Pasta Alla Carbonara at Saigon Outcast
Pasta alla carbonara is a recent addition to Italian cookbooks.
An offshoot of the beloved Roman dish cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta), they say the addition of eggs and bacon came from American GIs. It was in a Florentine kitchen during my study abroad that I learned the recipe. When I was in Florence studying at Lorenzo de’Medici five years ago, I took a semester-long cooking class with an ex-Army general named Gabriele that made a serious impression on me. It wasn’t the recipes that impressed me but the stories behind each and everyone of them. Many people don’t realize that the Italian food we know and love in the USA is not a true representation of Italian food as a whole. Most of the people who fled Italy during WWII were southern Italians. They brought along their knowledge but changed their recipes to fit American tastebuds. That being said: did you know mixing dairy with seafood is sacrilegious, the Italian topping preferences greatly differ from that of Americans, and spaghetti and meatballs, arguably the second-most popular Italian dish outside Italy IS NOT even authentically Italian.
So now that your mind is blown, let me introduce to you a dish that has also been altered in diaspora. One of them is pasta alla carbonara. People who are familiar with this dish know it for its creaminess. But in actuality, a true carbonara has no cream whatsoever. Carbonara sauce is purely egg and cheese fusing so beautifully in a hot pan that it mimics the consistency of cream. The name carbonaro is the Italian for charcoal burner; the Appenine charcoal burners supposedly depended on this hearty, but easy meal to prep, to get through a long day of hard work in the mines. These origins led to the nickname “coal miner’s spaghetti.”
ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS
- Carbonara sauce can be drizzled over any type of pasta. Spaghetti seems to be the pasta of choice but I’m a bigger fan of linguine as its a bit thicker and a little goes a long way. You can also use fettucine, rigatoni, or bucatine.
- Just an FYI: Italians prefer their pasta a bit firm aka ‘al dente.’ But I like it soft so I cook it for a minute longer and I always add a pinch of salt and a drop of olive oil to the pot. Also, DO NOT rinse your pasta afterwards.
- Your sauce will adhere better to the noodles if you don’t rinse it.
- Fresh parmesan is a must! Don’t opt for pre-grated parmesan.
- If you’re trying to go the healthier route, replace the butter with olive oil.
- Also, a note on the bacon. The original recipe, from Claudia Roden’s ‘Food of Italy‘ (p. 267), calls for pancetta. It’s basically the Italian equivalent of American bacon. It’s a bit saltier and has a very robust flavor. Try to use unsmoked, streaky bacon if pancetta is unavailable.
PASTA ALLA CARBONARA COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
ONTO PREP TIME! GET THOSE VEGGIES AND BACON CHOPPED. GRATING CHEESE BY HAND IS A PAIN BUT SO WORTH IT.
TRANSITIONING INTO COOKING, DON’T FORGET TO DOUBLE-BOIL YOUR EGGS TO KILL THE BACTERIA.
ONCE YOU PLATE YOUR PASTA ALLA CARBONARA, SPRINKLE A PINCH OF PEPPER, GRATE PARMESAN CHEESE OVER THE TOP, AND GARNISH WITH A SPRIG OF PARSLEY! BUON APPETITO!
WATCH THE TUTORIAL VIDEO TO GET ALL THE STEPS RIGHT
Looking for more recipes?
Spanish Lemongrass and Chili Croquetas
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Your artwork is on point. You built a template for this because the last post also looked similar. Love it as a branding exercise.
Also great you created printable versions of the recipe.
Thanks for the compliments and recognizing my branding strategy! I think its way easier to have an exact look and feel to everything. If you and your lady want to ever cook something up, you are always welcome to 😀
This looks like such Fun! Lots of laughs and great food, I love your pics too. It is true that as a european the U.S. version of Italian food filled me with horror!
Yes hahaha! The American version of any original cuisine is such a far departure from its true form! I would be horrified too!
Izzy!! I studied in Florence too! 😀 I wish I would have done this cooking class that you speak of! LOVE LOVE LOVE the video! You should do more! You’re so fun and I felt like I was right there with you! I wish I was at this event! I love cooking and miss it while traveling, you seem like you’d be a great cooking buddy! I am going to try this recipe while we are home btw! Keep up the awesome work, I love your content!
I know you told me you studied there!!! The cooking class was part of my program! Which school did you attend? And thanks for the video compliments. They take so long to put together. I told Scott I’m dragging your butts down to some cool foodie places and were gonna make some awesome videos together. You are the absolute sweetest <3
What a fun video. Looked super delicious and made me wanna eat right meow. Had such a great time watching this and loved all the graphics! So much fun!
I feel like i gotta do some cool foodie thing with you and Megan when were in the Philippines so we can capture all our silliness together! It would make for an amazing watch!
That’s great! I always love hearing about food and the history. I live in Korea currently and it’s the same here. They have stews that were based on American army men describing food back home so the Koreans made it and still eat it… but it’s LITERALLY nothing like an American stew. Or the “Chinese” food here which isn’t like American Chinese food OR Chinese Chinese food. Seriously.. can anyone get Chinese food right? Food! I just love the stories too.
On top of eating, I love the stories behind everything. Food history is so fascinating! Yes!! I heard of army stew but I don’t think I ever tried it while I was living there. Hahah Chinese food comes in so many shapes, its kind of crazy?! 😛
I love your food facts and damn this looks delicious. I wish I was a guest at the event that night to have tried your scrumptious pasta! How long did it take and how many people were at the event?
Aww thanks Jo! It took me 3 hours to prepare everything but I was overly cautious with time and made sure I made a test batch beforehand. There were about 80 guests there that I fed that night and for someone who’s cooked for 10 people at most (with many helpers,) it was a bit insane!
Oh man I miss vietnam so much and saigon outcast as well. Great post and enjoy your journey
Thanks Mimi! I know you were living here for a time too. Whereabouts are you now?
You’re such a lively girl, Izzy. You make cooking glamorous with your prints:-). And this resto’s promo is great! I can see you’re loving Saigon each day!
Awwww thank you Wendy! I wish I could chronicle more of my foodie moments as it they form the basis of my everyday way more than I show off! And yes, I had to help out my friend! The venue is so cool and she took the time to video everything I was doing. It was a great exhcange. 😀