Carbonara (Italian: [karboˈnaːra]) is an Italian pasta dish from Rome made with eggs, hard cheese, cured pork, and black pepper. The dish arrived at its modern form, with its current name, in the middle of the 20th century.
The cheese is usually Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a combination of the two. Spaghetti is the most common pasta, but fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini are also used. Normally guanciale or pancetta are used for the meat component, but lardons of smoked bacon are a common substitute outside Italy.
Origin and history
As with many recipes, the origins of the dish and its name are obscure; however, most sources trace its origin to the region of Lazio.
The dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese, and pepper, one of which is pasta alla gricia. Indeed, it is very similar to pasta cacio e uova, a dish dressed with melted lard and a mixture of eggs and cheese, which is documented as long ago as 1839, and, according to some researchers and older Italians, may have been the pre-Second World War name of carbonara.
There are many theories for the origin of the name carbonara, which is likely more recent than the dish itself. Since the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for ‘charcoal burner’), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. In parts of the United States, this etymology gave rise to the term “coal miner’s spaghetti”. It has even been suggested that it was created as a tribute to the Carbonari (‘charcoalmen’) secret society prominent in the early, repressed stages of Italian unification in the early 19th century. It seems more likely that it is an “urban dish” from Rome, perhaps popularized by the restaurant La Carbonara in Rome.
The names pasta alla carbonara and spaghetti alla carbonara are unrecorded before the Second World War; notably, it is absent from Ada Boni’s 1930 La Cucina Romana (“Roman cuisine”). The carbonara name is first attested in 1950, when it was described in the Italian newspaper La Stampa as a dish sought by American officers after the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944.[ It was described as a “Roman dish” at a time when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States. In 1954, it was included in Elizabeth David’s Italian Food, an English-language cookbook published in Great Britain.