History Of "Spaghetti alla Carbonara" (Popular Italian Pasta Dish)


Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara (History & Origins)

In terms of famous culinary literature, Spaghetti Carbonara has a very recent food history. No cooking manual older than 50 years give reference to spaghetti carbonara recipe, at least not with this name. There are indeed several legends circulating about the origins of the delicious dish but, as it has been seen from a recent debate among Renowned Italian Culinary Chefs, none of the story is very credible.


The food dish would have been literally “invented” by the charcoal burners who prepared this dish using ingredients that are extremely easy to store. In fact, to make the charcoal it was important to see the charcoal for a long time & it was therefore vital to have the necessary provisions with them. 

spaghetti carbonara dish

The spaghetti carbonara in this scenario would be the evolution of the food called cacio e ova, that is originally from Lazio, which the Carbonari used to make the day before by bringing it in “tascapane” & that they consumed with their hands. 

 The pepper was used in high quantities for the preservation of the bacon, fat used to replace the oil, which is too expensive for the charcoal burners. 

The Abruzzese-Apennine origin of this famous dish finds another confirmation in the name of this snack. The term “Carbonada” in Abruzzo known as pancetta, which is salted pork and is cooked on coals.

The origin of this snack can be found in the recipe books Starting from the ancient cookbooks, the first example of mixing eggs & pasta in “Il cuoco galante” by Neapolitan Vincenzo Corrado, printed in the year 1773, followed by the “Theoretical-practical kitchen” of his friend Neapolitan Ippolito Cavalcanti. 

 In these two scenarios the egg was used as a thickener for pasta dish cooked in broth, fried dough balls, not only from spaghetti carbonara, but also from the very conception of this pasta. 

A great and decisive step forward was made by the Francesco Palma, who is another Neapolitan, who tells about Maccheroni with cheese and eggs, in which he combines grated cheese, eggs & lard, in a plate of tasteful macaroni. 

Spaghetti Carbonara plated

There is also another story that begins in the province of Ciociaria, in the area of Lazio about halfway between the city Rome and Benevento, pasta snack was seasoned in a Neapolitan style with eggs, lard, and pecorino cheese. 

And during the German occupation of the city of Rome during the World War II, many middle-class people and families dispersed from the city Rome into this region so that they can escape the oppressiveness of the occupation and they learned about this dish. 

After the war ended, Roman food and cuisine became very famous throughout Italy & this dish, now transformed into spaghetti carbonara, became a more prime example. Another story tells that the popular restaurant in the Campo d’Fiori in Rome, La Carbonara, was named after spaghetti carbonara speciality. 

Although this restaurant has been open since the early part of the 20th century, and does in fact have spaghetti carbonara on its menu, the restaurant itself denies any such type of connection & tell us that the name came about for different reasons.

A highly unlikely scenario or you can say story told in Il nuovo cucchiaio d’argento (translated recently into English language as The Silver Spoon) is that the cuisine and dish was originally created with black squid ink and therefore has its name as it was as black as coal. 

The simplest story, and therefore the most likely one, is that the food dish had always existed at the family level & in local osterie before cultural Roman cuisine got its stamp of fame.

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