Did you know that carbonara is not just a simple sauce but actually a condiment? Ada Boni reveals all in her book Il talismano della felicità (Colombo)—the mother of all encyclopaedias of Italian cooking. Made with eggs, Parmesan, butter, bacon, onion, dry white wine and salt, carbonara is a vital part of certain dishes. In fact, the author suggests that all cooks planning on making any dish alla carbonara should always start with the carbonara if they want things to go well.
You’ll have noticed that Boni doesn’t use cream. Well, everyone has their own way of doing things and certain ingredients are added or left out in different regions of Italy. Carbonara is ideal for serving with egg pasta or spaghetti.
Originally from Rome, the first recipe for carbonara as a condiment didn’t include cream or bacon—a striking omission for those of us who automatically think of these two ingredients when making carbonara. Every household and every region of Italy has their own way of making it and there’s no right or wrong way. Therein lies part of the joy of cooking.
Some people include bacon; others add garlic; some leave out the wine; and others happily throw in butter, cream and the olive oil used to fry the bacon, which in turn could be chopped up or in rashers.
Carbonara is a key recipe whose origins are shrouded in mystery: some say it was used to feed guerrillas hiding in coal mines (hence the name); others claim it was a typical miners’ meal; and there’s even a suggestion it was invented in a mining town.
There are almost as many versions of the legend as there are of the condiment itself. And don’t forget that whenever you don’t feel like slaving over a hot stove or can’t decide whether to add garlic or wine, you can always use one of the many Borges products that bring any dish to life.