Notable Nosh: Linguine Carbonara
Pasta Carbonara is one of my favorites in Italian cuisine and I have made it many times with many different variations… some good and some not so great. I frequently make it with standard smoked bacon, which is good but not very traditional, and I have also made it with Guanciale (cured pig jowl) which is absolutely exquisite. The Italian bacon known as Pancetta is the most widely used, and most traditional meat for a Carbonara sauce but the only times I have used it myself is in the form of the paper-thin slices one gets from the Deli section of the supermarket.
At Café Mezzaluna in Ottawa, recently, I was served the Linguine Carbonara you see pictured above. It was made, according to the menu, using Onions, pancetta, eggs and black pepper in a cream sauce and, while it was not the best I have ever had, it still employed some features that I would adopt for future renditions in my own kitchen. Foremost, they used a proper, good-quality Pancetta, and instead of thin slices, or the matchstick pieces into which I cut standard bacon, they added it in postage-stamp size chunks about the twice thickness of your basic bacon rasher. I found that it really made for a much meatier and tastier result than smaller sections.
The other feature I liked was the addition of onions. I have seen them used in the odd recipe here and there but they are definitely not standard and I expect many purists might frown on their use. I haven’t actually used them myself either but, after tasting this version, I think I might try a little thinly sliced onion in future versions as I found it really worked well. The only thing I really didn’t care for about the Mezzaluna Carbonara was that it used far too much cream. It is a fault I have found in many versions, including some of my own attempts, and I think that in future I may entirely omit cream, or just add a tablespoon or two to the eggs before beating them along with cheese. As I say, this dish I tried at Mezzaluna may not have been top-notch but it certainly gave me food for thought…