Some things shouldn't be tampered with.
Not many things are guaranteed in this life but one thing's for certain - you don't argue with an Italian person when it comes to pasta recipes. Swapping guanciale for pancetta or plain old parmesan being used instead of pecorino sourced directly from sheep grazing in the Sardinian countryside is unforgivable enough, but adding something completely new to the mix? You're asking for trouble.
The New York Times have learned this the hard way, after daring to post a Smoky Tomato Carbonara recipe. Madone.
Image via David Malosh/New York Times
The publication daring to add tomatoes to the traditional dish has resulted in a 128% surge in searches for ‘tomato carbonara’ this week, with hundreds taking to Twitter to weigh in.
Y’all just declared war on Italy 😂
— Woke Stasi ☭ (@clerical_terror) January 30, 2023
When asked whether it's ever acceptable to tamper with the classics, Head of Culinary at HelloFresh Ireland Hannah Duxbury had this to say:
“Sometimes with adaptations of classics there can be backlash, but that doesn’t necessarily mean alternatives are inherently bad or wrong. For me, this is an uninspiring effort of a carbonara as adding tomato alters the core flavours that make… Well a carbonara.”
“When adapting a classic dish, it’s best to understand and respect why a dish works and amend it to enhance those qualities or flavours by picking ingredients that are complementary and don’t add conflict to the dish.”
In a potentially risky move, Hello Fresh have cautiously suggested three potential variations on the classic carbonara, "because sometimes you crave a little more than a simple dish".
The alternatives are as follows:
Truffle Mushroom & Parsley Carbonara
If you’re fancying something a little more eloquent than your typical carbonara, adding closed cup mushrooms, a bunch of flat leaf parsley and some truffle zest works a treat. The flavours of the mushrooms and parsley adds to and intensifies the creaminess of the sauce from the beaten eggs and Pecorino Romano. You could even turn this into a veggie option by removing the meat and using a couple more mushrooms. (Optional: add cashews for a subtle crunch).
While your pasta is boiling, thinly slice the mushrooms. Roughly chop the parsley (stalks and all). Heat a pan of oil, add the mushrooms and fry until golden for 4-5 mins. Stir in the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 mins. Then sprinkle in the truffle zest and half the chopped parsley. Stir through and cook for one more minute before bringing all of the ingredients together.
Chorizo & Lemon Carbonara
The slight spiciness throughout this dish builds on the light, subtlety of the original, while the acidity of the lemon helps bind with the beaten egg to balance it out. This works better than adding tomatoes, as this enhances the creaminess and adds depth without totally changing the core flavour and texture of a classic carbonara.
For this one, cook this the same as a regular carbonara but swap out the guanciale for the chorizo, cooking as normal. Then at the final step when you combine all of the ingredients in a pan, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, stir and then serve.
A simple take on the traditional carbonara, with spinach, the only added ingredient. This adds colour and nutrition, while the slight earthiness of the spinach adds a new layer of texture. I recommend using a small handful of spinach chopped into small pieces, this way the texture isn’t changed too dramatically. If the pieces of spinach are too large, the dish won’t feel as balanced (the same goes for the amount of spinach used).
Chop the spinach, add a pinch of salt; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly until the spinach wilts slightly. Set aside, cook the carbonara as normal and then add the spinach in when combining the ingredients at the end before serving.
Would you dare to get experimental next time you bust out the eggs and dried spaghetti? Or would you consider such behaviour sacrilegious? Direct all concerns to the New York Times - they'll be lobbing in a tin of tuna next.
Header image via New York Times