Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Too many cooks spoil the broth; No truer words have ever been spoken. The idea behind this is that too many cooks, with too many ideas will eventually put too much into the pot ruining the dish. Enter Spaghetti Carbonara; a dish so simple and so honest that it too has suffered the ravages of attempted culinary innovation.
It’s bastardization throughout the decades leads me to believe that the constant efforts at improving life through originality and inspiration are sometimes misleading.
I must confess that I was guilty of disfiguring this dish; No, I did not add cream, nor did I add vegetables, shrimp, chicken or any other foreign ingredient; in my pious quest for culinary notoriety I decided that incorporating three types of cured pork i.e: guanciale, smoked bacon and pancetta; would lend a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish. I was wrong.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara, four ingredients; guanciale (not bacon or pancetta), black pepper, eggs and pecorino romano cheese; and in my family, a quick rasp of nutmeg on the file to bring it all together with the spaghetti; it is the quintessential roman dish.
The most simple of things are indeed the most complicated to comprehend, it is easy for us to always add; the challenge lies when we must remove. I eventually saw the light, and it came in the form a Japanese man, a good friend and an amazing chef. He asked one simple question repeatedly; Why?
It took me a few minutes to finally breakdown and admit that I had no Idea why I would bastardize such a beautiful and simple dish. A dish whose history is caught between a coal miner’s lunchbox and a World War Two American soldier’s craving for bacon and eggs.
A dish has stood the test of time, that survived wars, famines and trans-Atlantic voyages; a dish that I grew up with.
In predictable fashion following the coup de grace, I returned to my stove, set the pot of water to boil with about 200grams of pasta for both of us. I then heated up a pan on medium heat with some olive oil; and a handful of guanciale. As it slowly rendered its fat, I beat the egg with the cheese, turned off the heat, placed the cooked spaghetti with the guanciale, tossed and added the egg/cheese mixture and folded the ingredients together.
As I plated, seasoning with cracked black pepper and that final rasp of nutmeg, I was redeemed.