What Is Chilaquiles Carbonara?
Chilaquiles Carbonara blends together the creamy flavors of Roman Carbonara with the zestiness of Mexican Chilaquiles. Egg is the common ingredient between these two dishes which fuses nicely together in this hybrid recipe. We took rigatoni pasta tossed in an egg and pecorino cheese sauce, then drizzled salsa verde and topped it off with crispy italian-herb breadcrumbs, cilantro and queso fresco.
This dish would serve as an amazing brunch meal with a nice mimosa or margarita!
Where’d It Come From?
Let me preface this by saying that I’m about to be very dramatic. But the first time I tried carbonara in Rome, it changed my life (didn’t I warn ya?). Up to that point, all of my pre-Rome carbonaras were extremely decadent and filled with cream – which, if you’ve ever eaten carbonara in the US, you know what I mean. The thing is, traditional, authentic carbonara is not made with cream. It’s made of very simple ingredients – egg, guanciale (pork cheek, though may be subbed for bacon or pancetta based on availability), pecorino cheese, and pasta. And IT-IS-A-LOT-BETTER. Roman carbonara is indeed still very rich, but somehow light at the same time, not to mention very flavorful if you use high-quality ingredients. And that is my very long way of saying carbonara comes from Rome!
Chilaquiles dates back to Aztecan history but has since been most closely associated with the Mexican culture. I first had chilaquiles at Anepalco in Orange, CA – which is known for their chilaquiles (if you’re ever in the Disneyland area, definitely stop by). Though I’d have to argue that their huevo divorciados is even better!
Read on for more historical deats..
Origins of the Chilaquiles
Now known as a staple in Mexican cuisine (as well as brunch culture in SoCal and Texas), Chilaquiles goes all the way back to the Aztecs. In fact, the word “chilaquiles” comes from the Nahuatl (Uto-Aztecan) language which means chile water. Over the centuries, chilaquiles has made its way through parts of Honduras, Guatemala, and of course, Mexico.
Chilaquiles was initially created as a method for repurposing stale tortillas – as the tortillas would find a renewed state of deliciosity after being fried and tossed in salsa (I really think this applies to everything). Since then, it has established itself as a fine food for concluding a long night of partying and drinking, as well as the cornerstone of any great brunch spot in the Southwest of the US.
Origins of Carbonara
Carbonara had its beginnings in Rome in either the mid 19th or 20th century – depending on who you’re asking. Its origin is often associated with coal miners (known in Italian as carbonai) who were said to have gathered the ingredients from local farmers, cooked it over a wood fire with just one pot, then brought the recipe with them down from the mountains.
A still spoken but more highly disputed claim is that the dish came from American GIs from WWII who had locals cook from their rations of bacon and eggs. Of course there is no proof to this story and it seems unlikely that carbonara was made from powdered eggs.
We also don’t know when cream was added to the carbonara recipe, though some believe it was brought in during a time when one of the key ingredients in the traditional dish was scarce (likely eggs). Luckily restaurants in Rome, as well as many amazing chefs around the world, continue to preserve the very basic, authentic, and incredible carbonara recipe – which I find far superior.
How’s It Made?
Makes: 4 servings | Active prep/cook time: 45 minutes minutes
Tortilla Bread Crumbs
4 small corn tortillas
¼ tsp italian seasoning
½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese
4 tsp oil
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
16 oz of pancetta
16 oz of rigatoni pasta
6 oz grated pecorino cheese
½ cup sparkling water
¼ tsp ground cumin
Splash of white wine
Pinch of black pepper
Crumbled queso fresco
Red or green salsa
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a food processor, process all the breadcrumb ingredients on low until you get a coarse breadcrumb texture.
Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and create an even layer. Bake for 5 minutes, mix, and replace in oven for another 3 - 5 minutes or until crisp.
In a small saucepan, heat salsa on low and keep it warm, stirring occasionally.
In a large pot, cook pancetta over medium heat with cumin and a splash of wine for 10 minutes or until crispy. Remove from heat, drain most of fat, and place pot of pancetta to the side to cool.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
Once pancetta has cooled, beat eggs and add it to the pot along with the pepper.
Once pasta has finished cooking, strain and add it to the pot of pancetta along with 6 oz of cheese and sparkling water.
Heat pot over medium heat and immediately mix the ingredients together very rapidly until smooth (about 10 seconds). You want the egg to stay in sauce form, not solidify.
Plate carbonara and top with a drizzle of salsa, tortilla bread crumbs, queso fresco, and chopped cilantro. As an optional addition, add a fried egg and some avocado!