Thursday, March 17, 2011

Recipe: Pasta alla Carbonara, with capers

A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end. – George S. Patton

This is supposedly the oldest road out of Rome. Just beautiful.
Photo: Erik Hagreis, Flickr ccl
Pasta alla carbonara is a pasta dish made from eggs, Romano cheese, bacon, and black pepper. Recipes vary but all contain those basic ingredients. Oddly, although most Italian pasta dishes have a long history, Carbonara does not make an appearance as a recorded recipe until after WWII. 

Capers. Photo: HarlanH, Flickr ccl
If one looks at the ingredients, and the state of Italy after the devastation of the war, it becomes clearer why this recipe may have come into being at that time. 

Eggs and bacon were two common bartered commodities between the Italians and American soldiers. Humans have a way of making do with what they have. When the soldiers returned home, the recipe travelled with them.

Most Italian recipes do not include milk or cream, but North American versions do. I find it helps extend the sauce as the dish can be a bit “dry” if not used. By "dry" I mean sauceless. It is a fairly sauceless pasta dish regardless if you use cream or not. But it is very filling and delicious.

One ingredient I include which is a little uncommon is capers. These salty green oddities are the pickled buds of Capparis soinosa. They are a common ingredient in may dishes around the Mediterranean. They are also commonly used in fish dishes, tartar sauce and as a substitute for olives in martinis.

This dish uses all the fat from the bacon.
The eggs scrambled a little...
Docaitta Pasta alla Carbonara
Prep: 10 min  | Cook: 12 mins

1/2 lb (225 g) spaghetti, spaghettini or linguine
9  slices bacon, cut into strips (about 1/2 lb / 225 g)
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp capers, drained
1/2 cup Parmigiana Regiano cheese, grated (or Romano)
2 eggs
1/4 cup light cream, or milk
1 tsp cracked black pepper, or more
* no salt. It's in the bacon, capers and cheese.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions while you make the sauce. 

This one used only 1-2 tbsp of bacon fat. It is far more "creamy."
Both were excellent.
Fry bacon in a large saucepan until well browned, but not totally crispy. You can remove fat at this time if you wish (depending on the fat content of your bacon), but leave at least 2 tbsps as it does add a great deal of flavour.

Break the eggs up together with the milk and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

Add the chopped onion to the bacon and allow to soften. Then add in garlic and capers. Let fry for 1 minute. Turn off the heat.

Add in the cooked, drained pasta and sprinkle the cheese over the pasta in the pot with the bacon. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and very quickly toss to cook the sauce. 

You want it to cook slowly and not scramble. Although some scrambling is almost inevitable in my experience.

Serve with crusty bread.


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  1. This looks great! I love carbonara so I’ll definitely be trying this recipe!
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  2. Great recipe!! I used 1/4 c of half and half and one egg. Try tempering your eggs with a couple spoonfuls of the pasta water before adding the egg mix to your pan so you don't get the scrambled egg action.