Home/ News / World/  Who invented carbonara pasta first, Italians or Americans?

A food expert's claim that carbonara, a traditional Italian pasta dish made with eggs, pork cheek, pecorino cheese and pepper, is actually American, has sparked a food fight between Italy and America. 

What is America's claim?

Alberto Grandi, a food historian at the University of Parma, wrote in La Repubblica that the “value and history" of Italian cuisine were surrounded by “misunderstandings". Grandi claimed that the dish actually came from Americans who were in Italy after the Second World War. 

“Maybe once a year we ate amatriciana [a tomato-based recipe with bacon], when we could afford to kill a pig. But I’d never heard of Carbonara before the war," he told the Financial Times.

“The first recipe that was publicised is from 1953 in Chicago. Many Italians went to America, so practically all the cooking — all the Italian kitchen is Italo-American, " Grandi was quoted as saying by Euronews.

He further claimed that many Italian classics, from panettone to tiramisù, are relatively recent inventions and that practically all the Italian kitchen is Italo-American.

How did Italy react? 

The controversy comes just days after Rome attempted to have Italian cuisine added to the UNESCO list of cultural heritage. Coldiretti, Italy's national farmers association, called Grandi's claim a “surreal attack on the iconic dishes of Italian cuisine". 

Deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini added “experts and newspapers are envious of our tastes and beauty". 

However, Grandi remained undeterred, stating that the row was "a nationalistic controversy" and that some had even alleged that he was part of an "anti-Italian conspiracy". He claimed that with his studies he had shown that many preparations derive from the last 50 to 60 years of history and from interactions with American culture.

This is not the first time that carbonara has caused controversy. In 2021, The New York Times' cooking supplement published a recipe for "Smoky Tomato Carbonara" which included tomatoes and replaced pork cheek and pecorino with bacon and parmesan. The recipe led to a furore in Italy, with Coldiretti calling it “a disturbing knockoff of the prestigious dish from Italian popular tradition" and complained that carbonara was “one of the most disfigured Italian recipes".


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Updated: 01 Apr 2023, 10:23 PM IST
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