Posted by: edibleplanet | July 15, 2009

Carbonara – looking back instead of forward

A few months ago I saw a healthy eating programme on the local television station. A viewer had written in with their Carbonara recipe asking if it could be made more healthy so they could keep enjoying it.

I was surprised at the ingredient list that included a cup of cheddar cheese and a whole lot of cream. I was even more surprised at the show host’s response. She changed the cheddar cheese for a “lite” version, she changed the cream for a evaporated milk or some other lower fat option and she added vegetables to make it healthy. I will admit to yelling at the television during this bit of the show.

The good recipes that last through the generations in any culture are made by usually the women and they are a lot like me – cooking the dinner with small children in tow. So if it seems too hard, there is likely to be another way. It helps me to think about the surroundings the recipes were developed in. Some Italian pasta recipes do use cream. If you had a cow for your milk, you would have some cream lying about the place from milking, it seems logical you would mix it into your pasta sauce. But it would not be a lot.

Back to the Carbonara – a quick look up on the internet and I found this recipe. In this one there is no cream. Sure there will be a number of variations but the viewer could have enjoyed a more authentic and healthier carbonara by looking backwards. It seems today we often complicate recipes and ingredients to give us so called healthier food but if we just look back, the answers are already there and usually with more flavour.

Over the past few years, I have read a huge number of cook books and food travel books. A brilliant one on understanding Italian cuisine is “Eating up Italy” by Matthew Fort – it is in the Christchurch library. One of the lessons I have learnt from reading all these books is if an everyday recipe seems over the top in ingredients or has numerous steps, it has probably been fiddled with beyond recognition and it is worth looking for a more original version (hooray for the internet). The one proviso to this theory, is if there is specialised equipment in that culture that everyone has, that makes it easier. Not only will the original version be easier, usually it is tastier and healthier too.

I recommend that Carbonara recipe it is certainly worth trying – easy, fast and delicious.

–Fiona

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