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‘Disgusting knockoffs’: Italians warn foreign cooks over carbonara recipes

After recent "disturbing" adaptations of the classic spaghetti carbonara recipe left Italians outraged, the country's gourmands have reminded foreigners attempting the dish to "keep things simple".

'Disgusting knockoffs': Italians warn foreign cooks over carbonara recipes
Spaghetti alla carbonara at Carbonara Day 2019 in Rome. Photo by Andreas Solaro/AFP

“The secret to a good carbonara… is more about what you don’t put in it, rather than what you put in it,” food journalist and carbonara expert Eleonora Cozzella told AFP on Tuesday.

She was speaking in Rome at the launch of “CarbonaraDay,” a once-a-year online marathon of carbonara-themed events organised by Italy’s pasta-makers’ association.

READ ALSO: The recipe for a classic Italian spaghetti carbonara

Classic pasta alla carbonara, typical of Rome and its surrounding Lazio region, is made with eggs, pork cheek (guanciale), pecorino cheese and pepper – and, as any Italian will tell you, absolutely no cream.

As you might expect, many Italian cooks get touchy when ingredients are changed or added to the mix – often saying anything that deviates from the classic recipe should not be called carbonara.

There was outrage earlier this year when the New York Times’ cooking supplement featured a “Tomato Carbonara” recipe, which included tomatoes along with the eggs, and replaced pork cheek and pecorino with bacon and parmesan.

Coldiretti, a farming association, called the US newspaper’s recipe “a disturbing knockoff of the prestigious dish from Italian popular tradition,” and complained that carbonara was “one of the most disfigured Italian recipes”.

But some gourmands are more tolerant of carbonara adaptations, pointing out that the recipe has evolved over time.

The dish was developed in Rome towards the end of World War II, when US soldiers brought bacon to Italy.

A spokesman for the pasta-makers association, Matteo de Angelis, said some old Italian recipes for carbonara – from the 1950s – included incongruous ingredients such as garlic and gruyere cheese.

READ ALSO:

Cozzella said she is “never scandalised” by unorthodox variations on carbonara. But she added: “Some versions may be seen as a homage, and other ones more as an insult.”

“The important thing is never to cross the line that betrays the spirit of the dish.”

“The problem is never tradition versus innovation, but tradition versus betrayal,” she concluded.

You can find the classic carbonara recipe here.

A chef prepares traditional spaghetti alla carbonara during Carbonara Day 2019 (#CarbonaraDay) in Rome. Photo by Andreas Solaro/AFP.

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FOOD & DRINK

Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

If you're visiting Italy in autumn, don't miss the many local food and drinks fairs held around the country. Here are some to visit this October.

Sagra: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

One of the best things about visiting Italy in the autumn is having the opportunity to attend a sagra, a type of harvest festival or fair centred around one particular food or drink item local to the town hosting it.

sagra has a fairly broad definition: it could last for several weeks or one day, and might consist of anything from a raucous celebration with music and dancing to a lone food stall with a few wooden benches. It will usually be hosted in a field or a piazza, and entry is free.

READ ALSO: Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

What all sagre have in common is the focus on eating and drinking fresh local produce, and the assurance that you won’t leave unsated.

Now, the good news is that October is by far the month with the most sagre, with a wealth of events taking place throughout the country that are worth seeking out if you’re in the area. So, here are some of the best sagre happening across Italy this month.

Campania 

Sagra della Castagna (chestnut festival), 7th-16th October in Calvanico, Salerno.  

Festa della Mela Annurca (‘annurca‘ apple festival), 28th-29th October in Valle di Maddaloni, Caserta.

Sagra del Cinghiale (boar festival), every Friday of the month in Dugenta, Benevento.

Emilia Romagna

Sagra della Salamina da Sugo (salami festival), 5th-9th October in Poggio Renatico, Ferrara.

Sagra del Vino Romagnolo (Romagna’s wine festival), 6th-9th October in Cotignola, Ravenna.

Sagra del Tartufo (truffle festival), 7th-9th October in Bondeno, Ferrara.

Sagra dell’Anguilla (eel festival), first three weekends of the month in Comacchio, Ferrara.

Lazio

Sagra dell’Uva Cesanese del Piglio (‘Cesanese‘ grapes festival), 30th September-2nd October in Piglio, Frosinone.

Enorvinio (wine festival), 2nd October in Orvinio, Rieti.

Castelli di Cioccolato (chocolate castles festival), 7th-9th October, Marino, Rome.

Sagra delle Tacchie ai Funghi Porcini (‘tacchie‘ pasta and porcini mushroom festival), first two weekends of the month in Bellegra, Rome.

A street seller prepares roasted chestnuts in Rome.

Roasted chestnuts are a staple of Italy’s October ‘sagre’. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Lombardy

Castagnata a Caglio (chestnut festival), 2nd-9th October in Caglio, Como.

Festival della Mostarda (mustard festival), 15th October-30th November in Cremona.

Fasulin de l’Oc con le Cudeghe (beans and pork rind festival), 29th-31st October in Pizzighettone, Cremona.

Sicily

Sagra delle Pesche (peach festival), 1st-2nd October in Leonforte, Enna.

Festa della Nocciola (hazelnut festival), 5th-6th October in Novara di Sicilia, Messina.

Funghi Fest (Mushroom festival), 21st-23rd October in Castelbuono, Palermo.

Piedmont

Sagra della Castagna (chestnut festival), 2nd October in Mathi, Turin.

Sagra del Ciapinabò (Jerusalem artichoke festival), 8th-9th October in Carignano, Turin.

Cioccolato nel Monferrato (chocolate festival), 16th October in Altavilla Monferrato, Alessandria.

Chocolate fair in Milan, Italy.

A number of chocolate festivals take place up and down the boot in October. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Tuscany

Sagra del Fungo Amiatino (‘amiatino‘ mushroom festival), 7th-9th, 15th-16th October in Bagnolo, Grosseto.

Sagra delle Frugiate (roasted chestnuts festivals), 9th and 16th October in Pescia, Pistoia.

Boccaccesca (local food festival), 14th-16th October in Certaldo, Florence.

Sagra del Tordo (local food festival), 29th-30th October in Montalcino, Siena.

Puglia

Sagra del Calzone (calzone festival), 14th-16th October in Acquaviva delle Fonti, Bari.

Veneto

Festa del Baccalà (cod festival), 30th September-2nd October and 7th-9th October in Montegalda, Vicenza.

Festa delle Giuggiole (jujubes festival), 2nd and 9th October in Arquà Petrarca, Padua.

Mele a Mel (apple festival), 7th-9th October in Mel, Belluno.

Festa della Patata (potato festival), all Sundays of the month in Tonezza del Cimone, Vicenza.

Umbria

Primi d’Italia (national first courses festival), 29th September-2nd October in Foligno.

Sagra del Sedano Nero e della Salsiccia (black celery and sausage festival), 15th-16th October in Trevi, Perugia.

This list is not exhaustive. Did we miss out your favourite October sagra? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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