Food carries significant weight in Italy, forming a crucial part of its national identity. Recently, a contentious debate has erupted concerning the preparation of carbonara pasta sauce.

Luca Cesari, a respected food historian and author from Bologna, encountered a barrage of online criticism after he uploaded a video on Instagram presenting what he claimed to be the original version of carbonara, considered a classic in Roman cooking. In contrast to the usual blend of Italian pecorino cheese and cured pork cheek mixed with eggs to create a creamy sauce, Cesari’s carbonara showcased Swiss gruyere cheese, garlic, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Cesari justified his choice by referring to a recipe published in an Italian cookery magazine almost 70 years ago, aiming to demonstrate the evolution of the recipe over time. He explained that he had simply remade the 1954 carbonara, the first one featured in the ‘Cucina Italiana’ magazine, stating it was not his fault if that had been the carbonara recipe at the time. Alberto Grandi, another food historian who has faced scrutiny for challenging established Italian culinary traditions, defended Cesari. Grandi, through his own Instagram video, criticized what he described as “gastronationalism,” urging for rational discussions about Italian cuisine. Other deviations Italians view as culinary offenses include serving pasta with ketchup or adding pineapple to pizza, along with an unwritten rule against ordering cappuccino after lunch. Cesari expressed his unwavering commitment and suggested the possibility of producing more culinary content. He mentioned that the previous video was just the beginning and shared plans for preparing a new video focusing on the traditional Neapolitan pizza from the 1800s, incorporating clams.