“Carbonara is one of the dishes that epitomises Italy’s cuisine. It’s simple, beautiful, and pure, but so easy to mess up.
When I was young my understanding of a carbonara was any pasta, sliced ham, mushrooms, double cream, and cheddar cheese. It wasn’t until 2002 when I was 20 years old and picked up a copy of Heston Blumenthal’s Family Food and read his recipe. Whilst it wasn’t 100% authentic it changed the way I thought about this dish, and I wanted to find out more. I fell in love with the technique of creating the rich sauce through the egg, cheese and pasta water. There is skill and discipline in getting it just right. Too much heat and it’s scrambled egg, not enough and it’s thin and raw tasting without the gloss.
The classic recipe calls for guanciale which is a cured pig cheek bacon that has a high ratio of fat. I get mine from Salt Pig Curing who are my favourite English charcutier company. Guanciale is hard to get hold of in this country so don’t guilt yourself if you have to use pancetta just get the best you can afford, and you will still produce a lovely dish.
This dish will be quite tricky for novices, but stick at it as practice makes perfect. For professionals, you will notice a little difference in this dish. Whilst I have full respect for the original, this method is slightly tweaked to get a better sauce.
I had read into this method and was inspired by visit my visit to Lucciano Cucina in Rome. Chef Luciano Monosilio is known as the carbonara king which is a very worthy title in my opinion. He uses the same ingredients apart from switching out some of the pecorino for grana padano, I agree that this gives a better flavour balance.
The key difference is that instead of making a paste of the cheese and egg yolk he makes almost a hollandaise style sauce using the egg yolks and cheese then whisks in them and guanciale fat. It was without doubt the best carbonara I have ever eaten I was so inspired by this I have done a similar technique below. This gives a more of a custardy kind of feel to the sauce. I will never make it another way now.”
We don’t know about you, but Paul Foster’s Carbonara is now our ONLY Carbonara!