KCRW’s Evan Kleiman first went to Rome in the early 1970’s and for decades it seemed like the city was suspended in time. But Elizabeth Minchilli tells us that is changing. Sure you can still find bucatini all’amatriciana and cacio e pepe, but now the old trattorias share the streets with juice bars and vegan chocolate shops.
Elizabeth’s new book, Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City, offers advice on where to find the city’s best eats, from pasta to gelato. If a trip to Italy isn’t in the cards she also shares recipes for her Roman favorites, like this one for carbonara. If you’ve never tried making carbonara at home, the video below shows you just how easy it is. But Elizabeth warns not to skimp on the ingredients. Imported Italian pasta and real guanciale will elevate this dish and transport you right to Rome.
1 pound linguine (or pasta of your choice)
3 thick slices of guanciale (or pancetta)
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
4 egg yolks
1 egg white
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
freshly grated pepper
I know I repeat this over and over, but with these simple recipes, ingredients make all the difference. If you can get imported pasta, then use it here. I love Faella, which comes from Gragnano, outside of Naples Guanciale: I know it’s hard to find, if you have to substitute thick-cut bacon, that’s ok, but not smoked. And definitely not lean! (you want that fat). Eggs are the main ingredient here, and you will be eating them raw. So…farmer’s market, fresh please, if possible.
Chop guanciale into small cubes. Heat a pan big enough to hold all the pasta, and pour in the olive oil. Add guanciale and let cook until the guanciale starts to give up its fat, and get crisp at the edges. (But you want it to stay chewy, not get brown and hard like bacon). Turn off heat. (Do I have to say it? Do not drain the fat? Well, I’ll say it: do not drain the fat. This is one of the main ingredients of this dish. If you want something with no pork fat, this dish isn’t for you)
In a large serving bowl put the four egg yolks and 1 egg white. Beat just to break up the yolks. Add the grated cheese and pepper and mix well with fork, creating a creamy ‘sauce.’ I find this is the secret to a great carbonara, mixing the grated cheese with the yolks before you add the pasta.
Bring a big pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until on the hard side of al dente (you will be adding the pasta to the hot guanciale and also letting it sit a bit with the yolk/cheese mixture, so you don’t want to over cook).
In the meantime re- heat the quanciale.
Drain the pasta, reserving a half cup of the hot pasta water. Add drained pasta to the pan with quanciale, stirring and making sure you coat the pasta well with the contents of the pan.
Turn off heat and add pasta to the bowl with the yolk/egg mixture. Toss well, adding a bit of the reserved water if you think it is too thick. Cover the bowl with a lid, and let sit for 2 minutes, to let the egg set a bit. Take off the lid, stir one more time and serve.