‘Declaration of war’: Outrage in Italy over New York Times tomato carbonara

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected] • 3 Feb, 2023 Updated Fri 3 Feb 2023 14:18 CEST
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Fans of the traditional Italian carbonara recipe were outraged this week by a version including tomato sugo. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

Anger has erupted in Italy after the New York Times featured a ‘tomato carbonara’ recipe including sugo along with the eggs, and replacing pork cheek and pecorino with bacon and parmesan.


“Tomatoes are not traditional in carbonara, but they lend a bright tang to the dish,” the US newspaper said in a tweet this week that was shared more than 800 times, almost exclusively alongside disparaging comments.

Italian social media users were predictably outraged by the unorthodox recipe, describing it as “revolting” and “ridiculous”.

READ ALSO: The ten unbreakable rules for making real pasta carbonara

"This should be illegal," said one Italian Twitter user, while another described the suggestion of adding tomatoes to carbonara as a “declaration of war”.


Rome’s local edition of the Repubblica newspaper called the recipe a “provocation”, and a daytime television show on Rai 1 devoted a long segment on Thursday afternoon to denouncing the New York Times recipe, featuring a panel discussion and a demonstration of the correct way to make a classic carbonara.

The traditional version of the dish, which is 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 - or tomato.

READ ALSO: The recipe for a classic Italian spaghetti carbonara

This was in fact not the first time the New York Times had published its controversial tomato carbonara recipe.

It previously appeared in the newspaper’s cooking supplement back in February 2021, when it attracted a similar wave of mockery and revulsion in Italy and beyond.

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

Italian chefs also warned international cooks against going too far with unorthodox versions of carbonara and other classic Italian recipes.

“Some versions may be seen as a homage, and other ones more as an insult,” food journalist and carbonara expert Eleonora Cozzella told AFP in 2021.

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

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



Clare Speak 2023/02/03 14:18

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