As with many recipes, the origins of the dish and its name are obscure, however, most sources trace its origin to the region of Lazio
The dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese and pepper, one of which is pasta alla gricia. Indeed, it is very similar topasta cacio e uova, a dish dressed with melted lardand a mixture of eggs and cheese, which is documented as long ago as 1839, and, according to some researchers and older Italians, may have been the pre-Second World War name of carbonara.
There are many theories for the origin of the name carbonara, which is likely more recent than the dish itself. Since the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for ‘charcoal burner‘), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. In parts of the United States, this etymology gave rise to the term “coal miner’s spaghetti”. It has even been suggested that it was created as a tribute to the Carbonari (‘charcoalmen’) secret society prominent in the early, repressed stages of Italian unification in the early 19th century. It seems more likely that it is an “urban dish” from Rome, perhaps popularized by the Roman restaurant of the same name.
The names pasta alla carbonara and spaghetti alla carbonara are unrecorded before the Second World War; notably, it is absent from Ada Boni‘s 1930 La Cucina Romana (‘Roman cuisine’). The carbonara name is first attested in 1950 when it was described in the Italian newspaper La Stampa as a dish sought by the American officers after the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944. It was described as a “Roman dish” at a time when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States.
Ingredients for 4 people
- 300 grams of spaghetti
- 4 egg yolks
- 50 grams grated Pecorino Romano
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 200 grams guanciale (cured pork jowl) cut into 1-centimeter slices
- Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Proportion is 1 lt of water per 100 grams of pasta.
- Fry guanciale at very low heat until the fat melts and it cooks.
- Whisk the egg yolks with the guanciale fat in a steel bowl. Add a little cooking water.
- When pasta is cooked, drain and mix into the cream in a steel bowl till creamy. Add freshly ground black pepper.
- Grate some cheese and sprinkle with more freshly ground pepper to finish.