It turns out that last Tuesday was National Fettuccine Alfredo Day and since fettuccine is a staple food item for me, I thought I’d whip some up… but then I got to looking at what was in my fridge and I decided to go with a “carbonara” instead.
The story I’d heard about the origin of this dish was that it was something that field hands or shepherds created. The logic behind this tale is that all the ingredients could be taken cold in the morning and then heated at lunch time. The egg would be scavenged nearby.
Writing it out like this, it doesn’t seem too likely, especially the egg part. However, as a kid, I used to carry lunch out to the people who worked on my grandparents’ farm except on the days when they were too far from the main house, so I know that the part where cold ingredients are heated and combined to make a dish is true.
Anyway, my version has several significant cheats. First off, I used store-bought fettuccine since I haven’t yet found a good local place to buy fresh pasta. Second, I used a trick from Cook’s Illustrated where you heat the bowl you’ll be mixing in while you cook the pasta. (I used a stainless steel one to conduct the heat evenly.) Third, instead of pancetta, which I find way too fatty, I used a consumer sausage that has whole hazelnuts in it which added earthiness to the dish that you don’t normally find.
The best part is that, pasta cooking time aside, it takes about 5 minutes to pull this dish off. And it’s incredibly tasty and would please just about anyone. Just don’t mention the raw egg. That part even grosses me out a little.