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Pasta alla Carbonara alla Giudea

June 17, 2021
Photo by the authorRome’s Jewish ghetto neighborhood.Photo by the author

It’s been 32 years since Calvin Trillin’s famous proposal, in the New Yorker, that Spaghetti alla Carbonara replace turkey as our national Thanksgiving dish. After all, Trillin argued, the Indians could have brought it to that first Thanksgiving dinner (their ancestors having learned how to make it from Christopher Columbus).

In the intervening years, the Carbonaristas have not abandoned the cause. Last Thanksgiving, the New York Times published Ian Fisher’s account of attempting to master this seemingly simple Roman dish, which, at its most basic—and therefore, its best—involves a sauce of eggs enhanced with some form of bacon (usually guanciale or pancetta), and, on top of that, Pecorino Romano cheese.

Featured in: A Thanksgiving Pasta Inspired by Roman Jews


  • 1lb spaghetti or tagliolini or penne
  • 1small onion, very finely diced
  • 4tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4medium zucchini (1 1/2 lbs.), cut vertically into quarters, then thinly sliced
  • 4egg yolks, room temperature
  • 4heaping tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Pinch salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


(adapted from the recipe of Umberto Pavoncello)

  • Step 1

    Put water on to boil for pasta.

  • Step 2

    In a saucepan large enough to accommodate all of the pasta when it is cooked, heat the olive oil.

  • Step 3

    Saute the onion in the olive oil until soft, then add the finely sliced pieces of zucchini and sauté until it starts to turn golden. Turn off the heat.

  • Step 4

    Add the pasta to the boiling water and while it is cooking, put the egg yolks, grated pecorino, a pinch of salt, and the black pepper into a bowl and beat the mixture until blended.

  • Step 5

    When the pasta is just short of al dente, drain it, reserving 1/4 cup of the water it was cooked in.

  • Step 6

    Quickly reheat the zucchini and onion mixture in the saucepan, then add the drained pasta, and the 1/4 cup of cooking water, and toss briefly.

  • Step 7

    Turn off the heat, and quickly pour in the egg mixture, stirring just until the sauce is thoroughly cooked and the pasta is coated. Do not let the sauce harden and coagulate so the eggs it contains scramble.

  • Step 8

    Serve immediately, accompanied by a bowl of grated Pecorino Romano and the pepper grinder so that your guests can add as much extra cheese and pepper as they wish.