“Authenticity” —as a goal—sounds noble enough, but flavor is what counts.
The Spaghetti Carbonara recipe I’ve followed for decades, one I can vouch for, comes from a vintage cookbook called…
The Italian Cookbook.
The author, Maria Luisa Taglienti, composed all of the recipes specifically with the mid-20th century American cook in mind.
Much like Julia Child did for Americans and French food with her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Taglienti aimed to help American cooks master the art of Italian cooking with minimal fuss.
So, as you may have guessed by now, you won’t find guanciale — the cured pork jowls Italians typically use to prepare carbonara — mentioned anywhere in this book.
Instead, you’ll find bacon.
That’s right, American bacon.
But here’s the thing: great taste trumps authenticity for authenticity’s sake any day.
And, Baby, whether you make this Spaghetti Carbonara recipe with guanciale or bacon, it will be GOOD.
In fact, having sampled truly delicious plates of Carbonara with guanciale at a variety of restaurants in Rome, I still choose to make it with good old American bacon from time to time.
All of the hungry people I’ve made this Spaghetti Carbonara recipe have left the table deliriously happy and satisfied.
Now it’s your turn: make this carbonara and thrill your hungry people, too.
(NOTE: The items in italics and the “Notes” section are additions to Maria Luisa Taglienti’s recipe, based on my own experience with it.)
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 6 slices bacon, diced fine
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ⅓ cup dry white wine
- 3 large eggs at room temperature, slightly beaten with
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese with extra for garnish
- ⅓ cup grated Romano cheese with extra for garnish
- freshly ground black pepper
- Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water for 7 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile…Place oil and bacon in a small skillet and sauté until bacon is crisp. Then add the wine and cook over medium flame until the wine has evaporated. Taste spaghetti for salt, drain and return to hot saucepan. Add to it the eggs and cheese mixture, plenty of black pepper and very HOT bacon fat, mixing well. The egg mixture should attach itself to the spaghetti and be cooked by its heat so care should be taken that it is not allowed to cool before the addition of the egg mixture. If, after thorough mixing, the eggs still look raw, place the saucepan over a low flame for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Place on a hot serving dish, garnish with the extra grated cheese and serve immediately.
- Rather use guanciale? Substitute it for the bacon specified in the recipe, one-to-one. (Also meat lovers who are preparing this as THE meal, rather than a single course in a meal, feel free to use up to 8 slices or 8 ounces of guanciale or bacon.)
- Using ONLY Pecorino Romano (instead of a combination of equal portions of Parmesan and Romano cheeses) is also a good and popular option; let your tastebuds decide.
- The thicker and fattier the bacon, the better. Slab bacon is ideal. Then, slice and then dice it into 1/3″ long strips (as you’d do with guanciale.) This allows the meat to get deliciously crispy outside yet stay juicy inside.
- Impatience to get started with this recipe might tempt you to settle for using one of the pre-packaged grated domestic brands of cheese available at most every supermarket, but please DON’T DO IT. You’d be cheating yourself and your hungry people big time. Instead, look for fresh high-quality domestic Parmesan and Romano cheeses. Or better yet, good Parmegiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses imported from Italy. Just remember to decrease the amount of salt you typically use in your pasta water since Pecorino Romano is plenty salty.
- As to pasta brands, De Cecco is top of my list, then Barilla. Also, if you’re sensitive to gluten, Barilla’s line of gluten-free pasta is quite good.
- Maybe you’re wondering: What’s all this about guanciale? If so, learn more about spaghetti carbonara, one of the most beloved Italian pasta dishes in the world.
- Ready to make this delicious dish? Super! Share it on Instagram when it’s done and tag me @melodiek575. I’d love to see your handiwork!
- Get better acquainted with the author of The Italian Cookbook.