s homemade salumi looks so delicious and I love the twinkle in her eyes. Nothing better than simple, creamy carbonara, yum! Thanks for sharing some of the food and love from your family visit – I’d be missing it, too.


Chef Dennis July 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm

it looks like you had such a wonderful trip, I’m so happy to hear you got to spend so much time with your family, and that you got to eat so many wonderfull meals! Thank you for posting the carbonara, everyone takes so many liberties with this recipe, to see the classical version as it was meant to me is a joy, I just wish I could have samples a bowl or two!


Lizzy July 17, 2011 at 12:34 am

Welcome home, Lora!!! Oh, my…I think I’d hide in a closet and never come home if I was you. Loved going along on your journey and culinary adventures…what a blessing to be part of this wonderful family!


Gina July 17, 2011 at 4:49 am

Next time can I stow away in your suitcase, please. Nonna Antonia is my hero. Sounds like you had a wonderful time, i bet it was hard to leave, not that you don’t have an amazing family here, but it’s great having two huh. Will have to stow this recipe away for use soon. Welcome home.


Federica July 17, 2011 at 7:34 am

Le partenze da casa lasciano sempre un po’ di trizezza nel cuore, specie quando si vive così lontano. Ma ripreparare questo piatto sarà come sentirsi più vicini ogni volta. Un bacio, buona domenica. A presto


Lauren at Keep It Sweet July 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Welcome back! Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. I think Italy is the best place in the world to gain weight:-) This recipe looks delicious.


Chris July 17, 2011 at 2:04 pm

This comment has been removed by the author.


Chris July 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Between your trip to Italy, and my daughter’s trip to Granada this summer, I am a world class traveler LOL

I am jealous of those lovely cured meats that Theresa makes *sighs* (my weakness – well that and romano cheese – GOOD romano, capish?) I was actually contemplating asking my daughter to bring home some Spanish chorizo, but I’m not sure she’d want to stick that in her checked bag with all her clothes LOL.

Megan and Giacomo look adorable. You’ve now given me another place to visit besides Venice and Moltepulciano – Rimini!

I love carbonara – I wish I could find decent pancetta here. I may have to make the trek into Little Italy in Baltimore in order to experience an inkling of what you tasted in Italy :) Glad you had such a great time with family and friends!

*I think all grandmas are alike* My daughter is staying in a host home in Granada with a 70 year old Spanish woman who keeps telling her “Comer! Comer!” and gives her HUGE hunks of breakfast bread and sandwiches – she keeps saying “¿Cuánto pesa?” LOL She thinks my daughter needs to gain about 5 kilos as well – Maybe that’s the magic number for all grandmas :)


Anna and Liz Recipes July 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm

HI Lora !

I just found your blog and love your recipes!
We too cook Italian recipes but mostly from southern Italy! This looks amazing! We love carbonara! We too travel to Italy often! This summer, our cousins arrive for the month of August! :) Anna


Sandra July 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Ohhh what a great post Lora.. every time when i come here I just kick back and enjoy reading!!
I think you should write a book about her, I can imagine what a life stories she has in her pocket:))..
Everything looks absolutely mouthwatering..and now welcome back!!!


Kate@Diethood July 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm

It amazes me how similar our cultures are… from mangia mangia to sharing their wisdom, history, etc… Every Grandma in Macedonia looks like Nonna Antonia… and they all think I need to gain 5 kilos, at least! :)

P.S. I am making your spaghetti carbonara as I am typing this… can’t wait to eat! xoxo


Courtney July 17, 2011 at 11:54 pm

At least you can savor the memories ;-) Ahhh how I’d love to visit Italy!


Lo-mo July 18, 2011 at 3:09 am

You officially have me wanting to go back to Italy!! Perhaps we should arrange a blogger field trip!


Lindsay @Eat, Knit, Grow July 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Yum! What an amazing visit! Everything looks so delicious.


kita July 19, 2011 at 1:48 am

Look at those beautiful cured meats! My goodness if thats not a picture of heaven right there. Next time you shove me in that suitcase – I’ll be quiet, I promise, I’ll just eat like a pig!

I love spaghetti carbonara and this one looks so homey and delicious. Im drooling over here!


Sandra July 20, 2011 at 1:01 am

So happy you had a wonderful time on your holiday.


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