Thursday 3 March 2016




At the risk of sounding like a wet blanket, I think that certain dishes deserve to be revered for their sheer perfection and simplicity. Carbonara is one such dish that despite becoming so prolific nearly all over the world, precisely because it is so simple and delicious, it has has nevertheless fallen victim to countless mediocre iterations or as I call them "bastardizations". 

But why fix something that ain't broken? Is it because 'they' are not using quality flavoursome ingredients that bring sufficient flavour to this simple dish? Is it lack of technique? I.e. the erroneous use of cream to create a sauce-like consistency. Or perhaps it is a lack of respect for tradition? Food is a language and language is steeped in culture. It is not merely a label, hence the term 'lost in translation'. Are you still following me? 

Here is some context: Carbonara originated in Rome at a time when much of Rome's populous was poor. They had to make do with the cheapest cuts of meat and a few available ingredients, but above all they had to be tasty. Hence the advent of typical and much loved Roman dishes like Spaghetti alla Carbonara, Bucatini all' Amatriciana, Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, and Tripa alla Romana just to name a few. 

Roman recipes typically make use of ingredients from the quinto quarto or the "fifth quarter" of the animal, such as offal. Typical quinto quarto dishes are tripe, brain, heart, liver, kidneys, tongue, pancreas, and pig's feet.... just to name a delicious few. Also typical are cured pork's cheek or Guanciale, and cured pork belly or Pancetta which are the central proteins in Carbonara and Amatriciana sauces. 

So where am I going with this? Well, I guess what I am trying to say is that in the absence of context or cultural reference points we lose what makes a dish truly special and meaningful. So given that I am writing this blog from within the Waterloo region or K-W, here are some tips on getting the right ingredients for creating a flavoursome Carbonara:

  • Guanciale /PancettaVincenzo's in Uptown Waterloo (you can also make due with Brandt's Double Smoked bacon from Sobey's)
  • Conestoga Farms Free Run Eggs - Sobey's (these are some of the best eggs I've had; tasty with creamy dark orange yolks)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano - Kitchener Market, Vincenzo's. Just please don't use the pre-grated stuff of unknown origin.                           So now that we have the 'what', here's the "how':

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