Classic carbonara: one of the easiest Italian dishes to make. Yet Americans always seem to overcomplicate it and screw it up.
There is no cream in carbonara. No ifs, ands, or buts. It is not easier to use cream—it adds another ingredient, cuts the flavor, and thins out the sauce. There is no benefit to adding cream, it just ruins a fantastic dish.
Cream is not the only highly contentious ingredient in carbonara. Ah yes, the great ‘bacon’ debate. What meat do you use in carbonara? Pancetta is the only correct answer, surely?
Obviously whatever cured pork you decide to use is going to affect the flavor and fat content of the dish. Guanciale is the traditional meat used in carbonara—not pancetta. Though pancetta has become a popular substitute, as they are quite similar. Bacon is another commonly used substitute.
A lot of people like to discount using bacon, as it is not ‘traditional’. There is not American bacon widely available in Italy outside of the places that cater to tourists. However it is similar enough to both pancetta and guanciale that it makes a fine substitute; especially given that it is often cheaper and more readily available in U.S.. I often opt to use bacon because I keep it stocked in the house at all times. Also I cook for a lot of Americans, and they are partial to bacon.
The bottom line is: carbonara is easy to make…if done properly. Stop over complicating it.
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