When it comes to food, there are some things the Italians hold very dear to their hearts – pizza, lasagne... and, of course, spaghetti carbonara, traditionally made with pasta, egg yolks, pecorino cheese and guanciale cured meat.
So, it’s no wonder there was outrage across the country last month, when the New York Times – the US’s leading newspaper – published a very unusual recipe.
Called ‘smoky tomato carbonara’, the recipe, by chef Kay Chun, featured not only tomatoes, but bacon and parmesan cheese, all of which are completely unheard of in the centuries-old meal.
Although the chef did acknowledge her unconventional ingredients – ‘tomatoes are not traditional in carbonara, but they lend a bright tang to the dish’ – foodies were immediately outraged by the substitutions for almost every element.
On social media, one indignant user wrote: ‘This isn’t remotely close to being a carbonara. Stop this madness’.
The recipe, published in the newspaper’s cooking supplement, soon attracted the ire of top Italian chefs, as well as the national famers’ association, which described it as the ‘tip of the iceberg in the falsification of traditional Italian dishes’.
It’s not the first time foreigners have messed with Italian food, adding pineapple to pizza (yuck) and chicken to pasta (blasphemous) – but it is the first time such a contentious interpretation has been published by the New York Times.
‘I follow the NYT on Instagram and thought it was a fake,’ said Rome-based chef Alessandro Pipero, who’s known as The Carbonara King. ‘It would be like putting salami in a cappuccino or mortadella in sushi. OK, fine, but then let’s not call it sushi.’
Coldiretti, the farmers’ union, went further still, claiming that fakery in traditional dishes ‘trivialises our local specialities’ and ‘removes the authentic dish from the market’.
So the New York Times is in Italians’ bad books – and it’s still recovering from a major faux pas over here. In 2018, it published a recipe describing the Yorkshire pudding as a ‘large, fluffy pancake, excellent for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dessert’.
Clearly its food writers have a lot to learn about cuisine beyond its 50 states.