Growing up in New York with Italian American roots has been an important influence throughout my childhood and formative years. During the last Italian-themed episode of Kitchen 143, and after spending time chatting with Chefs Paolo and Alessandro from The European Diner, I realized how some dishes of comfort and love shift when interpreted in a different country, with different ingredients, and far from home. Of course, these very same dishes take on a different meaning when changed and adapted to Filipino taste buds, too!
Take the dish that so many of us know and love, which has been done many different ways all over the world. One can argue that there really is only one authentic way to cook Spaghetti Carbonara (especially, if you are of Italian descent), but for foodies all over world, this dish has been interpreted and done many different ways to please palettes of all kinds.
Funny thing, when I approached Chefs Paolo and Alex, carbonara was the first thing we spoke about. They were quite passionate about how a proper carbonara should be done, much the same way I was passionate about the Italian American dishes that I would create when I first moved to Manila. From that conversation, I knew that we had to feature this dish for the first episode in our Italian series.
Much like other dishes that are native to one particular region, authentic carbonara starts with the simplest of ingredients and are few in number. It’s a dish that is more about quality than quantity, and can be done in minutes with very little fanfare. All you need is guanciale, egg yolks, pecorino romano, cracked black pepper, and spaghetti.
Chef Paolo Durante
120 grams of spaghetti
2 egg yolks
60 grams of guanciale
50 grams of pecorino romano cheese
Black ground pepper
Slice guanciale into bite sized pieces.
Fry in a non-stick pan and let the meat “sweat.” This means it will cook in its fat without using any additional oil.
Boil salted water (10g of rock salt for each liter of water.)
To prepare the saucem beat the egg yolks, pecorino cheese, and black pepper to mix until it is thick and creamy.
Once the guanciale is crunchy, separate it from the fat, and let each cool separately.
When the fat has cooled, add to the creamy egg mixture for extra flavor.
By now, the water should be boiling.
Throw your spaghetti in the water, being careful to cook to a perfect al dente.
Once done, add the spaghetti to the frying pan with the guanciale, add the eggs and cream, and let the magic happen.
“The ingredients are simple,” said Paolo Durante, “and have not always been easy to find.” Through the years, his visits and vacations evolved into him finally settling in Manila and eventually opening up TED in Uptown Mall, BGC. Together with his partner Alessandro Sbraga, The European Diner prides itself in offering a place of respite in the middle of a pandemic. Using quality ingredients and touches of the shared history as Roman neighbors and friends, they put together a menu that is casual and pleasing to their diners, while also offering a place to blow off steam and enjoy an Aperol spritz after a WFH kinda day.
Simple ingredients that are now easier to find here in Manila can certainly help home cooks level up the dishes that we serve to our families when craving a more authentic Italian experience. This includes shelf stable pantry staples, like a variety of pasta and canned tomatoes, canned vegetables, and even easier options for creating popular Italian desserts that are favorites among kids and adults. Household names that are available through distributors like Oriental Merchants source products from both Italy and Spain, making it even easier to throw meals together that are fun and nutritious.
Fresh options for Italian cheeses are now available nationwide, through homegrown brands like Casa del Formaggio. Since 2014, couple and business partners Isabelle and Francesco Patron have been providing fresh and aged cheeses for many of the Italian restaurants that we are all familiar with. Cheeses are, of course, a vital part of Italian cooking and cuisine, and opens up layers of flavors that are complimentary and pleasing to any dish that cooks can create at home.
Perhaps with the new availability of imported and locally sourced goods that lead to more authentic experiences in dining and preparing meals at home, it simply isn’t enough for those of us who enjoy all things Italian. The place to further learn and explore Italian culture and language is found through the Philippine Italian Association in Makati. Focusing educational efforts on art, music, and culture, this foundation has been providing learning opportunities for both Filipinos and Italian nationals who have made the Philippines their home.
In fact, if you would like to kick off a new learning experience that is fun for the whole family, you can create your favorite Italian dish with this recipe from Chef Paolo while enjoying the Italian Film Festival at home. – Rappler.com