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?
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!