When I lived in Barcelona, my Italian roommate and I would cook side-by-side. She wanted to learn how to cook gluten-free since her nephew had Celiac and I wanted to learn how to make traditional Italian food. Surprisingly, most Italian food is easily converted to gluten-free. One day, inspired by a recent acquisition of Parmigiano-Reggiano (which is fairly difficult to find in Spain) at a market, Michela wanted to treat our roommates to pasta alla carbonara.
Carbonara is the closest thing to eggs and bacon as Italians get. The basics of pasta alla carbonara are pasta, cured fatty pork, grated cheese, eggs, and black pepper. Just like my lovely Italian roommate, carbonara is straight forward and beautiful, but can be temperamental if not treated correctly. Michela worked at a restaurant in Bologna for years while putting herself through university and told me that the name refers to the carbon black color from fresh cracked black pepper. The black pepper has to be visible in order for it to be a carbonara according to her. Though the recipe sounds simple, I cannot emphasis how important mise en place is for making it well. That means having everything ready to rock and roll. Otherwise, you would risk, as my Italian friend would say, “Disastro!” This dish comes together very quickly with high reward.