The origins of this now-famous sauce are not at all clear. The most likely is that it was made by the carbonari – charcoal burners – when they were working up in the mountains east of Rome. Whatever its origin, bucatini alla carbonara became a very popular dish all over Italy after the Second World War and was soon known all over the western world. It should be made with guanciale (pig’s jowl cured in the same way as pancetta), which is a traditional pork product from Lazio, but pancetta is a good substitute.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and when hot, throw in the pancetta. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the pancetta is brown and crisp. While the pancetta is cooking, cook the pasta in boiling salted water.
In a bowl, beat together the egg yolks, cheese, butter, salt and lots of black pepper. Place the bowl in the oven.
When the pasta is ready, drain, reserving a cupful of the water, and turn it into the frying pan with the pancetta. Using two forks, stir-fry until all the strands are well coated with the fat, adding a few tablespoons of the pasta water to loosen them. Transfer to the warmed bowl with the egg mixture, mix thoroughly and serve at once on warmed plates.
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