Authentic or not, one bite brought tears to my eyes…

One bite, and my eyes got watery and my chest did that fuzzy, fluttery thing.

Isn’t it funny how food can do that to you? Or even certain scents and smells? It hits you like a jolt of electricity and makes you forget what you’re doing for a second. I’m not talking about an unpleasant feeling, I’m talking about a taste that threw me right into rush-hour traffic on Memory Lane.

With that one bite, I closed my eyes and could see my mom in her kitchen, serving up spaghetti carbonara from the oversized bowl that she used to toss together all of the ingredients for this particular memory-evoking dish.

I’ve ordered carbonara several times at restaurants and each time thought to myself, “They must not know how to make it… where’s the Italian sausage? The tomatoes and the creaminess? This is good, but it’s kinda plain.”

How was it that all the restaurants forgot those important components of the dish? Was it just a matter of interpretation? Maybe. Bear with me, Italian friends.

It was a matter of interpretation, all right… it was my mom’s interpretation that gave me the wrong ideas about what carbonara was, bless her non-Italian heart.

In my ever-evolving food knowledge, I’ve discovered that Mom’s Spaghetti Carbonara is about as un-carbonara as it gets. Somewhere along the way, authenticity went out the window and Italian sausage, heavy cream and chopped tomatoes climbed in and made themselves right at home.

Authentic carbonara is a simple, comforting dish made with egg yolk, Pecorino Romano cheese, pancetta, black pepper, and pasta. According to some, “under no circumstances can be there be any other additions, and that goes double for cream.”

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This was delicious carbonara I ate at Stellina in Marfa. But wait, there are peas… so… hmmmm.

Oops. And all this time, I thought the sausage and cream were what made it extra delicious.

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Pouring cream into sausage and crumbled bacon was magical.

I’ve had Mom’s recipe for spaghetti carbonara in my tattered recipe book for about 23 years… and I’ve only made it once, about 23 years ago. Back then, in my youthful inexperience, I thought it was too difficult to make and would just ask Mom to make it when I needed my carbonara fix.

When I recently made it for the first time in over two decades, I found it to be one of the easiest, most flavorful things to come together in my kitchen in ages. Why I’ve not made it before now, I don’t know. It’s always been a favorite of mine, but I guess I’d forgotten about it. One bite reminded me of how much I enjoyed it.

my bowl of mom's pasta carbonara, and yes, i ate the whole thing.

My darling even had seconds, and not just because we skipped lunch that day and he was on the brink of keeling over from starvation. He actually liked it, and said so.

“It’s not really carbonara but it tastes really good,” he said. He gave high praise and made those good eating sounds with every bite, and I don’t take those compliments lightly. He’s half-Italian and has no problem telling me exactly what he thinks of every meal I serve. Since he taught me at least half of everything I know in the kitchen, I don’t mind his constructive criticism too much.

Even my al dente pasta (I used penne rather than spaghetti) was perfect, or as the Italians say, “Perfetto.” I love when a meal comes together so well.

Whether you opt for authentic carbonara or my Mom’s not-so-authentic version, you are likely to end up making those good eating sounds, too. Leftovers are even better, if you ask me.

a big pot of mom's pasta carbonara came together with little effort.


Mom’s Spaghetti Carbonara

16 oz. spaghetti (I used penne so it was Penne Carbonara)

8 slices bacon

1 lb. Italian sausage (I added extra fennel and red pepper flakes)

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tsp. minced parsley

3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 can (16 oz.) tomatoes, drained, chopped

2 eggs, slightly beaten

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese (Romano is okay, I used fresh grated Parmesan because that’s what I had)

½ cup cream, canned milk, or milk

Freshly ground pepper

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Crumble and set aside. Drain off fat. Add sausage, garlic and parsley and cook until sausage is done. Stir in tomatoes and bacon, mix with spaghetti. Quickly scramble eggs, add eggs and remaining ingredients to spaghetti. Toss lightly. Add chiffonade fresh basil as garnish if you like (Chiffonade basil – leaves are stacked, rolled like a cigar and sliced thin to make thin ribbons of basil). Serves 6 to 8.


5 thoughts on “Authentic or not, one bite brought tears to my eyes…

  1. Oh Krysta, this looks soooo good! I think I’ll make this for Sunday dinner, with a salad and some gaahhhlic (Goodfellas) bread. And I add pepper flakes to everything I make, lol. Thanks for posting. Have you made it to El Paso for your Costco trip yet?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! It is so delicious. When we ate the last of it, I was ready to make more (but didn’t), and THAT hardly EVER happens!!! Let me know how it turns out for Sunday dinner… and what kind of pasta you use 🙂 Between pepper flakes and bacon, everything improves… HA!!! Don’t get me started on buttah, which is on my ever-growing Costco list when we finally break away from the mountains to head to the Big City 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. SSoooo I made this on Sunday for dinner…and it was awesome!!! I did add chicken though because I have three grown sons that if it doesn’t have some kind of meat it’s only a side dish, lol. And I didn’t take a picture of it but it was spectacular! I just wanted to let you know. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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