Friday, 21 March 2008

Tangled Web of Deceitful Pasta

Ahh… What a tangled web of pasta we weave! In my last post, I explained that an Alfredo Sauce is a basic Cream sauce. I also explained that a Carbonara is a Cream sauce with egg yolks beaten into it. I went on to share how I make my Pasta Carbonara without using egg yolks but rather only cream. All my years of making Carbonara sauce, I have been rather proud of myself for being able to make such a lovely Carbonara albeit by cheating a bit and not using egg yolks

I’ve also prided myself on my rather lovely Pasta Alfredo. My children love my creamy Pasta Alfredo and even though they have tasted Pasta Alfredo at restaurants and café’s they still prefer mine.

But I must now admit the error of my ways - thanks to a reader of this blog. I was wrong on the explanation of both the Alfredo as well as the Carbonara sauces. Many, just like me, have been Misled!

Please go and read the comments on my Spaghetti Carbonara post, the very first comment in fact. Never mind, Ill replicate it for you.

This is what the reader 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

I’m very grateful that someone cared enough to set me straight! I’m thankful that you took the time to read and comment on my blog and let me learn. As I mentioned in my comment reply, I only wish you had left your e-mail or contact details so I could have gotten more information from you. Nonetheless, Thank You Italian Pedant for setting me straight!

So anyway. I thought I owed it to everyone to SHARE this important revelation.

I did more research (but of course!) and found that an Authentic Carbonara only uses egg yolks. No Cream Whatsoever. Contrary to all the recipes that say that Cream is used. Apparently, cream was added to make the dish a little richer. But once this is done, then it is no longer an authentic Carbonara. I always knew that my Carbonara wasn't authentic due to the ommission of egg yolks, but now I know I am REALLY cheating!!!

Secondly the Alfredo. That too uses no cream. Nil. Zero.

Again, going back to the word Authentic. An Authentic Alfredo is nothing but butter and cheese! The cheese should also be Parmigiano Reggiano. Legend has it that the Alfredo sauce was 'invented' by Alfredo di Lelio, the proprietor of a restaurant in Rome way back in 1914. Apparently his pregnant wife had not only completely lost her appetite but couldn't keep anything down. Desperate to find something that she could eat and enjoy, good ol' Alfredo experimented with different recipes. When he presented her with his a plate of fettuccine mixed with butter and cheese, she ate the whole plate! The dish soon found its way onto the menu.

Unfortunately, the majority of recipes found in cook books and on the web use Cream in their Carbonara as well as their Alfredo. Most of these claim to be 'Authentic' recipes too. Surely this is a case of misleading the masses? But then who am I to complain when I am just as guilty too?? I even checked bottled Carbonara and Alfredo sauces and both use cream in their ingredients. Who knows, maybe in a few years time everyone will think that a Carbonara isn't a Carbonara unless it uses Cream; and the same goes for an Alfredo. Scary thought that...

This is my attempt at trying to set the record straight.

So once again, my thanks to 'The Italian Pedant' for educating me. I will never be able to eat, let alone look at, a Carbonara nor an Alfredo in the same light again!!


Kevin said...

Nice post. I knew about the carbonara sauce not containing cream, though I like to add it anyways. I did not know about the alfredo sauce. I will have to try it in its authentic form.

KJ said...

Oh my gosh, it's all very complicated. I didn't know any of this. I looked this up in the Silver Spoon - usually described as Italy's biggest selling cook book.

And yes, the ingredients listed are spaghetti, butter, pancetta, garlic, eggs, parmesan, pecorino, salt and pepper.

It's always great to get things straight.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Dharm: names mean so much and yet so little when it comes to taste.
It's great to know the authentic but wonderful to know that the dish you make tastes great and is the way you like it: now you have a dish to name!


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