I had a favorite family on my mission. We still keep in touch---they even called me when the New Year came to Italy, which I think is special. We'd go to their home every Friday for a discussion and then for supper. The mother (who we'll call Neve) was the greatest cook ever and she'd prepare all day for our Friday meal.
After one discussion, as the mother was making the final touches on dinner and we were seated at the dinner table with the father, my naive companion mentioned that I was a great cook and that I had made carbonara earlier in the day. The father, who loved to try and prove me wrong whenever he could (we'll call him Nanni), turned to me.
Nanni: Oh really Sorella Cicada. And how exactly do you make carbonara?
Cicada: Well... I fry pancetta (like bacon). With onions.
Nanni: Onions? No. There are no onions in carbonara. Go on.
Cicada: Then, I mix a couple eggs--
Nanni: The whole eggs?
Nanni: Wrong. You don't make it with whole eggs. Go on.
Cicada: I mix the eggs with parmasean--
Nanni: Parmasean!? No! You don't make carbonara with parmasean! You have to use pecorino Romano! Go on.
Cicada: And I mix in lots of pepper and cream.
Nanni: Cream!? CREAM?! Neve! [Neve is still in the kitchen.] Cicada puts cream in her carbonara!
Neve comes running from the kitchen with a look of horror on her face.
Neve: Cream!? In the carbonara??
Nanni: You don't put cream in the carbonara, Cicada. You're doing it all wrong. You missionaries learned wrong.
Cicada: Rumor has it that the recipe comes from an older Italian woman...
Nanni: No it doesn't. It's wrong. Neve will show you how to make carbonara the next time you come.
The next time I went, I learned how to really make carbonara. For your enjoyment, here's the recipe. Of course, measurements are general.
- Start boiling a pot of spaghetti. The rest of the recipe won't take you any longer than the spaghetti has to cook.
- Fry a bunch of pancetta (or bacon) in a lot of olive oil. If you're serving four people, I may even do up a whole package of bacon. Fry it in a deeper frying pan so that it can hold the unbelievable amount of olive oil you've added.
- Dump in a bunch of red pepper flakes, depending on how spicey you want it. You'll want the carbonara to be pleasantly spicey.
- In a bowl, put in one egg yolk per person eating. If there are several people eating, add an extra couple yolks for good measure.
- Dump in a bunch of pecorino Romano (also known as Romano) and mix with the egg yolks. You'll want to create a fairly dense paste.
- Drain water from spaghetti, return spaghetti to pot. Dump oil/pancetta/red pepper into the pot with the spaghetti. Dump the egg/cheese paste into the pot with the spaghetti. Stir. Ideally, the heat of the noodles cooks the eggs. If you're still nervous or cowardly, heat up the pot a little while stirring the mixture.
- Throw in a bunch of chopped, fresh parsley and stir.
- Serve hot!