Fettuccine carbonara ... I feel a little bit Italian just being able to say these words! But what do those words mean? Curiosity got the better of me and I went searching. It turns out, “fettuccine” means little tape in Italian and looking at a cooked fettuccine, it’s now so obvious to me! “Carbonara” is derived from the Italian word carbonaro, which means charcoal burner.
The origins of this dish is uncertain and there are many theories:
- The name suggests this dish was a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers;
- The dish was created as a tribute to the Carbonari secret society in the early 19th Century
- It was a dish that was popularised by La Carbonara, a restaurant in Rome
As interesting as all of these theories sound, unfortunately I wasn't able to confirm any of them as true.
Traditional method of cooking
Traditionally, the carbonara is made with cured meat (guanciale), raw egg, cheese and pepper. Cream is not added to the dish because the ‘creaminess’ should come from the cooked pasta itself. Guanciale is used because the fat which comes from frying the meat is more flavoursome.
This dish is so versatile that it works well even with substituted ingredients. In my version of the fettuccine carbonara, I have used a different type of meat, add some ingredients and omit other ingredients. But I remain true to the traditional cooking method – apply heat to cook the meat with the other ingredients added after removing the pan from heat.
In my version of the fettuccine carbonara, I used diced spam as the substitute meat (some people use bacon or pancetta) but I’m told the traditional guanciale is still the best because the fat in the meat melts away during the cooking process, flavouring the entire dish. In place of egg and cheese, I use cream and salt. The cooking method, however, is still the same – the diced bacon is cooked until flavoursome (for me this means crispy!). Remove pan from heat and cooked fettuccine. Pour over the cream. Season with salt to taste. Toss well to mix ingredients.
Cream (any cream is fine – I’ve used thickened cream and pouring cream)
Salt & pepper (to taste)
- Add shredded lettuce for a bit of texture. You can use other green vegetables but I like to use shredded lettuce because it blends in with the fettuccine.
- Serve with a side of home-made garlic bread to mop up the sauce at the end of the dish.
- Add shredded chicken for a contrast in taste.
- Carbonara sauce is the base ingredient that goes very well with other pasta such as penne, spaghetti, spiral, etc.
- Use shredded chicken instead of spam or bacon.
- Use evaporated milk instead of cream for a lower-calorie version
Get the pdf copy of the recipe here.