Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chicken Carbonara

Chicken Carbonara?! What?! But Carbonara is supposed to have guanciale (pork cheek), pancetta or at least bacon! Well, I didn't have any of those items, and I was broke at the end of April, so I decided to improvise and use chicken strips in place of the traditional meat for this dish, and guess what? IT. WAS. FANTASTIC!
Oh my goodness. Now I think I'm going to make my carbonara like this in place of the traditional way because 1) it's cheaper 2) not as fatty if you use chicken breasts 3) it tastes lighter. Now, don't get me wrong, the traditional version is much more flavorful because of the flavorful pork, but the other ingredients in carbonara helps retain the same yummy flavor in this chicken version.

I used the recipe I always use, which comes from a video on Italian Food Net (I mentioned this site before when I made the indimenticabili (unforgettable) lasagne al ragù for my friend). I rely on this site for almost all of my traditional, Italian, savory dishes. I love how the videos are in Italian, and the food always looks amazing.
Before I offer you the modified recipe, let me tell you a little story about my first taste of Pasta alla Carbonara (feel free to skip this story and go directly to the recipe :D!):
On my last day in Venezia (Venice), I had a few hours to spare while waiting in the airport. I became hungry and wanted to try out the pasta in Venezia since I had missed out on a lot of savory dishes during my time in Italy after eating copious amounts of gelato al limone.
I approached one of the airport restaurants and asked for Spaghetti alla bolognese, but they were out! My heart sank because I really wanted to try out this dish in Italy. Instead of lamenting over this missed opportunity, I ordered the only other pasta dish available - Pasta alla carbonara.

I had absolutely no idea what this dish was. I just knew that it had a white-looking sauce, so I was disappointed that it didn't have tomatoes in it. I am normally a very picky person, so I was a bit hesitant about trying out this new dish.
I sat down slowly, inspected the dish closely, twirled my fork around the pasta, gulped, and took a bite.

Words cannot describe how I felt after that first taste. All of a sudden, nothing existed but this dish and my tastebuds. I was in pasta heaven. I completely forgot I was in an airport with other people around. The feeling was similar to how I felt when I ate the
gelato in the sense that I don't really recall what happened after that first bite. I came out of my pasta-induced coma only after the last bite.

As soon as I came back home, one of the first things I did was look for that recipe. I was surprised that that white-looking sauce was basically the amalgamation of eggs and pasta water along with a few other ingredients. When I made it at home for the first time, I was once again transported to that time in
Now, with this chicken dish, I didn't have the exact same feeling as I had in Venezia, but I was in pasta nirvana without a doubt. This dish is truly amazing. I am so glad I chose to make this dish in lieu of going out to eat for a quick bite. Please make this dish tonight! If you use store-bought or already-prepared pasta, it doesn't take long to make at all.
Guess how much this plate was?! If you guessed more than 1 U.S. dollar then you've guessed too high. Yep.

Chicken Carbonara
adapted from Italian Food Net
I adapted this recipe for one person, but the full recipe is below.

360 gr. (12.69 oz.) Spaghetti
60 gr. (2.11 oz.) cut, skinless chicken (I used breasts, but you could try other cuts)
80 gr. (2.82 oz.) Parmesan cheese
80 gr. (2.82 oz.) Pecorino cheese (I had only parmigiano reggiano, so I used just that)
4 Eggs, room temperature (one egg per person)
1 Teaspoon black pepper (try to use fresh ground black pepper)
Extra virgin olive oil

Pour the extra virgin olive oil into the frying pan, add a handful of cut chicken breasts, 1 tsp of black pepper, and put the pan on a low heat.

Meanwhile crack the whole egg (1 per person) into a dish, beat it with a fork, add a pinch of black pepper, 1 Tbsp of fresh grated pecorino, 1/2 Tbsp of parmigiano reggiano, and beat it again to incorporate all of the ingredients.

Now put spaghetti into a pot of boiling salted water, 90-110 Gr. (3.17-3.88 Oz.) per person.

Continue to cook the chicken on low heat until it is cooked and brown around the edges. Don't overcook, or it will be too dry.

Once chicken is ready, add a little pasta cooking water into the pan so that the starch of the water helps to mix all the ingredients. Turn off the heat, and wait until the pasta is done cooking (preferably al dente (less cooked than some are used to, especially in the States)!

Once Spaghetti are cooked al dente, do not drain; instead, add more pasta water to the chicken to create a sort of watery "sauce". Next, drain the pasta (reserving the pasta water), and put it into the pan, add a little more pasta cooking water.

Take the cheese/egg mixture; beat it again, and pour it into the pan. (I suggest turning off the heat at this point, but the cook in the video kept it on. I had some scrambled eggs at the bottom of my skillet by following his method)

Stir slowly, sautè, add a little pecorino cheese, a little parmesan cheese, and a little more pasta cooking water. Stir again over low heat, and if the pan is too hot remove it from heat.

Transfer the pasta to a serving dish garnished with a little pecorino and a parmesan, add the sauce (i.e., the pasta water and oil leftover from cooking the chicken) all over the spaghetti and serve in a HOT dish.


  1. Mmmm, that looks wonderful - delicious and light indeed. I think I'll give it a try soon. Thanks for the wonderful photos... and the great new food site - I love it. There's is just something about the Italian language... and people :)



  2. I love pasta carbonara!
    Never tried it with chicken, but it sounds good. It reminds me of a dish that my mum used to make when we were little - with eggs, chicken and onions. It was always a bit of a treat. A very tasty treat!

  3. What a great idea adding chicken to carbonara sauce. Looks delicious!

  4. Wow, looks amazing! So delicious and mouth-watering :-)

    Have a nice day!

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  6. I love spaghetti carbonara. there's something about that eggy sauce that is just delicious. I've never had it with chicken (only with turkey bacon - surprisingly REALLY good!) but this looks fantastic.

  7. Cheaper than 1 dollar?? Ok, that IS seriously pasta heaven. It looks delicious Memoria. Love your Venezia story too. :)

  8. I love simple pasta dishes with great flavor. This certainly fits the bill. Nice job!

  9. Love your story about your first taste of carbonara. Happy food memories are the best :D

  10. I kind of want this right now. Nice sub for the bacon! Probably made it a bit healthier too :)

  11. classic dish....I never get tired of it... :)

  12. Okay, when I come see you next week, Memoria, you HAVE to make this dish for me! It looks so good, and it is made up of a just a few of my favorite things! I am ready, and I love your less-than-a-dollar bowl--very thrifty!

    See ya soon!

  13. what matters is that it tastes delicious ... and bonus that it is cheap as well. yay!

  14. This needs to be in my belly immediately. I've had a bunch of different variations of carbonara in Italy, and they've all been fantastic.

  15. That's a nice take on the original recipe! A yummy dish!



  16. We don't eat pork, so I usually do my carbonara with bresaola!!!!
    Why not try it with chicken?


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