My mother used to laugh at the New York Times cooking section on Sundays. She was a well accomplished cook, and her roots came from eating tripe and veal brain from my grandmother’s kitchen. The reason she ate tripe and brain was obvious: immigrants wasted no part of the animal. The Italian mantra: if we have it, we cook it, whatever the F it is. So, when she saw the recipe of the week was stuff like Spaghetti Carbonara or Fu-Fu Polenta, she would always rebuke the culinary selection with comments like, “Really, we ate this stuff because we were poor, and now it’s on the front page of the food section?” Hey, everything old is new again, even in the kitchen.
She had an issue with Carbonara because it was something that she could throw together when she didn’t know what to throw together that night.
It’s so painfully simple; pasta, eggs, cheese, bacon; that it’s frustrating what a culinary delicacy it has become. “Carbonara,” in it’s simplicity means relating to coal, or in this case, the burnt bacon more than likely. Some say it’s origins go back to the prostitutes who beckoned the soldiers during WWII ... oh no, wait, that’s another recipe ... alla Puttanesca. But they say the soldiers had few rations that they took bacon and eggs and threw them on the pasta.
The key to authentic carbonara is you need to cook the bacon or pancetta (even better) till it’s sizzling, burn your hand off hot, and mix it with a mixture of raw egg and Parmigiano cheese. The hot oil from the bacon will cook the egg, and the whole thing takes like twenty minutes, including boiling the water.
However, Americans, unlike the Italians, will bathe in fat and grease, so nothing better than adding cream to your grease for good measure. Giada does give in to the American way here, but I will admit, it was fat-cell amazing.
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