Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Spaghetti Carbonara - well sort off!

You know, for the longest time, I thought that a Carbonara was simply a creamy sauce with bacon in it. I also thought that a Marinara was a Seafood sauce, while a Bolognese was a Tomata based sauce.

Oh wretched fool!

In my travels down lifes path though, I've quickly learnt that:
a basic cream sauce is an Alfredo;
a Bolognese is a traditional meat sauce originating from Bologna that often contains tomato;
a Marinara is actually a classic Tomato based sauce - and does not need to contain any seafood. The term Marinara refers to the Italian word for Sailor - Marinaro.
a Carbonara is actually a cream sauce finished off with egg yolks!

I actually knew about the need for egg yolks in Carbonara sauce a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. To make a 'real' Carbonara, you are supposed to use add in egg yolks at the very end, quickly beaten into the hot cream sauce to form a nice emulsion and then served over very hot pasta so that the egg yolks continue to cook. This can be very tricky and often results in a curdled mixture.

That's why I have never used eggs in my Carbonara. So I suppose I can't call it a Carbonara any longer can I...

Now this is the beauty of cooking! There is this well known theory of Inductive Reasoning which states
If a bird looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's probably a duck.

Therefore, following the same postulation:

If you can make a pasta sauce Look like a Carbonara, Taste like a Carbonara and Smell like a Carbonara, then surely it Must be a Carbonara - even if there are no eggs in it.


So that my dear friends is what I do with my Carbonara. No one has to know that there are no eggs in the sauce. For those of you that are reading this and now have the 'secret' knowledge that I do NOT use eggs in my Carbonara sauce... well, I'm afraid I am going to have to kill you.

So anyway, this is my recipe for a Carbonara Sauce:

8 Bacon Rashers (or use 50g Chicken shredded)
200 gm Fresh Button Mushrooms
200 ml Cream
1 tsp Oregano
3 cloves Garlic
½ Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Corn Flour
Olive Oil
Salt to taste

Slice Mushrooms thinly and set aside. Chop the Bacon (or chicken) and set aside. Chop Garlic and sautee with Black Pepper and oregano. Add in the garlic and fry till fragrant
Add in Mushrooms and bacon (or chicken shreds if using chicken). Cook Well
Add in cream and bring to the boil.
Lower heat and simmer. Add salt to taste
Mix corn flour with a little water and add to mixture.
Cook till mixture thickens

And there you have your sauce!

Sometimes, in the absence of cream, I make a roux with flour and butter and add in lots of milk to simulate cream. Much cheaper and the taste difference is negligible. I also reckon that the best way to serve a Carbonara is with just a little sauce so that it coats the pasta and gets it all gooey. Too much sauce makes the dish too rich and you don't get the taste of the pasta and the subtle mix of flavours. That's what I think anyway.

As usual whenever I make pasta, I submit the post as an entry to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by my lovely friend Ruth over at


Anonymous said...

Dharm, it is particularly difficult to say no to such a nice face, but no. Carbonara is not a cream sauce, has no cream. It is bacon (pancetta) water from the pasta pot, grated Parmigiano and egg yolks. The secret is merely to put it all together, then remove from the cooker and beat, beat, beat those yolks in not getting them hot enough nor leaving them still enough to scramble.

Sob, Alfredo also is not a cream sauce and contains no cream.

Sob, sob, this is all too sad, but we can rename your original new recipe "pasta alla crema di bacon".

the Italian Pedant

Dharm said...

Thanks for the comment. I take it you are Italian and so humbly thank you for the education! Most of the recipes I have seen always use cream in both their Alfredo and Carbonara - but I suppose this is not authentic, and like me, they choose to take the easier way out!!! Wish you had left your contact so we could discuss this more...

Cynthia said...

Dharm, the Italian Pedant is absolutely right. I read in Ruth Reichl's (Gourmet Magazine Executive Editor) book, Garlic & Sapphires how the recipe for spaghetti carbonara is often mis-represented. (I don't mean by you in this case) She was referring to various cookbooks. She specifically pointed out that there's no cream just bacon, eggs, cheese and pasta. I'll email you Ruth's recipe.

Having said that, I'd eat your creamy-bacon-mushroom sauce and pasta anyday!

glamah16 said...

I used to believe that about Marinara Sauce as well!

Ruth Daniels said...

A rose by any other name would smell as said Shakespeare, so, frankly, I don't care what you call it, it sounds (and looks) wonderful!

Thanks for sharing your creamy, mushroomy pasta with Presto Pasta Nights.

Bellini Valli said...

It looks delicious no matter what you want to call it Dharm:D

Anonymous said...

My wife has an irrational fear/dislike of 'eggy' food (even though I'd hesitate to call carbonara eggy, but hey-ho) so this recipe looks spot on. Just off to cook it now.

Not so sure about your food photography though but to be fair, good food photography (as in good photography of food) is really, REALLY difficult. It's not about the focus, nor the composition, I guess it's about the exposure and the colour.

Anyway, thanks for the recipe. Keep it up.

The Photography Pedant? :)


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