Did you know that the Italians never use cream in their carbonara? Cream is rarely used in Italy as it doesn't stand up well to heat. Cream is only used in the recipe for tourists! However you make it, carbonara is a culinary landmark.
Recipe (serves 2)
200g to 300g fresh or dry tagliatelle
2 egg yolks + 250ml cream OR 2 eggs
1 large or a few small white onions, chopped
100g parmesan, gruyere or pecorino, freshly grated
1 crushed clove of garlic
100g bacon, smoked ham, ordinary ham or other
salt and pepper
Recipe with cream
Cook the pasta in a big pot of salted water according to the time indicated.
Meanwhile, put the oil, the onions and garlic in a frying pan and brown them. After five minutes add the bacon and brown together on a low heat.
Beat the cream with egg yolk and pour into the frying pan with the onions and bacon off the heat. Taste, season with salt and pepper and put back on a low heat for 2 minutes, mixing continously. Sprinkle with parsley and chives and serve hot.
Recipe without cream
Put the tagliatelle in boiling salty water and cook according to the time indicated. 2 minutes before the end, fry the bacon in butter on a low heat with the crushed garlic in a large pan.
In a bowl mix the whole eggs, half the grated cheese, the salt, pepper and olive oil, and mix well. When the tagliatelle is cooked, pour into the pan containing the bacon.
Pour the egg/cheese mixture on the tagliatelle, season, mix well and serve.
This cream-free recipe is much healthier than the heavy carbonara sauces many of us are used to.
Tips and add-ons
- The original recipe does not use cream (the creamy texture is obtained by mixing the cooking water with eggs). If you want to add cream, use it in place of the same quantity of egg whites.
- If you need to, lengthen the mixture little by little with a few spoons of cooking water so you don’t cook the eggs but make them creamier.
- Outside of Italy, it’s common to see cream, mushrooms, peas etc added to carbonara.
- Carbonara is quick to make and should be cooked at the last minute, when the pasta is being drained.
- Be careful: cream turns very quickly. Reheating is not recommended, but if you have to, re-heat over a pot of boiling water.
- You can add fresh thyme to the cream. Fresh herbs are optional and can be replaced with dried herbs.
- Add a little milk if your pasta looks too dry.
- Warm your plates in the oven for about 5 minutes at 150°C because the pasta gets cold quickly!
- To add flavour, pour in 200ml of white wine.
- Add a pinch of chilli to spice it up a little.
- Flavour with nutmeg and/or shallots.
- Before peeling the garlic, push on the root of each clove to remove the indigestible inner stem.
Vary carbonara with:
- Different types of pasta.
Long pasta such as spaghetti or short pasta like farfalle can be used in place of tagiatelle, as can papardell and linguine (fresh is better). Hollow pasta like rigatoni and penne regate cook easily and retain more sauce.
- Choice of meat.
Replace bacon with ham or duck.
Mix mustard into your creamy sauce.
- Vegetarian version.
Replace the bacon with artichoke, broccoli, courgettes, leeks, carrots and/or peppers. Fry the veg and then mix with eggs, parmesan, salt and pepper, and add basil to serve.