So you think you know spaghetti carbonara? You don’t know spaghetti carbonara. That is the theme of the Italian chef coalition ITChefs – GVCI’s current campaign to educate New Yorkers about the classic dish. TChefs – GVCI’, which stands for Virtual Group of Italian Chefs, is charging four of the city’s top Italian chefs to make it exactly according to the “authentic” recipe for one night. On Thursday, Cesare Casella of Maremma, Mark Ladner of Del Posto, Kevin Garcia of Accademia de Vino, and Ivan Beacco of Borgo Antico, will make the dish according to the master recipe approved by ITChefs – GVCI. Or will they? Like every traditional recipe in every cuisine, “authentic” carbonara changes with every chef that makes it.
Ladner, a purist, tells us that he’s going to do the recipe by the book; but then, on closer examination, it turns out to have his own touch on it. “I use Martelli spaghetti number ten, which is a little thicker…and then instead of guanciale we use pancetta, but only half rendered out. Some people might use scallions, but that’s not really part of it. Then there’s the question of the texture of the egg. It can range from almost scrambled to an almost zabaglione-like smoothness, which is the way I do it….” Ladner went on for a while about how to execute this by the book recipe, and had us totally convinced that it was in fact the only way. But then we spoke to his friend and peer Garcia, who gave us a totally different approach to this “authentically prepared” dish: “I like regular Setaro spaghetti, with some nice guanciale. I get it crispy, and the stop the process with a little pasta water,” Garcia said. “And when I use the egg, I make sure it’s just the yolk…I like to have some scallions in there too.” We give up. There is no final definitive carbonara recipe. We just have to go around eating all the different variations, and hope that the world never runs out of them, the ITChefs – GVCI notwithstanding.