Ridiculously Delicious Fettuccine Alla Carbonara

When Nic ordered Fettuccine alla Carbonara at a restaurant of the same name “La Carbonara” in Campo de' Fiori in Rome, this immediately became a favorite Romeo recipe. Gathering fresh ingredients from the local “mercato”, Dom made this dish almost daily in our rented apartment near the Pantheon. We still contend that the fresh Italian ingredients made an enormous difference in the taste of this dish. Carbonara (charcoal maker's pasta) is one of the most classical of all pasta dishes and is artfully simple with very basic ingredients: pasta, eggs, cured meat and cheese. The combination of textures and flavors results in one of the most complex and satisfying dishes you will ever eat. For this reason we chose this dish as our entry in the “Ridiculously Delicious Challenge.

Traditional Roman recipes for Carbonara call for guanciale, but because guanciale is not readily available, pancetta can be used as a substitute. Guanciale is made from pork cheek, while pancetta is made from the pork belly. Though the seasoning and aging of guanciale are very similar to pancetta, the cheek meat yields a denser and more intense pork flavor and texture. To imitate the more elemental notes of guanciale, we decided to use two of our “ridiculously delicious” ingredients from Marx Foods: juniper berries (crushed) and “Grains of Paradise” (ground). We also made a call to our friend Beth to get freshly laid eggs for the pasta and the sauce.

  • 1 lb. fresh fettuccine
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 oz. pancetta, cut into ¼” cubes
  • ½ teaspoon juniper berries (crushed with a mortar & pestle)
  • ½ teaspoon “Grains of Paradise,” freshly ground (optional)
  • 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks (organic eggs taste best)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano
  • Freshly ground Tellicherry peppercorns (also available from Marx Foods!)

To make this dish we started out by making fresh homemade fettuccine noodles. Click here to see how we did it!

Then we heated olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, added the pancetta, juniper berries and “Grains of Paradise” and sautéed them together until the pancetta was warm crisp and brown which took about 5-6 minutes. Dom put the eggs, egg yolks, and ¼ cup water into a small bowl and beat them together with a fork, and then it set aside. We cooked the fettuccine in a large pot of boiling salted water until it was al dente, drained it (reserving about 2 cups of the boiling water) and then placed it a large mixing bowl.

Using 2 large wooden spoons, we mixed the eggs, seasoned pancetta with the pan scrapings, and ¼ cup each of the Parmesan and Pecorino into fettuccine. If the sauce is too thick (or gloppy,) you can some of the reserve pasta water to thin the sauce. We served the Carbonara in big bowls sprinkled with the remaining grated cheeses and freshly ground black pepper on top. We sat down to a decadent meal as a family. We all noticed the earthy aroma of the juniper berries and the unique peppery flavor of the “Grains of Paradise.” It was indeed a ridiculously delicious dinner!