Carbonara is a Roman classic. Of course, it may not really be Roman nor is actually that classic. In its current form, carbonara has only been around in the decades since World War II, and it may not have been created in the Eternal City. Some believe it was created up north by charcoal minors; while others say American GIs had a hand in its creation; and a third group believes 19th century Neapolitans are responsible for this dish. Regardless of its origins, it has come to be associated with the Rome’s trattorias and it is undoubtedly delicious.
“It’s one of my favorite pastas, because with just three simple ingredients, you can get an amazing result,” says Mattia Agazzi, the chef de cuisine at Michelin one-star Gucci Osteria Da Massimo Bottura Beverly Hills. Agazzi hails from Bergamo, north of Milan. He’s cooked around the world, including in Michelin three-star kitchens, before returning to Italy and taking a job at Bottura’s Gucci Osteria in Florence. A few years later, he was off to Los Angeles to work at
Perched above Gucci’s shop on Rodeo Dr. the restaurant is Bottura’s first restaurant in America and his second partnership with the famed fashion house. There, Agazzi serves a menu with nods to Italy as well as playful incorporation of Southern California culture and ingredients, like fish of the day served with grilled “elote” corn or the carbonara made with Santa Barbara Uni.
Yet, in the video above, Agazzi shows how to make a true carbonara using egg yolk, pecorino Romana, Parmigiano Reggiano and guanciale, which is cured pork jowl. Because it’s easier to find Stateside, you’ll see people using bacon to make their carbonara. And while that may work in a pinch, the smoke from the bacon can dominate the other flavors in the dish, so it’s best to get guanciale if you can find it, or at least pancetta, which is cured pork belly—like bacon—but sans smoking.
And you may be tempted to make your carbonara alla spaghetti rich and creamy with the addition of actual cream. Massimo Bottura is all about breaking with tradition, but that’s not one you should defy.
Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
- 360 g pasta (bucatini or rigatoni are ideal)
- 6 egg yolks
- 200 g guanciale cut into lardons
- 200 g pecorino Romano, grated
- 200 g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
Put the yolks and half the pecorino romano and Parmigiano Reggiano in a large stainless-steel bowl and use a fork to mix well.
Heat the guanciale in a sauté pan and cook over medium high heat until it crisps. Do not strain off the fat.
Cook the pasta in well salted water following the instructions on the box. Before straining the pasta add one generous spoon of cooking water into the bowl with the egg yolk and mix well.
Toss the strained pasta and the crispy guanciale into the bowl with the yolk mixture adding the rest of the grated pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano. Keep mixing until the heat of the pasta creates a cream with the egg yolk mixture.
Season generously with black pepper and serve immediately.