This famous pasta is unrecorded before the Second World War. There are any number of unsubstantiated tales of its origin, including that it was traditional sustenance for charcoal workers (carbone meaning ‘charcoal’), or that it was named after the Carbonari (‘charcoalmen’ — a secret society prominent in Italy’s unification). Whatever the origins, they were likely in Rome, which remains the spiritual home of this pasta today. A good carbonara is luscious, unctuous, piggy, and almost a heart attack on a plate. It is surely a good way to go…
Guanciale is pig’s cheek cured like pancetta or bacon. The result is a fatty, porcine treat, hard to find but worth seeking out.
Put the pasta on to boil. Fry the guanciale in the oil over a high heat until the fat has blistered and browned a little on the outside, but is still soft within. It will smoke profusely. Take the pan off the heat. Beat the eggs with the cheese in a large bowl, seasoning profusely with black pepper. It is a good idea to warm this over the boiling water – not to cook, but just to take the chill off. When cooked (but of course, al dente), drain the pasta and toss in the pan of guanciale until well coated in the fat. Transfer immediately to your bowl and stir well for about a minute until the eggs have partially thickened. Check for seasoning, and serve with extra cheese on top.
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