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6 April: Carbonara day

Food, tradition and sharing

By Gianfranco Gatta

In times of crisis, nothing is more comforting than good food. Cooking is not limited to being a single gastric moment but it is the type of culture that, in its sharing, unites palates and peoples. It’s a moment of joy that has been in memory since the ancestral age and has lasted for centuries.

It is true that the recipes that are found in the "De re coquinaria", a collection of ten tomes written by Marco Gavio Apicio in the first century, today would not be reproducible; just think of the "garum", the most common sauce at that time, made of discarded fish rotted in salt. Today, in a more noble way, it is declined as "fish comic".

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Tradition that the medievalist Alberto Grandi tends to disassemble, stating that the mystique of Made in Italy is pure marketing: "The Parmigiano? They invented it in Wisconsis and Carbonara was made by Americans. We told ourselves that we had always eaten so much and well when we had died of hunger and ate little and bad."

That the Italian restaurant industry had a qualitative leap in the late seventies is well known and already written, but that the peasant culture, in its poverty, has produced extraordinary dishes is out of the question; just think of Acqua Cotta, born in the Etruria area: an egg, a bit of chard and a bit of cheese, all immersed in a pot full of water, left to simmer all day, hanging in the hook on the fireplace.

To find it, in the restaurants of Tolfa is a dish that today you pay 9/12 euros.

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In the Italy of the municipalities the parochialism is often fierce precisely in the defense and in the affirmation of the traditions; it is not surprising that this also affects the gastronomic dishes, created on local products, from here to marketing is just a sign of the times that nothing detracts from the uniqueness of such products.

Amatrice’s pillow is the primary base to create the legendary Bucatino alla "Matriciana", as they say in Rome. But it is also the essential ingredient of Carbonara; there are various types: from vegetable to fish but for purists, starting with the gastronome Luigi Carnacina who attributed the paternity, there is only the one with Amatrice’s pillow, in fact.

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Then there is a school of thought that attributes the invention to an American soldier, stationed in Italy at the time of the war, who on the basis of "Bacon and Eggs" (bacon and eggs) gave us pasta.

This is also sharing!

The fact is that in purity the Carbonara is prepared as follows:


For half a kilo of rigatoni, strictly al dente, 4 egg yolks, 2 ounces of Amatrice cheek, 1 and a half ounces of grated Roman pecorino cheese, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.


The times follow the cooking of the pasta, 11 minutes. In a large bowl, knead the 4 egg yolks with a pinch of salt and 90 grams of pecorino cheese, covered with pepper. Once the dough is discarded, brown the cheek cut into strips in a hot pan in order to melt the fat well, without browning the pillow excessively. Unlike Matriciana, do not blend with wine.

Almost at the end of cooking, take a veil of water to dilute the mixture of eggs and pecorino cheese. Set aside a glass of the cooking water and drain the pasta in the pan of the pillow to mix, adding a little water. Turn well and remove from heat. Pour the dough into the pan while continuing to mix, add the leftover pecorino cheese and cover with pepper. If needed and almost always needed, add a little more cooking water while continuing to mix. Serve strictly on the pan. For fine palates, it is advisable to accompany a good bottle of Petit Verdot, from Lazio.

Bon appetit!

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