Tagliatelle alla Carbonara | Carbonara Sauce

Tagliatelle alla carbonara - Buon Appetito!

Tagliatelle alla Carbonara

Carbonara Pasta | The authentic way to make it

Tagliatelle alla carbonara - Buon Appetito!
Tagliatelle alla carbonara (made here with home-made egg tagliatelle)

I’ve said this before (see my previous Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe), but it needs to be said again… I may be pedantic, but if you want to cook pasta with cream, mushrooms, whatever… go ahead, it’s your food, but please don’t call it carbonara!

The origins of carbonara are unclear, with stories abounding, but one thing is certain: It is a Roman dish, and as one half of my family is from Rome and I have spent much time there (I also lived in Rome for a short time as a toddler and then again when I was around 9 years old), I have had plenty of opportunities to eat authentic carbonara over the years.  The key is in the simplicity – there may be some debate, even amongst Romans, about whether you should use the whole egg or just the yolk, or a higher ratio of yolks to whole eggs, and whether or not it contains onions. But one thing that is never disputed is this: There is never any cream in carbonara, nor does it contain vegetables of any kind!

Below is my recipe, based on the carbonara I have eaten in many Roman restaurants.  It contains just 4 ingredients: Eggs, pecorino cheese, black pepper, guanciale (it can be difficult to get hold of in the UK – I order it online – so you CAN substitute pancetta, but for the best – and most authentic – taste, try to get hold of guanciale).  And as long as you follow the steps, it is incredibly quick and simple to make.

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 6 large egg yolks (to avoid waste, why not make meringue with the left-over whites?)
  • 100-120g finely-grated pecorino cheese (enough to make a very thick paste with the egg yolks – the exact amount will depend on the size of the yolks)
  • plenty of freshly-ground black pepper (to taste, but you do want to see a ‘speckled’ effect, ideally)
  • 200-250g guanciale, cut into approx. 1cm-wide, thin strips, or into chunkier matchstick-style sticks (if you really can’t get hold of any, substitute with diced pancetta – I get my guanciale online here)
  • Tagliatelle for 4 people (approx. 600g)

Method:

Place a large pan / stockpot approx. 3/4 full of water onto the hob and turn the heat on high.

While the pasta water comes to the boil, heat the guanciale on a low heat until the fat goes transparent and a little bit crispy (watch it carefully – it can very quickly go from perfect to burnt!).  Turn the heat off as soon as the guanciale is ready (you’ll need to turn it back on again just before you add the cooked pasta to the pan).

Cooked guanciale in the sauté pan
Cooked guanciale in the sauté pan

While the guanciale is cooking, separate the eggs and place the egg yolks in a large serving bowl.  Add the finely-grated pecorino cheese (the finer, the better, as this will help make the sauce lovely and creamy) and freshly-ground black pepper to the egg yolks and stir in with a fork.  Aim for a very thick consistency.

Thick mix of egg yolk, finely-grated pecorino cheese and freshly-ground black pepper
Thick mix of egg yolk, finely-grated pecorino cheese and freshly-ground black pepper

Once the water comes to the boil, add a handful of coarse sea salt.  Add the tagliatelle when the water is boiling vigorously and cook for the indicated time on the pack, but taste it a minute or so before the time’s up, to ensure you don’t over-cook it. It needs to retain a little bit of ‘bite’ – the ‘al dente‘ consistency. If you are using home-made egg tagliatelle, like I did, these will cook very quickly in no more than 2-3 minutes (depending on long before cooking you made them, i.e. how dry they are).

Just before the tagliatelle finish cooking, when the water is full of starch from the pasta, take a spoonful of water at a time, add it to the egg, pecorino and black pepper mixture and stir it in quickly so the mixture turns creamy.  Work quickly, so the pasta doesn’t over-cook while you do this step, but just add a little water at a time, until you have the desired consistency, as you don’t want to risk making it too runny or it getting clumpy from the boiling water melting the cheese and making it stringy, or scrambling the egg!

The creamy egg, pecorino and black pepper with the cooking water
The creamy egg, pecorino and black pepper with the cooking water

Once the tagliatelle are cooked, lift them out of the water with tongs or a slotted spaghetti spoon and drop them straight into the sauté pan with the guanciale – don’t worry if some of the water comes with the pasta, this will help make the delicious creamy sauce. Stir the pasta through the guanciale and its melted fat (and any cooking water that came with the pasta) for about half a minute, to make sure it’s well coated.

Tagliatelle in the sauté pan with the guanciale and its melted fat
Tagliatelle in the sauté pan with the guanciale and its melted fat

Pour the pasta and guanciale into the big serving bowl containing the egg yolks, pecorino cheese and black pepper, quickly mixing them with a serving spoon and fork to ensure the pasta is evenly coated in the creamy mixture and no ‘clumps’ form.

Serve and enjoy immediately!

Tagliatelle alla carbonara - Buon Appetito!
Tagliatelle alla carbonara – Buon Appetito!

Tagliatelle alla Carbonara – Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Sweet Focaccia | Focaccia Dolce

Focaccia Dolce | Sweet Focaccia - whole with slice showing

This is a delicious sweet focaccia recipe from the brilliant Italian Cucchiaio d’Argento blog. We have made this a few times and have found the recipe very easy to follow, with perfect results each time, so we wanted to share and translate it for those who can’t follow the original recipe in Italian.

This is not as sweet as a cake, but sweeter than a bread. It’s delicious as a breakfast cake/bread, on its own or spread with your favourite jam or spread (why not try it with our sweet cashew butter or our home-made nutella…coming soon!).

We have followed the recipe to the letter, aside from using plain flour to replace the 00 flour, and strong white bread flour to replace the manitoba flour, as these are more commonly available (and affordable) in the UK.

Sweet focaccia in its tin, just come out of the oven.

Ingredients – for the dough

  • 400g plain white flour
  • 100g strong white bread flour
  • 120g demerara sugar
  • 7g dried yeast
  • 200ml whole milk
  • 20ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 110-130ml water
  • 1tsp sea salt

Ingredients – for the crispy top

  • extra virgin olive oil (approximately 1tbsp plus additional for greasing)
  • approx. 1tbsp water
  • demerara sugar

Method

  1. Place the two flours, the sugar, yeast, oil and lukewarm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Start mixing on a low setting with a K beater, drizzling in the water in a thin stream as you do this.
  3. Once all the ingredients are mixed together, swap the K beater for a dough hook and mix it for approximately 15 minutes, adding the salt towards the end. The dough will be ready once it is smooth and elastic / bouncy.
  4. Transfer the dough into a clean bowl and cover with clingfilm.
  5. Leave it to rise until it has approximately doubled (around 2 hours). We tend to place it on a shelf in the airing cupboard, but any warm, non-draughty room will be fine.
  6. Line and grease (with extra virgin olive oil) a 24cm round cake tin (we find a springform cake tin works very well for this).
  7. Once the dough has risen, transfer it into the greased, lined tin.
  8. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan.
  9. Use your finger tips to create dips all over the surface and to help spread the dough evenly over the surface. We found this to be quite sticky, so you may not get perfect dips, but as long as the dough is spread reasonably evenly across the cake tin and the surface is a little rough/uneven, it will work.
  10. Whisk together 1tbsp of water and extra virgin olive oil (this will turn into a thick emulsion) and brush this over the focaccia dough surface.
  11. Sprinkle the surface with a generous amount of demerara sugar.
  12. Bake the sweet focaccia in the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes until the surface is looking golden and a little cracked.
  13. Leave to cool in the tin for approximately 15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely, or serve warm!

This delicious sweet focaccia will keep for a few days in an airtight container, or wrapped in clingfilm and tin foil, but the crispy topping will lose its crispiness and will go more soft and sticky after the first day. It will still be delicious!

One slice of sweet focaccia

Sweet Focaccia | Focaccia Dolce | Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Sweet Cashew Butter

Sweet cashew butter in a glass jar, seen from the top on a spreading knife

If you love spreading nut butters onto your toast (or eating them by the spoonful!) as much as we do, you’ll love this velvety-smooth, creamy and indulgent sweet cashew butter!

It’s quick and simple to make and only requires a handful of ingredients, but you do need a good quality, powerful blender to get the smooth consistency. We use a Ninja Power Foodi Blender, using the ‘Power Nutri Cup’ and running it on the ‘Powermix’ setting twice. You can, of course, use other powerful blenders, so long as they can cope with thick consistency mixes and give you a smooth blend.

Ingredients (makes approx. 300g of sweet cashew butter):

  • 170g cashews
  • 130ml vegetable oil
  • 80g icing sugar (you can adjust the quantities if you like your cashew butter sweeter or less sweet)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • generous pinch of fine sea salt

Method

Place all ingredients into your blender and mix until you obtain a smooth consistency.

Please note that this may generate quite a bit of heat so the resulting cashew butter may initially be warm and a little bit runny, but it will get thicker as it sets in the fridge.

Pour the cashew butter into a glass jar and store in the fridge.

Sweet Cashew Butter in a glass jar, pictured from the top

Sweet Cashew Butter | Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!