4175 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale
Purists will tell you traditional Italian carbonara sauce ingredients are simple: egg yolks, bacon (usually guanciale or pancetta), Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper, with the yolks whisked into freshly cooked pasta right before serving. But the dish has numerous iterations. At EVO, Executive Chef Steven Fowler serves a carbonara appetizer ($12, pictured) with the silky sauce wrapped around pillows of gnocchi pan-fried until golden brown. To prepare the sauce, he fries the pancetta to render the fat, adds cream, black pepper and a little pasta water reserved from cooking, then folds in Parmesan cheese. After adjusting for consistency and seasoning, Fowler tosses the gnocchi with the sauce, adds fresh peas and floats an egg yolk on top for a blast of umami. “This is more of an Americanized version of the dish,” Fowler says.
68 W. Buffalo St., Chandler
By many accounts, carbonara originated in mid-19th-century Rome as a hearty pasta dish often served to coal miners. The abundance of coarsely ground black pepper resembled bits of coal, or carbone, hence the name of the dish, says La Stalla’s chef/owner Paolo Vetrati. Tossed with spaghetti, Vetrati’s carbonara ($18) combines smoked bacon, egg yolks, a little cream and Pecorino Romano to make a velvety sauce that clings to the pasta like a lover’s embrace. Pecorino Romano is a key ingredient and shouldn’t be substituted, Vetrati says. “This dish is from Rome and Romans use Pecorino Romano,” he says. Vetrati’s advice: “Don’t be overwhelmed because carbonara is a little bit fattening. It’s just for the enjoyment of eating.”
La Piazza PHX
1 N. First St., Phoenix
Chef/owner Justin Piazza’s spaghetti carbonara ($12) – loaded with creamy egg, Pecorino Romano, green peas and black pepper – is studded with bits of guanciale (cured pig jowl) sourced from local craft butcher The Meat Shop, which gives the dish a slightly more pronounced pork flavor – and more delicate texture – than pancetta-based carbonaras. Piazza and staff pump out a smooth pepper-flecked sauce with a hint of nutmeg that blends well with the deftly prepared spaghetti. Carbonara can be tricky to make because if the eggs get too hot, you end up with a scrambled mess. No worries here. La Piazza PHX’s well-crafted sauce doesn’t cross over into breakfast territory.
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