Saturday , May 8 2021

How to make the best carbonara, according to an Italian chef

It's the Italian week! Throughout the week, we celebrate all that is Italian and inspired by Italy: recipes, stories and travel tips. Today we dive into a simple but controversial Roman dish.

Working in food, I have learned over the years that there are some things you do not mess with: good southern macaroni and cheese, clam chowder from New England and Italian carbonara.


The Internet hates it when we cut it apart, adding garlic or onion, chicken or cream, or even sweet pea (which has never meant to hurt anyone, really).

This YouTube video highlights the way in the United States we have revived the classic Roman dish very simple to adapt to our tastes. But even if they may not be authentic, these other uses are just as delicious: in fact, I savor them because they represent the way food evolves and takes on cultures, especially as it travels across oceans and continents. As something universal is possible such as porcine pasta and egg not?

But I wanted to get to the bottom of things, once and for all. I sat with Italian chef Simone Falco (who comes from Naples, Italy), owner and executive chef of Rossopomodoro and SIMÒ Pizza here in New York City. Here's what he had to say:

Eric Kim: So let's do it. Chef Falco, where did you learn to cook?

Simone Falco: When I was growing up in Naples, Italy (not to be confused with the city in Florida), I learned to cook when I was very young. My mother and my grandmother taught me how to make classic Neapolitan dishes at home. As I grew up, especially in my teenage years, I spent a lot of time at my uncle's pizzeria. I learned the details of how to run a restaurant, but I also had the opportunity to expand my curiosity and culinary experimentation.

EK: have you seen this video? Do you agree with these Italian chefs?

SF: Yes, I saw the video and I'm 100% agreement. All the other chefs try to exaggerate, but the carbonara, in my opinion, is a simple recipe that should be made only with 5-6 components, max. There is really no need to add onions or garlic or additional ingredients.

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EK: There are many ways to cook carbonara, or just one, truly authentic way?

SF: Although carbonara is a universal dish, I personally always like to cook the authentic and classic version (as I think is the best).

EK: delicious. In your opinion, what? is the most authentic and classic way to make carbonara?

SF: Dried pasta, pecorino romano, guanciale (aged pork cheek or pork cheek), eggs (for four people you will use 4 egg yolks and 1 whole egg), salt and pepper.

EK: (it counts on the fingers) Here are six ingredients! Or four, if we exclude salt and pepper. I've always wondered, though: should pasta be spaghetti or bucatini or another? Also, there is some carbonara pasta never to be?

SF: Rigatoni is my favorite form, but spaghetti is definitely a great backup. Never use the gnocchi.

EK: Ack! Yes, cook. Speaking of polemics, why do you think carbonara is so controversial for Italians? Why do netizens of food yell at people who merge it?

SF: It is controversial because it is a famous dish that can clearly be done in many different ways. Everyone across the country has their opinions on how it should be done. It makes you think – you've never heard anyone talk about how spaghetti with sea urchins do …

EK: right. Last question: why not you serve carbonara at your restaurant?

SF: I do not serve carbonara at my restaurant because it is a Roman dish and my restaurant is Neapolitan. However, Roman Italians and Neapolitan Italians have very similar cooking styles: we make our dishes simply with very few ingredients.

This interview has been modified and condensed for clarity.

How do you like carbonara? Let us know in the comments below.

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