If you don’t want to commit a crime against Italian food, there are a few rules to abide by.
No pineapple on pizza, absolutely no ketchup on pasta and no double cream in carbonara.
The latter – a simple pasta dish – is traditionally made with cured pork, eggs, Parmesan cheese and seasoned with cracked black pepper.
The roots of the dish can be traced back to Naples, specifically to the renowned chef Ippolito Cavalcanti, who wrote about pasta dressed with emulsions of egg, cheese and lard in the 17th to 18th century.
But this week, the New York Times got tongues wagging with a Smoky Tomato Carbonara recipe that swapped added cherry tomatoes and tomato paste.
The recipe explained how the tomatoes could ‘lend a bright tang’ to the dish. But the act of Italian food blasphemy was slammed by outraged readers.
Joe Hurd, an Italian chef, agrees that basic is best, claiming that carbonara is the most ‘adulterated dish that made its way from Italy to the UK’.
‘Despite it being a staple of the Trattoria from the 1960s where only minimal “adjustments” were made for the British palate, it has sadly wound up in supermarket chiller aisles,’ he adds.
‘It’s been painfully jarred and finally tortured by a legion of fanatical celebratory chefs desperate to leave their scorching mark on something that needs no amendments.’
Sometimes, the simplest dishes are the hardest to make – and the easiest to get wrong. The ‘world’s best’ pasta sauce, for instance, takes just three ingredients.
There’s nothing, objectively, wrong with putting a twist on a classic. (Chrissy Teigen’s spicy miso pasta, for example, is a firm favourite among some Metro.co.uk team members.)
But if you want something more traditional – and to avoid upsetting Italians everywhere – we asked Joe for his authentic carbonara recipe.
How to make Joe Hurd’s authentic Carbonara
Cooking time 20-25 minutes
90g of cubed Guanciale
50g Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
50g Pecorino Romano/Toscano
(Or 100g of one of them)
3 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper to taste. I personally like a lot.
200g of Dry Bucatini/Spaghetti/Mezze Rigatoni/Paccheri/Taglierini
1. Carefully remove any rind from the guanciale. Save it as you can add to the pan later. Cube the guanciale into equal pieces about the size of the end of your little finger.
2. Place a frying pan on the hob and add the guanciale and the rind. Turn the heat to medium and let the guanciale slowly cook, rendering out its fat. Keep an eye on it and lower the heat if it’s burning. You want them to be super crispy and golden brown.
3. Once they are ready, remove the guanciale pieces from the pan and place onto kitchen paper.
4. Beat the egg yolks with the cheese in a Pyrex bowl and set to one side
5. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil (I usually add 10g of salt per 100g of pasta)
6. Add your pasta and cook to the instructions. Most chefs and cooks will remove 2 minutes before the recommended time to finish the pasta with the emulsion.
7. While the pasta is cooking, gently heat the rendered pork fat and add the pepper (to taste) let the pepper cook a little in the fat.
8. When the pasta is cooked, add it to the fat and pepper.
9. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg and cheese mix. You have to vigorously stir the contents of the pan at this point to stop it turning into scrambled egg.
10. Add a little of the pasta cooking water and more cheese and pepper until you have a smooth, silky, yellow emulsion. Finish by plating up and sprinkling over the guanciale, more pepper and cheese.
Joe Hurd: the dos and dont’s of making a Carbonara
1. Try and hunt out Guanciale. You are starting to find it more readily now either online or in delis. Tempus Foods make a great British Guanciale and Maletti make one of the best Italian ones I’ve found. It’s versatile and keeps forever.
2. Keep any cold leftovers. Save for the day after and mix with a few eggs to create a very luxurious pasta frittata.
3. Some people will deride me for this but buy pre grated parmesan or pecorino if you can. It diffuses/melts through the dish better than the stuff you will grate yourself. Finish with a nice grating of cheese, but during cooking just add the pre grated stuff.
4. On the subject of cheese, try and find pecorino. Again, it’s one you find in a lot of supermarkets now. It’s made with sheep’s milk and is a little bit saltier
5. Experiment with pasta shapes, but with care. Something like linguine or finer spaghetti (spaghettini) will just not do, everything will slide off it. Penne won’t give you the sensation you need with textures and farfalle looks daft. Try Mezze Rigatoni, Bucatini, Spaghettoni (thick spaghetti) even Paccheri. These will catch the sauce and proved a depth of texture to compliment the big flavours.
1. Don’t add cream. I will reiterate this. The combination of the cheese, pork fat and water will provide you with the ultimate “sauce”. Cream is a cheat’s way and brings no real flavour.
2. Add garlic. Not every Italian dish utilises garlic. This dish if done correctly should be like velvet, and garlic is a thug that wades in and undoes all your hard work. Plus, if it burns you may as well throw it all away.
3. Add herbs. Again, they will steal away the true taste of this dish in the blink of an eye.
4. Overcook the eggs. Ideally the pan should be off direct heat when you cook the eggs so they don’t scramble.
5. Assume fresh pasta is necessarily the best pasta for this. The emulsion is very very rich as is egg pasta. You want this dish balanced so dry pasta gives you a beautiful texture but also won’t make it all overpowering.
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