A Tale of Two Carbonaras

A portrait from Brooklyn and Rome

The purist Roman version or a family version taught to me on vacation in Puglia? You be the judge.


Raw Egg Revelation

“This dish has raw egg?” I said, eyes wide, mouth agape, and my hungry toddler on my hip.

Sure, I like a nice runny yolk for brunch, and have even encouraged my kids to eat plenty of raw cookie dough along with me, but somehow making a pasta “sauce” using raw egg seemed unfathomable to me at the time. I had a lot to learn.

Ever-gentle and patient, Puglia-born Piera smiled and said, “well, yes, but it is somewhat cooked by residual heat.” Piera’s reputation proceeded her, and having already tasted several of her Italian dishes in my own kitchen and enjoyed the most amazing porchetta to the preschool picnic that year, so we were game, and it was absolutely delicious.

spaghetti carbonara and red wine

Piera taught us the original Roman version, which is simply spaghetti, guancale or pancetta, egg pecorino romano cheese and black pepper. But I soon learned there was another camp of carbonara lovers who like to add shallots.

Fast-forward to August 2018, and ever-gracious Piera had invited us to see her beautiful homeland and meet some of her incredibly lovely family, in Puglia. One amazing evening we welcomed her siblings and cousins over to our AirBNB in Vieste, to share a meal on our rooftop, as a way to thank them for their hospitality at the beach all week.

sunset over vieste puglia italy
sunset over vieste, aug 2018

This time, at the hands of her brother-in-law, Mimmo patiently taught me his version of spaghetti carbonara.

cutting up some guancale for
mimmo chipping the guanciale for his carbonara

Carbonara, made either way, is a now family favorite that we make whenever we want to feel a satisfying hug from Italy. Both recipes are provided below.

fresh homemade spaghetti carbonara, mimmo style, with shallots



Saxophonist and singer in the band Favonio, Mimmo was the one who showed me how to whip up carbonara for a crowd one steamy evening on a rooftop in Vieste, Italy.

So it is his music we now pair with this delicious dish. It’s fun for cooking, and for a dance party as well.

Note: also catch Mimmo’s music as part of the Limoncello Cake portrait!


Classic Carbonara

This is the carbonara recipe I learned from Piera, who is married to a man from Rome, where this dish originated. It was just one of many dishes Piera taught me on weekday evenings as our kids played. kitchen. Someday I hope to add others to capture these memories and meals I we hold so dear.

the before picture for classic roman spaghetti carbonara
before: classic roman carbonara


Carbonara with Shallots

guanciale and shallots cooking for carbonara

And this is the Carbonara recipe I learned from Mimmo, in a summer rental on Vieste in Puglia. Making due with the limited kitchen supplies, half the fun was how he got creative to pull this off!