The flavours of travel

in Features/Travel

Different regions, different tastes, seeing new places, experiencing new flavours. From Pho in the bustling street markets of Ho Chi Minh City to Cassoulet in the Languedoc: food and travel are intertwined. But how much do you really know about some of the most iconic dishes in the world? What is their history? What do they reflect about the communities that make them? Sometimes pulling back that curtain and finding out about what you are eating can connect you deeper with the location and make each mouthful a little sweeter.

The world of Italian cuisine is filled with an array of delectable dishes, each with its own unique history and flavor. Among them, Carbonara stands out as a classic pasta dish loved by many. With its creamy sauce, crispy bacon, and generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, Carbonara has become a staple on menus worldwide. However, the true origins of Carbonara are shrouded in mystery, with various theories and legends surrounding its creation. 

Theory 1: The Charcoal Miners’ Story:

One widely-believed theory traces Carbonara’s roots back to the charcoal miners of the Apennine Mountains in central Italy. The miners, known as carbonai, worked tirelessly in the mines and craved hearty meals to sustain them. Legend has it that they would prepare a dish using the limited ingredients they had on hand: eggs, cured pork cheeks (guanciale), Pecorino Romano cheese, and pasta. This combination of easily available ingredients supposedly gave birth to the beloved Carbonara. Another take on this theory is that the flecks black pepper of the Carbonara would resemble the same soot-stained charcoal burners.

Theory 2: The Allied Soldiers’ Influence:

Another theory suggests that Carbonara was created during World War II when American soldiers stationed in Italy craved familiar Flavours from home. As the story goes, these soldiers often had access to rations of bacon and eggs, which they combined with local ingredients to create a simple yet satisfying pasta dish. This theory attributes the name “Carbonara” to the American soldiers, as it was derived from the Italian word for charcoal, reflecting the dish’s smoky favours.

Theory 3: The Evolution of Pasta Dishes:

Some culinary historians argue that Carbonara evolved from other Italian pasta dishes. It is believed to have been influenced by “cacio e ova” (cheese and eggs), a traditional pasta preparation dating back to ancient Rome. Over time, the addition of bacon or cured pork may have been introduced, leading to the creation of Carbonara as we know it today.

While the exact origins of Carbonara remain elusive, what is certain is its enduring popularity and the pleasure it brings to those who savour it. Whether born out of necessity in the rugged mountains, a cross-cultural culinary exchange, or a natural evolution of pasta dishes, Carbonara has undoubtedly become an iconic symbol of Italian cuisine.

Regardless of its origins, what truly matters is the timeless appeal of Carbonara—a creamy, indulgent masterpiece that combines the richness of eggs, the saltiness of bacon, and the sharpness of cheese to create a symphony of flavours. It is a dish that pays homage to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Italian people, their love for food, and their ability to transform humble ingredients into something extraordinary.

So, the next time you savour a plate of Carbonara, take a moment to appreciate the centuries of history and culture that have contributed to its creation. Whether enjoying it in a rustic trattoria in Rome or a trendy restaurant halfway across the globe, let the origins of Carbonara remind you of the shared human experience that connects us all through the love of food.

Even with such a simple dish there are a number of different methods fiercely defended but most agree… no cream. Ever. Having eaten (and made) more than a few plates I have settled on this version as my ‘go to’ Carbonara and hasn’t let me down yet!

• 200 gm dried spaghetti
• 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
• 10 gm unsalted butter
• 2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
• 50 gm pancetta or smoky bacon cut into lardons (batons)
• 40 ml dry white wine
• 2 small eggs – (if you use large eggs the mixture is too wet)
• 35 gm freshly grated Parmesan
• 15 gm freshly grated Pecorino
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

• Heat evoo and butter in frying pan until butter foams
• Add garlic and cook until golden brown
• Add bacon – cook until turns crisp
• Add wine and cook for about 2 mins or until reduced by half
• Remove from heat
• Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water for 8 minutes or al dente.
• Meanwhile in small bowl beat eggs, add the cheese, salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
• To the drained pasta add the cheese and eggs and the bacon, garlic and pan juices.
• Add lots of freshly ground pepper
• Serve immediately with freshly grated
pepper and cheese.

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