Carbonara Day: What America’s Geographical Indications Have To Do With Inventing The Classic

With the original recipe
Spaghetti alla Carbonara: The Role of American GIs in Inventing the Pasta Classic

Spaghetti Carbonara: Italy tastes not only to Italians, but also to pasta lovers all over the world.  But there is only one original recipe.

Spaghetti Carbonara is not only enjoyed by Italians, but by pasta lovers all over the world.

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Noodles, eggs, bacon and cheese, that’s all a carbonara needs. But who actually invented this dish: the Italians or perhaps the Americans? We went looking for clues.

“Spaghetti alla Carbonara” belongs to Italy as the Pope belongs to the Vatican. Or? To this day, it is not entirely clear who actually invented the pasta classic. There are many stories, but few that hold water – and not just one story leads to the US.

Carbonara, many of which are inadvertently located in Rome. But even in Naples, people are pointing fingers at the origin of the recipe. What is certain is that carbonara, as it is served today, is a fairly young dish. In a three-ingredient version – eggs, pancetta, cheese – it was first printed in a cookbook in 1955. The noodle dish was pre-cooked, or at least variants of it.

According to a Neapolitan theory, carbonara could be a descendant of the dish “Il cuoco galante”. Behind it, if you will, is a slimmed-down version of Carbonara, which dates back to 1773 and is basically pasta with egg. About six decades later, the dish “Cacio e Uova” recorded in the cookbook is similar. But the third cookbook writer of the bunch came closest to today’s Carbonara: Francesco Palma. He is said to have added lard and cheese to the dish. But one little essential, apart from the name, was still missing from Palma: Pancetta.

carbonara; Lots of theories, little evidence

Only in the post-war period did the fog around Carbonara clear a little more. He was first mentioned by name in the Turin newspaper “La Stampa” in the 1950s. In the subordinate clause. American soldiers are said to have regularly eaten this food in Rome in earlier years. But perhaps not only that, because there is also a theory that it was Rome that was home to the GIs who brought their daily egg and bacon confections to Italian cuisine – and thus helped invent carbonara. At least that’s what Marco Guarnaschelli Gotti believes, who wrote it down in his book “Grande enciclopedia della gastronomia”.

This is how the story of chef Renato Gualandi is circulating. He is said to have been hired by the British and Americans in September 1944 to cook for them at their first official meeting in the recently liberated Ricciones, Rimini province. “The Americans had fantastic bacon, delicious cream, cheese and egg yolks. I mixed everything together and served this pasta to the generals and officers for dinner. At the last minute, I decided to add black pepper, which gave it a great flavor,” Gualandi was quoted as saying by Italian website Gambo Rosso. Immediately after, the chef headed to Rome, where he also cooked for the Allies, and some believe that the dish became more and more popular.

Not everyone likes that the Americans had anything to do with the development of the Italian bestseller. Especially since these could have been the Italian charcoal burners who prepared the dish first. Some food encyclopedias want to know that this dish was actually known in the Latium region before the Americans invaded. Accordingly, it is said to have been prepared by the cabbage burners (Carbonaro) during their lunch break. And finally, the name of the dish, spaghetti alla carbonara, also refers to this. That means as much as Kohler-style spaghetti. Others, however, point to the forest workers of Abruzzo who are said to have cooked this simple dish over charcoal.

Original recipe: spaghetti alla carbonara

Although this classic pasta recipe comes from the Carlos Santi and Rosino Brera cookbook from 1966, so it’s quite late, many call it the original recipe. What is certain is that it is a widespread style today.

List of ingredients (serves 4)

500 g spaghetti
100 g for guancia
50 grams of butter
4 egg yolks
Salt pepper
grated pecorino

Fry the diced guanciale in butter until nicely browned. Boil spaghetti in plenty of salted water until al dente, drain, put in a bowl and mix with butter and bacon. Divide the noodles between four deep plates and place an egg yolk in the center of each. Mix well and sprinkle grated Parmesan on top.

Sources: “The History of Pasta in Ten Dishes” by Luca Cesari, Gambero Rosso, Via Medina, Gourmet Report

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