|Course||Primo (pasta course, Italy); main course (elsewhere)|
|Place of origin||Italy|
|Region or state||Rome/Lazio|
|Main ingredients||bacon, eggs, hard cheese, black pepper|
|Variations||(US) peas, mushrooms, or other vegetables, cream|
|Cookbook: Carbonara Media: Carbonara|
Carbonara (Italian: [karboˈnaːra]) is an Italian pasta dish from Rome made with eggs, hard cheese (usually Pecorino Romano), pancetta (or guanciale), and black pepper. Spaghetti is the usual pasta; however, fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini can also be used. The dish was created in the middle of the 20th century.
The pasta is cooked. The pork is fried in fat, which may be olive oil, lard, or less frequently butter. A mixture of raw eggs, grated hard cheese, and ground black pepper is combined with the hot pasta away from additional direct heat to avoid curdling the egg, either in the pasta pot or in a serving dish. The fried pork is added, and the mixture is tossed, creating a creamy sauce.
Guanciale is the most commonly used meat for the dish in Italy, but pancetta is also used and in English speaking countries bacon is often used as a substitute. The usual cheese is Pecorino Romano, or occasionally Parmesan. Recipes differ in the use of egg: some use the whole egg, others only the yolk, some a mixture.
Cream is not used in most Italian recipes, though there are exceptions; but it is often used elsewhere. Garlic is similarly found mostly outside Italy. Other variations on carbonara outside Italy may include peas, broccoli, mushrooms, or other vegetables. Many of these preparations have more sauce than the Italian versions.
Origin and history
As with many recipes, the origins of the dish and its name are obscure.
The dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese, and pepper, such as spaghetti alla gricia. Indeed, it is very similar to the southern Italian pasta cacio e uova, dressed with melted lard and mixed eggs and cheese.
There are many theories for the origin of the name, which may be 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 the 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"), a secret society prominent in the early, repressed stages of Italian unification. It seems more likely that it is an urban dish from Rome, although it has nothing to do with the Roman restaurant of the same name.
Pasta alla carbonara 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, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States. It was included in Elizabeth David's Italian Food, an English-language cookbook published in Great Britain in 1954.
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- "Myths" in Gillian Riley, The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, 2007, ISBN 0-19-860617-6, p. 342
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