There are two types of people in the world – Italians and those who wish they were Italians. – Ancient Italian Proverb
From a culinary perspective, there are few people who would argue with this bold assertion. The Italians have done for comfort food what the French did for fine dining. That’s not to say that they Italians are somehow lacking when it comes to fine dining contributions – far from it! It’s simply an acknowledgement of the art form that Italian food has become in its own right.
Think about cheeses for a minute. The Italians take their cheese so seriously that they set up an organization to control quality and to protect the original conditions under which the best cheeses are made. There are 26 D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) cheese from various regions around Italy. What’s more, you won’t find one anywhere near the quality of the singularly renowned American cheese – and that’s a good thing! This post could easily become a treatise on all things Italian, so we’ll keep it short and briefly address two – meat and cheese.
Asiago, gorgonzola, mozzarella, pecorino romana and parmigiano reggiano are Italian cheeses we all know. But, how many know or understand the difference between pecorino romana and parmigiana reggiano (or that there are four different kinds of D.O.C. pecorino)?
What about Salumi? It would be an egregious error to omit this type of food from our discussion. Especially when you consider that the origin of the word ‘salumi’ traces back to ‘sale’ or salt! Salumi is any Italian meat produced by a process of salting and curing. Salumi is further categorized and defined by the cut of meat used. Whole cuts of pork include finished products like, prosciutto, speck, culatello, coppa, pancetta and guanciale.
In all candor, guanciale is the reason for our post today. Part of the reason for having produced our Rub Yer Belly bacon cures is our love of guanciale. Guanciale is unsmoked and stronger in pork flavor than regular bacon. It also has a much more delicate, almost silky texture.
It recently came to our attention that there is now a source for guanciale in the Phoenix area and that the guanciale is superb. Why wouldn’t it be, it’s imported from Italy after all!
With the news of guanciale and National Pasta Day coming together within hours of each other, we knew what we had to do. It was time to become Italian, if for no more than an hour or to while making the quintessential ‘bacon & eggs’ pasta dish known as Spaghetti alla Carbonara!
This dish combines the deliciousness of guanciale with the ‘king of cheese’, parmigiano reggiano. You may have seen this dish created by those who have no qualms preparing this dish with dairy, but that’s not Italian!
Traditional Spaghetti alla Carbonara contains no dairy – and when prepared properly, you won’t want any dairy in the dish either. It may take a bit to get the hang of this recipe, but your tastebuds will thank you!
- 1 lb. spaghetti
- 2 Tbsp. EVOO
- 1 lb. guanciale (unsmoked bacon can be substituted)
- 1 medium onion (1/4″ diced)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ c. grated parmigiano
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti pasta until al dente. Drain well. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or rendered guanciale fat), and set aside.
- Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook chopped guanciale until slightly crisp; remove and drain onto paper towels. Reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon fat; add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and heat in reused large skillet. Add chopped onion, and cook over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add minced garlic, and cook 1 minute more.
- Return cooked guanciale to pan; add cooked and drained spaghetti. Toss to coat and heat through, adding more olive oil (or guanciale fat) if it seems dry or is sticking together. Add beaten eggs and yolks and cook, tossing constantly with tongs or large fork until eggs are barely set. Quickly add ½ cup parmigiano, and toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste (remember that guanciale and parmigiano are very salty).
- Serve immediately with chopped parsley sprinkled on top, and extra parmigiano at table.