Sunday, January 31, 2016

Linguine Carbonara

     Modern food historians say that this pasta was given the name "Carbonara" during WWII, when an abundant supply of eggs and bacon was doled out to the Italians via American supply lines.  Many people say that the word "Carbonara" refers to large amounts of black pepper that were sprinkled on the pasta.  This rendition of the origin of Pasta Carbonara is periodically true, but in all likelihood, there is much more to the story.
     Many historians say that the origin of Pasta Carbonara is connected with either the Italian charcoal making industry or an area where charcoal was used extensively for industrial purposes, like glass blowing.  Some food historians say that the name "Carbonara" simply refers to the black carbon soot dust that collects on old wood fired cast iron stoves, which inevitably ends up in the food.  The means that the Italian origin of Pasta Carbonara quite possibly dates back much earlier than WWII.
     Because of the calorie rich nature of Pasta Carbonara, the charcoal kiln region in Central Italy is the most likely place that the sauce originated.  Local dry cured ham and dry cured bacon (Pancetta) have always been easy to come by in this region.  The word "Carbonara" is associated with the black carbon soot dust that comes from stoking charcoal kilns and this adds credence to the matter.
     Operating a charcoal kiln during cold weather is strenuous work that burns up plenty of calories.  The Central Italy charcoal kiln region does get chilly during the winter and a heavy rich pasta sauce would certainly please a cold tired worker that spent all day stoking wood outdoors.  Put it all together and there is good reason to credit the Italian charcoal producing region as the place where the Pasta Carbonara recipe originated.          

     Pancetta and Prosciutto are traditionally used to make Pasta Carbonara.  American style bacon can be added to the mix as an option.   Hickory Smoked Bacon adds a nice rustic flavor.
     Egg Yolks are used to tighten the cream sauce, just before the pasta is served.  The egg yolks enrich the sauce and cause it to easily cling to the pasta.
     The choice of pasta for Carbonara traditionally is Fettuccine, Capellini, Spaghetti or Linguine.  The Italian chefs that I apprenticed with early in my career preferred Linguine.  Linguine Pasta picks up the sauce nicely.

     Linguini Carbonara:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.  
     • The best way to make Carbonara Sauce is to mince the basic ingredients together, till they are like a thick paste.  This is easy to do with a food processor or meat grinder.  Mincing the ingredients with a chef knife takes much more time and effort. 
     • Using high quality imported Italian Pancetta and Prosciutto really makes a difference in flavor. 
     • Only enough sauce should be made to coat the pasta with flavor.  The pasta should not be swimming in the sauce!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of linguine pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Toss the pasta with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, so it does not stick together.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Place these ingredients in a food processor:
     - 3 ounces of coarse chopped Italian Pancetta
     - 2 ounces of coarse chopped Italian Prosciutto
     - 2/3 cup of coarse chopped onion
     - 3 garlic cloves
     Pulse the food processor till the ingredients are finely chopped and the mixture looks like thick paste.
     Place the minced ingredients in a container and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add the minced Pancetta, Prosciutto, garlic and onion mixture.
     Sauté and stir occasionally till the ingredients are lightly browned.
     Step 4:  Drain the excess grease out of the pan.  (Leave a little bit of grease in the pan for flavor.)
     Return the pan to medium/medium low heat.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth.
     Use a whisk to scrape and deglaze the brown bits that are stuck to the pan.
     Step 6:  Simmer and reduce the chicken broth, till only about 2/3 cup remains.
     Step 7:  Add 1 1/4 cups of cream.
     Bring the cream to a gentle boil.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of coarse ground black pepper.  (Taste and only add sea salt if necessary.)
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 9:  Place 2 tablespoons of cream in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 yolk from a large egg.
     Mix the cream and egg yolk together.
     Step 10:  Add the egg yolk and cream mixture to the sauce, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Step 11:  Immediately add the reserved portion of al dente cooked linguine pasta.
     Quickly toss the pasta and sauce together, till the pasta is reheated and the egg yolk tightens the sauce.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Step 1:  Use a long tine carving fork to coil the pasta and place on a plate.
     Spoon any extra sauce over the pasta.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle 2 to 3 teaspoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1/2 of a hard boiled egg that is finely grated over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of finely chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     *Be sure to offer a coarse grind pepper mill at the table!
     Linguine Carbonara is a delicious cold weather pasta!

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