Rome recipe: Carbonara with artichokes

April is peak season for local carciofi romaneschi and it’s important to devour them in any way possible before saying goodbye for another year.

This recipe gives the classic carbonara a springtime makeover with the addition of finely sliced artichokes, beautifully balancing an earth freshness with the salty crunch of guanciale and creamy sauce of eggs and pecorino.

If the idea of trimming the artichokes is daunting, simply head to the market where stall holders will often clean them for you, cutting down the preparation time of the dish and lessening the risk of injury.

While every Roman grandmother has their preferred method for the perfect carbonara, this version uses the failsafe technique of adding the cooked pasta, guanciale and artichokes to the bowl of eggs, using that heat to ensure the yolks are cooked through, minimising the risk of scrambling and creating a luscious, creamy sauce.

Serves 2
180g pasta (rigatoni or mezze maniche)
200g guanciale
4 egg yolks
60g grated pecorino romano
2 romaneschi artichokes
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Black pepper

Start by cleaning the artichokes. Pull off the hard exterior leaves, make a clean cut across the top (about a quarter of the way down the head), trim the stalk, peeling off the tough, outer layer with a knife.

Cut them in half and remove any hairy choke inside then slice finely and put into a bowl of cold water along with the squeezed lemon and its juice.

Cut the guanciale into strips about half a centimetre wide then place into a pan by itself and turn on the heat. Cook on a medium flame until it is beginning to turn crispy at the edges then remove with a slotted spoon, place on kitchen paper and set aside. Pour the remaining fat left in the pan into a large bowl and leave it to cool.

In a clean pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil for a minute, drain and dry the artichokes and then cook for 4-5 minutes with a pinch of salt then turn off the heat.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until just al dente.

In the meantime, add the egg yolks to the bowl containing the fat from the guanciale (make sure that the fat is cool otherwise the eggs will cook) along with the grated pecorino and some freshly ground black pepper and mix with a spoon until you have a smooth creamy texture.

If the mixture is too dense add a spoonful of the pasta water and continue to stir. Reheat the pan with the artichokes then drain the pasta and add it to the pan, combining well.

Cook for a minute then add to the bowl of egg yolks along with the cooked guanciale. Toss everything together to coat the pasta, the residual heat will cook the eggs and create a silky sauce.

Serve immediately with a sprinkle of pecorino and a crack of black pepper.

Recipe by Kate Zagorski

Kate Zagorski has lived in Italy since 2000. Married to a food-obsessed Roman chef, she leads food tours and also works as a freelance food and travel writer. For more of her recipes see Wanted in Rome recipe page.