If you've only eaten Italian food in Dallas, there's a good chance you've never had real spaghetti carbonara. The traditional version of the dish turns eggs, cheese and fat into a delicious sauce that completely integrates with the pasta. Chefs have supplemented the dish with cream, herbs and sometimes booze, but when made with high-quality ingredients the most simple version of this dish is by far the most impressive.
Most recipes published in the States call for bacon or pancetta, but the really good ones will mention guanciale -- at least as a footnote. It's the traditional meat for this dish and lends a velvety tactile quality that you won't get from pancetta. Guanciale also lacks the smoke of bacon, allowing the true flavor of the pork to come through.
I bring this up because after looking for some time, I've finally spotted freshly cured guanciale for sale to the public here in Dallas. The folks at Carbone's have been curing pig jowl and other meats on-site and I spotted these two specimens a few days ago.
At $20 a pound the charcuterie is expensive, but a little goes a long way. A quarter pound is plenty to navigate this recipe for carbonara successfully, but don't stop there. Pasta all'amatriciana is another dish that uses the same cut. With tomatoes and heat from red chili flakes this recipe will have your friends calling you Nonna regardless of your age or gender.
Get thee to Carbone's for some guanciale (you may want to call ahead) and then grab a pasta pot and a sautee pan. You could have pasta that's better than many Italian restaurants in Dallas in just a few hours from now.
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