The ten ‘unbreakable’ rules for making real Italian pasta alla carbonara

The ten 'unbreakable' rules for making real Italian pasta alla carbonara
Do you know which ingredients to put in - and keep out of - a classic carbonara? Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
There are countless variations on the carbonara recipe out there. But if you want to do as the Romans do, there are some rules to keep in mind.

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, some adaptations of the famous dish have left Italian gourmands less than impressed.

Some chefs this week reminded foreigners attempting the recipe to “keep things simple” in order to avoid their twist on the recipe being seen as an “insult”.

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

If you’re keen on making the classic yourself, there are some guidelines to follow – at least if you want to be able to call your dish a “real” carbonara.

Here, food writer Roberto Serra from Eatalian with Roberto shares his translation of the “real carbonara recipe decalogue”, a tongue-in-cheek list of ten golden rules widely shared on Italian social media which he says is a good example of “typical Roman humour”.

The ten carbonara commandments:

  1. “Always use guanciale, not bacon – if we meant bacon, we would have gone to the USA (guanciale is the pork cheek, while bacon is part of the belly).
  2. No parmigiano reggiano, just pecorino cheese. Anyone who says “half and half” has something to hide. (I love Parmigiano Reggiano, I even wrote a guide about it, but always remember that Italian food is regional: with carbonara you are in Lazio, so don’t use cheese from Emilia Romagna.)
  3. Never cook the egg, it is not an omelette! (That’s why the final step is after you turn the heat off, it must be creamy…)
  4. No garlic, no onion, it’s not a ragù!
  5. No oil, no butter, no lard. Just the fat from guanciale. (Cook the guanciale at medium heat and it will release enough fat.)
  6. No spicy pepper, it is not Calabrian (i.e. not from the southern region of Italy famous for spicy foods).
  7. No spices other than black pepper are allowed.
  8. Anyone who adds cream should go to jail (you know, we take food seriously, sometimes too much…).
  9. Never, ever say ‘carbonara’ and ‘vegan’ in the same sentence.
  10. Tonnarelli, spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni (four different shapes of pasta) are all good, just don’t overcook it!”

For more tips on executing the perfect pasta alla carbonara yourself, see here for Roberto’s classic recipe.

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