As part of a new initiative within the Dutch food blogging community, each month we food bloggers will choose a recipe from another Dutch food blog to try out. The blog I was given this month is Italiaans koken met Antoinette (which is Dutch for Italian Cooking with Antoinette!). Antoinette is Dutch, but she lives in Italy with her Italian husband and shares her culinary experiences from Italy through her blog. I couldn’t believe my luck then when I discovered that I would be selecting something from her blog to cook! Italian food has always featured high my list of favourite cuisines, or at least the bastardized version which is the only version I’ve probably ever been exposed to. Spurred on by my planned trip this summer to Tuscany (first time ever in Italy!!) and further encouraged by my Italian colleague who in typical Italian style, insists that no food can be claimed Italian unless it has been cooked in Italy or by an Italian – I’ve become ever more curious to learn more about authentic Italian cooking.
For this reason, I wanted to pick something from Antoinette’s blog that felt familiar so that I could try and learn the authentic version. My heart skipped a beat when I found her recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara. I have always been crazy for a good carbonara, and whenever I dined at an Italian restaurant back home in New Zealand, I found it nigh impossible to skip past it on the menu and try something else.
In an effort to remain as authentic as I possibly could, I made a quick dash down to our local deli and picked up a small block of Parmigiano-Reggiano as well as a chunk of Pancetta I was almost home when I suddenly panicked as I discovered that I hadn’t put cream on the shopping list. So I toddled back down to the supermarket to buy a decent amount of full cream. I mean, cream is the most important ingredient in a good carbonara right?
Wrong! To my surprise when I re-read the recipe I found no mention of cream at all! I took a double take and decided I had better read the recipe a little more thoroughly. It turns out that the sauce in an authentic carbonara is made purely from the eggs and a little of the cooking water from the pasta. I began to get a little nervous. I mean, I had eaten plenty of creamy saucy versions of carbonara before and it was because of this creaminess that I adored them! But I chose to ignore my niggles and determinedly continued to follow Antoinette’s guidance and make the recipe as authentically as possible.
And boy am I glad I did!!! Authentic spaghetti alla carbonara has now taken it’s place as an all-time favourite recipe, and Meneer Prins made me swear an oath that I would make it as regularly as possible. I didn’t protest. Not only was this recipe so incredibly simple and incredibly quick to make, it was nothing short of heavenly delicious! The mouthwatering flavour from the Pancetta envelops the entire dish, as does the punch from the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. And the rich egg sauce is just divine. No cream needed at all!!
I was so excited with my efforts that I shared my discovery with my Italian colleague. In typical Italian style, he then spent a good twenty minutes telling me what I did wrong and how I could have done it better. Apparently the dish originates from Rome, and considering he was born and bred in Rome, he was convinced he knew all there is to know about authentic carbonara. Who am I to argue? I thought it worthwhile mentioning his tips here as well.
Firstly, he recommends that I use Guanciale instead of Pancetta (not sure if I’ll be successful in finding that here in the Netherlands though) as this is the bacon most traditionally used with carbonara due to it’s stronger flavour and more delicate texture. Secondly, he recommended that I use about 40% Parmigiano-Reggiano and 60% Pecorino cheese. Finally, for a richer and slightly more thicker sauce, he recommended only using the egg yolks and discarding the egg whites – or alternatively you could use one egg white if you find it too rich with just egg yolks. I’m definitely keen to try this out next I make it, which will be very soon, as it’s now a firm favourite in our little household! Thanks so much Antoinette!!!
And finally, because this recipe post is intended to portray an authentic version of spaghetti alla carbonara, I think a little note about Parmesan vs Parmigiano-Reggiano might be in order. In a nutshell, there are certain laws in Italy that were created in order to protect the authenticity of Italian foods and wines. Parmesan cheese is therefore an attempt by non-Italians to recreate the incredibly tasty, crumbly cheese that is Parmigiano-Reggiano. Therefore whenever possible, try to avoid Parmesan in favour for the real thing!