HOW PASTA BECAME A PART OF THANKSGIVING
The very mention of Thanksgiving invokes delicious visions of the iconic roast turkey with stuffing and gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberries, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pies. Pasta, and specifically spaghetti carbonara, have crept into this vision since 1981 when writer Calvin Trillin (https://goo.gl/sDvl7P) campaigned in The New Yorker magazine to make Thanksgiving Spaghetti Carbonara Day!
Spaghetti carbonara (or some other fabulous and delightfully simple pasta dish), according to Trillin, better suited this holiday since the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus has been credited with discovering America. “…[N]obody knows if the Pilgrims really ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving dinner,” he wrote. “The only thing we know for sure about what the Pilgrims ate is that it couldn’t have tasted very good.” [Hear Calvin Trillin reading the original “Spaghetti Carbonara Day” in a past episode of Burnt Toast here: https://goo.gl/n5fBDn]
Regardless of the tastiness of the first Thanksgiving, now imagine a Thanksgiving table with a platter heaped with a mountain of aromatic pasta carbonara in the center, flanked on all sides with colorful salads and vegetables, sparkling burgundy cranberry sauce, buttery golden sweet potatoes nestled in snowy marshmallows, billowing whipped potatoes, brilliant green beans, and an array of pies. A beautiful sight that’s just as tasty—with room for some turkey on the side for those who want it.
Historically speaking, it’s true that carbonara came from Italy after the Mayflower. History records more than 400 versions of the classic carbonara from Italy but the basic recipe consists of just five ingredients, all with pasta as the base: cured pork, egg, cheese, butter or oil, and black pepper. The dish is believed by some to come from the Appenine mountains of Abruzzo, where woodcutters cooked penne rather than spaghetti because it is easier to toss over a hardwood charcoal fire with the eggs and cheese. Others attribute the recipe to Allied military rations of powdered egg and bacon used by hungry Italians to dress up dried pasta during the severe food shortages after the liberation of Rome in 1944.
Whether you prefer the classic recipe with guanciale (cured pig cheeks) and pecorino cheese made from sheep’s milk, or the numerous variations with pancetta (cured pork belly), bacon, or even imitation bacon bits (to say nothing of peas, onion, Parmesan cheese and the blasphemous cream that annoy traditionalists), you know it will taste terrific.
What matters most? Pasta is good for the body and for the soul, even if you are arguing with a mouthful about the right pasta shape or recipe origins!
Wishing you all a very carbonara Thanksgiving!
TASTY TIPS FOR CARBONARA
Carbonara can be deceptively tricky to make, but even flops are tasty. The following tips should help make your dish the best ever:
Use the best ingredients you can afford for spectacular results.
Bring eggs to room temperature for extra creamy results.
Chop the guanciale, pancetta, or bacon to about the size of peanuts and sizzle over medium heat just until the fat renders. Avoid making it too crisp.
Time your pasta to be done with the rendered meat. Mix them together in a large heated bowl and quickly stir in the eggs and cheese to prevent eggs from getting scrambled.
Add pasta water to make it creamier. Science shows cream deters the eggs from getting scrambled by hot meat or freshly cooked pasta.
Use freshly cracked pepper and lots of it for a terrific aroma and flavor.
Carbonara is best eaten right away, so serve immediately. ENJOY!