Carbonara                                                                                                                         Photo by Donna T. Ruhlman
After posting a gorgeous fatty piece of cured mangalitsa belly I thought I should say how it first went to use.  The other day I asked Donna to have lunch—one of the true pleasures of working from home.  The house is clean and doesn’t thrum with kid energy but most important, we’re not exhausted as we would be if we waited till the end of the day, so we can actually talk to one another about  things that matter to us, reflectively and leisurely.  I don’t want to spend more than 20 minutes or so actually cooking–a spinach salad with lardons, warm bacon fat and shallot dressing with a poached egg, or the above carbonara, which Donna clicked off before we sat down (she’d been shooting custards for me all morning so she was all set up). Carbonara is perhaps my favorite pasta, yet another variation of the bacon-and-eggs pairing, the simpler the better–don’t be snobby about the bacon cut ("Guanciale is the ONLY kind we use," etc.–good smoked bacon is excellent) and keep the frills like peas out of it.  I think the only truly critical point is that you must use freshly grated reggiano.  The fat is the pleasure in this mangalista bacon, so I wanted to use it all, tossing the strips of belly and all the rendered fat with the hot pasta, pouring the cream-yolk mixture over the hot pasta which lightly cooks the sauce, tossing in some freshly grated reggiano, and finishing with chopped flat-leaf parsley.  Serve it with a crusty baguette and a big zinfandel. Any couples out there with kids I cannot recommend highly enough having lunch with your partner, in your home, in the middle of the week, on a regular basis.

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73 Wonderful responses to “Carbonara”

  • artnlit

    This really IS food porn! LOL. Looks/sounds great. Good job, Ruhlman.

  • Kovalic

    I use the Carbonara recipe from the Silver Spoon (http://xrl.us/bjjxo) cookbook. It’s become a staple. I was shocked how easy the recipe really is. Paired with the “no-knead” bread recipe, the two make for one of the easiest, most satisfying home-cooked meals you can get.

  • trish

    Looks delish. I’m hopelessly devoted to Marcella Hazan’s carbonara recipe.

  • ruhlman

    sorry, yes, black pepper. and yes cream–i always use cream–the cream helps to distribute the cheese. Hazan uses white wine and garlic and whole eggs and romano cheese, which seems like overkill to me, and I don’t like raw whites (she’s an authority though and her book is one on of the essential cookbooks, period: Essentials fo Classic Italian Cuisine.

    Carbonara should be simplicity itself.

  • Steve Dunham

    I’ve been using the recipe from “Italian Easy” which doesn’t call for cream. They mash egg yolks with freshly grated reggiano and pecorino romano (I use a 2:1 ratio – their 1:1 ratio seemed a bit salty) and stir it into the cooked pasta.

    The book calls for prosciutto briefly cooked in a fry pan (soft, not crisp) and deglazed with white wine, but recently we’ve switched to Boccalone Pancetta. I’ve also made it with guanciale (from Fatted Calf), but haven’t tried smoked bacon.

  • Min in PDX

    Newbie here, but have been reading this blog for a while. That looks so yummy, it makes me want to change my meal plan I just made, mostly from the Hazan book. My copy is so well worn and marked up.

    Mr. and I should have lunch together more often. He works from home too and I am a supposed stay-at-home mom. Usually we are two ships passing during the day.

  • Kevin

    It took my wife and I a while after our kids got in school to realize that the day time was the best time for us to reconnect. I highly recommend it. Tell the boss you’re sick and head home for lunch and who know what else.

  • Russell

    Haha by coincidence I made Carbonara Wednesday night with homemade pasta and the savory bacon from Charcuterie. It was amazing!

  • Kevin

    Michael,
    That’s one of my favorite dishes as well. I typically use pancetta (boy is it good with the pancetta made using your recipe).

  • Rebecca

    I do this, as well as with bacon, with anchovies, smoked fish, olives, etc. (though not all at once!). Basically any strongly flavored salty thing I have around, pasta, egg, cream, and appropriate cheese makes the best after-bar food I have yet to come across. Sometimes I’ll mash some roasted garlic into the egg and cream. Sometimes I throw in some of the adobo sauce that chipotles are packed in. And this is a spectacular way to use the various cheeses that are flavored with black truffle.

  • John Beaty

    Growing up in Rome in the late 60’s I got to know a number of older italians who had lived through the war. There were 2 distincy styles of carbonara among them: purist and liberal. Purists used guanciale and peccorino romano(or sardo, but not parmesan as it was WAY too expensive), eggs and parsley, the others used anything you could throw into the pot (peas, garlic, anchovies(?), pancetta, etc.) One of the few agreements was no milk product in this dish. This is the roman cucina povera.

    So, since you are catholic on the meat, and different on the cheese, but rigid on the peas, do you consider yourself a purist or a liberal? (not really, just joking.)

    I use saute’d garlic, peas, parsley, Peccorino and Reggiano mixed, and pancetta, because i can’t find guanciale. Bacon is too smoky for my taste in this dish: it overpowers the eggy and cheesey flavors. But acon and Gorgonzola (forte, not dolce), broccoli and pine nuts is a winner.

  • John Beaty

    Oops, missed something: Hazan is wonderful, but IN ITALY is not considered as authoritative as she is outside of Italy. Particularly around the dishes farther from her beloved Venice. A number of Italian friends disagree with her about, well, everything (it’s an Italian thing). The way I learned about it from Romans or all stripes), Carbonara was developed post WWII, and cream (cow’s milk cream, particularly) was about unheard of. Most of the livestock had been killed during the war, and farmers were trying to rebuild flocks and farms. There was little or no infrastructure and no way to keep things cold. Sheep were ubiquitous, and so peccorino and the like were much more common. So too pigs and their associated parts. Guanciale was considered garbage turned into gold, but still looked down on, unlike prosciutto. PAncetta was somewhere in between.

    OK, sorry for the lecture.

  • faustianbargain

    ohmygod! any kind of ‘bacon’ would do and keep the peas out because they are frilly? there is not even a salad in sight!

    lets see..pasta, crusty bread, wine, eggs, cream, cheese, bacon..and uh..parsley. are you allergic to vegetables?

  • Ann Lagravenese

    When I was in Rome years ago, I ate this dish when ever I found it on the menu. I noticed there, they discreetly added a bit of lightly sauteed chopped white onion, which added a bit of sweet crunch to the dish. I also like a nice hefty grating of fresh cracked black pepper.

  • bob

    I think that one of the coolest things about a carbonara is adding the word “of” after it, greatly expanding the potential for flexibilty, as in; a carbonara of pancetta, peas, and parmesan or a carbonara of guanciale, duck egg and sardo. Hows about a carbonara of mangalitsa tessa, aged pecorino, and a side of afternoon delight…sorry, couldn’t stop.
    Steve Dunham- is the Boccalone pancetta as delish as I’m thinking it is? Have been dying to order some, but my wife won’t let me sell the 2nd car.

  • MissV

    I suppose it’s easier to have a nice lunch like that with your partner when your partner isn’t one who really prefers boxed mac & cheese over a version from scratch….

    And I’m a fan of romano for carbonara. Cheaper and we actually prefer the taste.

  • luis

    Yes, fat is tasty. Something about it that really makes us happy. Extra great fat is extra great. No brainer.
    But to use pasta as it is often used in a fat delivery mode is not right for my kitchen. What is it with this foie gras, mangalitza lardons fat kick Michael is on? Is he trying to elevate our fast food fat fix??? or has he just lost it alltogether? Do ingredients reign supreme? are we/is our taste a slave to high calorie meals? I mean don’t get me wrong I am no vegan and definetelly no calorie comando type. I am just worried Michael has just taken a turn for lumberjack type fare in here. Hey, I will have a little pasta and pile on the fat on top of it.
    Again forgive me Michael, I know better..I guess the devil lies in the ” PROPORTIONS”.

  • Sonya

    Most of the time I go with a classic carbonara, but last year I threw in fresh crab from the farmer’s market (I live near San Francisco, so this is normal) halved grape tomatoes, and fresh corn straight off the cob. It was quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever made for myself. I look forward to the day this year when all the ingredients appear at the same time again.

  • Jacqueline Church

    Even bad carbonara is good, isn’t it? Not commentary on anything above, let me quickly add.My first carbonara was made in an electric skillet in a dorm room – by my roommate. Her Long Island boyfriend’s mother had finally shared her recipe for this wonderful Italian dish. (Laura was the daughter of an Irish NYC Police Sgt.)

    As a military brat from a VERY different world, this was a highly exotic concoction. Spaghetti with no tomato sauce? No meatballs? Eggs? A package of bouillion powder (I’d never seen such a thing – who knew Italians used such ingredients?) Bacon, onions and lots of cheese from a green can. (Phew, at least I was familiar with that!)

    Well, we’ve move beyond that – and now I’m a huge fan of >guanciale . Of course, I’m always open to knew things. Belly of almost anything usually is good, have to investigate this new thing…mangalista?

    Good on ya for having an afternoon date. Beautiful photo, too. Enjoy those afternoons – best time of day for many things IMHO!

    Cheers,
    JC

  • paris221966

    The photo is pretty.

    Not everyone is a “couple” or “married.”

    Not everyone has the luxury of working from home. Personally, I think that’s boring.

    I can enjoy my pasta anytime I want to and I have a busy schedule too.

    🙂

  • lifeinrecipes

    I serve individual portions of the bacon-ed pasta each topped with a room temperature yolk from a fresh chicken/duck egg sitting in it’s own half shell. Pour out the yolk and combine.

  • cybercita

    i’d prefer to have “dessert” first and then pig out on that luscious looking plate of pasta!

  • jaye

    Carbonara is my go-to meal of late. I just use the 1:1 egg yolk:cheese method myself, and until last week, the bacon I made from Charcuterie.

  • JoP in Omaha

    Oh, my. A breathtaking photo. Wish I could have a taste. Guess I’ll go make some.

  • luis

    Essentials fo Classic Italian Cuisine. Thank for the tip Michael… Got a bargain price for it @ Amazon. Nice to have a book dedicated to a particular cuisine.
    Got a bunch of stuff cooking… trying eggrolls again. To keep them from picking up oil I am eggwashing each and every crease and fold and chilling them prior to cooking them.
    I wonder if there is something I can brush the inside of the wonton skin with to make them even more oil tight than that?

  • NYCook

    In my opinion the dish just is not the same with out guanciale. While I understand most people don’t have this lying around, they should understand the dish is just not the same. The best method in my opinion(and it is not my method) is the egg whites, cheese and pepper are added to the pasta after it is taken out of the water and into the pan, then after those ingrediants are incorporated andw the pasta is hot, you create a little nest in the bowl and drop an egg yolk in the middle of the nest and serve immedietly. It’s how we did it at my old job. NO CREAM. Makes the diish to heavy.

  • Bob delGrosso

    Cream in carbonara? What are you, French?

    I make it the way NY Cook does except I don’t separate the yolks. That’s a nice touch but it’s a restaurant type refinement that’s not
    all that practical at home.

    BTW, I spent yesterday with Pardus, and Kris Ray (who came with two delightful grad students) in Jackson Heights on a whirlwind tour of Indian restaurants, markets, street vendors etc. It was a fascinating experience although I think it’s going to be a very long time before I eat another lentil or any prepared food that is bright pink, orange or yellow.

    Finished off the night at Greek restaurant in Astoria and had a fabulously crafted and well-balanced meal that included lots of vegetables, fish, meat and, of course, wine.

  • JoP in Omaha

    I made carbonara tonight, using cream as you describe which I’ve not done before (usually I use only eggs for the sauce, no cream). The addition of cream made me consider that carbonara is a type of alfredo. I haven’t thought of that link before.

    My carbonara tasted good, but it wasn’t nearly as pretty as yours.

  • Kirk

    I made spaghetti alla carbonara this afternoon with some pancetta and gorgeous duck eggs I picked up at the farmers’ market yesterday. The larger ratio of yolk to white made for a rich and golden egg sauce. No cream necessary. As my wife is recently pregnant and the smell of anything cooking makes her queesy, I had to cook while she was out shopping. So much for an afternon rendez-vous but that’s how we got into this situation in the first place.

  • luis

    NYCook, The raw eggyolk thing is a major issue for me. Lardons in pasta, in fact any heavy amount of cheese in pasta is an issue too. Cheese and fat are similar to ketchup. Far as I can see they play the same role in a dish.
    Not that both these ingredients are not fine and make things very appealing to us. Not that!. That is a given!. Bacon,cheese and pasta make American cuisine what it is.
    Oh well, I am sure the carbonara is delish. How can it not be?. But I am seeing a very disturbing trend in Haute Cuisine to eat every protein raw. This is something I can not get my mind around?. Even raw milk?. Where does all of this come from? I do not just dismiss it because it is coming from folks that are accomplished cooks and chefs. To dismiss it would be foolish. If it were a caveman eating a slab of a Tiranosouros raw…that would be one thing. But it is our best palates pushing the envelope.(No,not you Bourdain)…
    Anyway, my eggrolls worked out beautifully today. The secret to keeping oil out of them folks is to eggwash them and seal them and eggwash the bejeesus out of them all around then chill them prior to frying them.
    Not one millimeter drop in oil level in my fryer after running through batch no.99.
    Getting excited about spending a week in Duck Key…if I can get away for it. Oh yeah! Stir frying and baking and frying all sorts of fish might be in the cards. Imagine pulling into the dock behind the houses we are renting and cleaning them and cooking them right then and there!. This is what I am looking forward to….

  • NYCook

    Lois, the raw egg yolk is a matter of presentation or as Bob delGrosso put it, “restaurant refinement” Anyway this is done for presentation and effect as the customer has to mix in the yolk themselves. Thats why it is imperative the pasta go out hot. Also raw egg yolk mixed in with piping hot rice, or mushrooms or pasta is one of the best condiments you can have.

  • ruhlman

    i feel it’s important to note that while i never turn down noontime romance and sometimes compose meals for donna with only this in mind, this particular carbonara was not rewarded with sustained moments of passion. perhaps it was the cream.

    i would like to underscore nycook’s comment about raw yolk and it’s roll as stellar garnish. more dishes than not can be elevated by the addition of a raw yolk.

  • Andy

    I’ve never made carbonara before, but it looks amazing. I think I am going to try to find guanciale though for the first time I make it, just for fun.

  • HappyHoarfrost

    What is all this noon-time business?!?! Don’t mind me, I’m too bitter to see the black forest for the peas, and can’t remember the last time I had this particular dish.
    My all-time favorite depiction of carbonara is in Nora Ephron’s cheesecloth-transparent film, Heartburn, when Meryl Streep walks into the bedroom and hands the rumpled & sated Jack Nicholson an entire POT of post-coital carbonara, to his unbridled and gutteral surprise. “You probably think it’s very bourgeoise to cook for someone on the first date,” she says, tucking in and twirling.
    Okay, so the real Ephron-Bernstein marriage blew up like a pressure-cooker full of choucroute, but file this under Most Impressive Use of Carbonara on a First Date EVER.
    The recipe in the book is simple and solid as well.

  • Alexa

    I couldn’t agree more about lunchtime being a wonderful time for conversation and connecting with those close to you. Carbonara is a special joy. The mangalista looks excellent. I’m lucky that I have an Italian butcher a few subway stops from me who makes guanciale all winter. I throw these precious lardons into all sorts of things. A good butcher is worth their weight in gold.

    Cream in carbonara? Maybe it’s the romana in me, but I’m an egg yolk ONLY girl.

    Donna, thank you for the absolutely edible photos.

  • JoP in Omaha

    What’s the secret to preventing the sauce from getting clumpy? Should some of the pasta water be added along with the egg mixture?

  • milo

    I’d miss the peas. I love carbonara, but I hate to have almost any meal without a decent amount of vegetable.

    If you can’t find good peas, what about something like zucchini?

    And I have to agree on the egg yolk thing – shouldn’t go overboard with it but it can add unbelievable richness.

    I just had an amazing breakfast risotto yesterday for brunch (Sweets and Savories restaurant in Chicago). Bacon risotto, served with a raw egg on top, stirred in at the table to just slightly cook. To die for.

  • Bob delGrosso

    JoP

    Yes, or you can temper the egg with some of the hot water before you mix it in. Just put the eggs in a bowl and whisk in a a couple of tablespoons of hot water per 2 eggs.

  • johnnyd

    JoP:
    Try keeping a spoonful or two of pasta water in the pot as you drain – keep it wet, in other words. I find this makes additional goodness more able to be evenly distributed.

    Nice pic, Michael. Keep ’em coming.

  • bob

    Lois,
    Raw eggs….try it, you’ll like it! really
    and in truth, usually the dishes that use raw eggs in the finish, take advantage of the dishes heat to cook the eggs.
    I suggest a cozy bowl of dolsot bi bim bop, if that doesn’t win you over, nothing will.

  • WineWench

    The cream is a sin. Period. Like NYCook, when I make it at home I like to leave the yolk out and serve it atop a nest of the pasta. That way, each person gets to break their own yolk and let it ooze down the pasta….culinarily speaking, it’s an oral orgasm!

  • Erica

    I’ve visited the Wooly Pigs booth at the farmer’s market in Seattle a couple times now–not only do they hand you bite after bite of amazing pork and lard–but the loin that I bought from them was hands down the best pork I’ve ever tasted. I picked up a mangalitsa pork belly last saturday and will be making bacon once the pink salt arrives in the mail. Thank you for the fabulous inspiration!

  • JoP in Omaha

    Thanks, delGrosso and JohnnyD, for confirming that some pasta water will help me out. I’ll give that a try next time.

  • The Yummy Mummy Cooks Gourmet

    Okay, I’m an egg yolk girl myself, but I got no beefs with cream people.

    I got my recipe from Lydia Bastianich, but you are right about the kid thing – they loooove carbonara. It’s a real pint-size crowd pleaser.

    I recently posted Lydia’s carbonara recipe on my blog after feeding a hungry group of neighbors, like 10 of them and a bunch of kids under the age of 4 at an impromptu meal. No leftovers. A good sign.

    Donna’s photos are beautiful. It’s nice to see her work on your blog. And the nooner thing is cool too.

    Kim

  • luis

    Bob, thank you for the suggestion Dolsot Bo Bim Bop.. Korean stir fry fare. I have a recipe from “Asian Recipes” web page.
    This is great not only a great recipe for a stir fry dish but an eye openner into Korean and Thai cuisines as well. Super Tip.
    OBTW, I am eagerly awaiting Harold Magee’s “On Food and Cooking”. Another great read.
    On Charcuterie, I had a chance to thumb over Charcuterie Ruhlman’s book. It is a great book with fantastic techniques and recipes. Michael does have a recipe for Guanciale in the book.
    It is a gem. I am thinking a small wine cooler if able to sustain the right temperature and humidity might be all I need to try some of these charcuteries safely.
    My bro glanced over it and he seemed interested in Pig’s tail. But I don’t think he found anything on that. Pig’s tail goes back to something grandma would make. Grandma and Grandpa hailed from Spain. I remember Grandpa used to cure his own hams. Pig’s tail.. How would one cure that? similar to what recipe in Michael’s book. Anyone know?

  • luis

    Natalie Sztern
    Here is a link to an Epicurious recipe I would venture to say is probably pretty fair.
    Just copy the entire link below on the Address window of your browser and hit enter.

    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/107810

    Also Alfredo is pasta in some bechamel cheese white sauce. It contains no vegetables or other proteins. It is pretty super high on calories and if you eat it make sure you are drinking a fair amount of wine. The alchool in your bloodstream will give you some insurance against building up a cheese cholesterol plaque in your arteries.

  • Doodad

    Michael,

    I suggest playing Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” to accompany the noon nosh in the future. That should help; or get a chuckle.

  • Greg Turner

    Thanks for the carbonara reminder, Michael. I first had this dish in Florence and loved it. Coincidently, I just bought some jowl bacon on impulse and was wondering what I’d do with it. Now I think I have my answer.

  • bob

    Luis,
    I would definitely suggest braising the tail, brings out alot of the gelatinous quality. You’ll be glad you did. works nice cooked together with the ears. chilled salads and spicy relishes are great foils for these cuts.
    also, please don’t stirfry you’re dolsot bi bim bap, just get your cast iron rippin’ hot, put your rice in and let it stick and toast, add your acoutrement, gochu sauce, and crack an egg. stir. this should be a life changing moment…enjoy

  • Grubbjunkie in SF

    Carbonara is one of my favorite things on the planet, definitely a go-to dish. I think a touch of 1/2 & 1/2 mixed in with the egg really helps create a smoother sauce and a better mouthfeel. It also helps avoid scrambled eggs for those just getting a feel for the technique. I can’t really get down with the parsley when I’m doing the classic version – just an extra grind of black pepper is all the herb/spice I need.

    But I am not a purist, and like someone else posted I think of carbonara as a method of using egg and fat to create a pasta sauce that can apply to lots of different ingredients. And I completely agree that a version with seafood like crab, lobster, or rock shrimp coupled with fresh corn is absolutely killer.

  • luis

    Thank you Bob, I love the dish and your suggestions. Get the wok rippin hot and lay in a film of sesame oil to toast the rice, then lay the rest of the stuff(cooked) on top and one egg yolk and mix it all up, and serve.
    I will use a spicy soy based sauce as the folks I cook for not all of them tolerate heat very well.
    I myself can barely manage a mouthful of chipotle without the compulsory grimace, gag, oh shit I am going to die bit!.
    But a nice SZECHUAN SPICY sauce with a dash of fish sauce and black bean paste and a hint of chipotle may be something I will toy around with. In any case some variation of SZECHUAN sauce. Another thing I am searching for is the right combination of vegetables that harmonize together and truly knock my socks off. I don’t like the stir fry odd combinations in the market or in most recipes. Battali’s Pepperonata’s is something basic, simple, tasty and beautiful.
    Anyway I hope to have a handle on some form of dolsot bi bim bap under control to take to Duck Key if I go. The protein will be fish of course.
    On Rhulman’s Mangalitza lardons… I use spanish tocino. (Cured pork belly). When I prepare the lardon I remove the fat from the meat and then render the meat out of the remains. Very tasty. For a pizza I mince it up and sprinkle very lightly on it. It’s like home made bacon bits.

  • sarah

    That looks sooo good—Donna’s pictures always make me want to belly up to the table a chow! Michael—any possiblity of getting your recipe to try?

  • luis

    Combining vegetables is my next thing. Most folks I talk to as myself are very confortable with cooking one vegetable as elegantly as possible. Why? I don’t know but perhaps we the collective enjoy tasting one vegetable at a time.
    No, this is not a Zen Riddle folks. But is it possible that we combine two vegetables and end up with 1+1= at least two preferably 3.
    See were this is leading to? NOT EASY!!!!!!!
    Just watch IRON CHEF any veggie battle. How many times the vegetable gets OBLITERATED BY THE OTHER INGREDIENTS?. In my mind there are two types of cuisines. Rustic and Sophisticated. I think Rustic will lead folks astray and they will end up in those electric chairs the gov seems only too eager to dispense. On the other hand sophisticated will lead to a gracefull old age full of vigor and grace able to care for yourself until the end.

  • luis

    I mean guys….you too Bourdain.. is there any rule for selecting compatible kick ass vegetables????? I asked a cooworker today and she is like a raised in the farm high up in the Colombian mountains great gal type. She suggested ..group them by color?.
    Well, for knockout blond that can cook circles around me….what the hell. It’s a start… But seriously folks you are the best of the best here. Are there any rules for combining vegetables in a dish????? Pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaasseeeeeeeeeeeee…pretty please, think….. and help me out!

  • Denise

    After coming back to drool over the photo every day since it was posted, I made myself carbonara last night. I found an online recipe that included cream and egg yolks only (no whites for me). The only pig meat I had around was some proscuito (sp?) in my freezer. Fortunately, I also had some bacon fat in there, so I used a combo of that plus evoo. I felt like a glutton eating it, but damn was it good! Leftovers for dinner tonite.

  • Skawt

    Of course egg yolk makes things better – it’s fat and rich protein. Just saw an Iron Chef last night where Bobby Flay used the quail egg yolk to enliven an elk tenderloin.

  • luis

    by color? Dang it! who knew?…..

    “”Views on vegetables – adapted from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, April 1996

    Current US dietary guidelines call for the consumption of three to five servings of vegetables per day, which is a substantial increase over typical consumption levels. To meet this recommendation, Americans would have to make significant changes in their eating habits, including serving more than one vegetable at some meals. It is unclear, however, how consumers perceive and categorize different types of vegetables, and what factors determine whether people consider two vegetables sufficiently compatible to serve together.

    A researcher from die University of Michigan used multidimensional scaling techniques to assess the views of 150 adult men and women on 20 common vegetables. The table on this page shows the subjects’ ranking of the 20 vegetables in order from most preferred to least preferred. The most highly preferred vegetables (tomatoes, string beans, potatoes, corn, and mushrooms) were dissimilar in terms of calories and color but resembled each other in their perceived versatility of use and lack of bitter flavor. The preferred vegetables were also described as pleasant, good tasting, attractive, satisfying, and easy to prepare.

    Perceived bitterness had a negative influence on the reported liking for specific vegetables. This was especially true for cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Some of the least liked vegetables (especially cabbage) were also perceived as not being versatile and as not being compatible with most other vegetables.

    The characteristic of vegetables that was most closely related to perceived nutritional value was COLOR. In the mind of the consumer, the most colorful vegetables were viewed as the most nutritious, with the highest perceived fiber and vitamin content. This perception may reflect the traditional use of COLOR as a GUIDE to VEGETABLE SELECTION in nutrition education materials. For example, the literature accompanying the Food Guide Pyramid draws special attention to leafy dark-green and deep yellow vegetables.
    Color was also die key factor in determining whether consumers would be willing to serve two vegetables at the same meal. Compatibility judgments of vegetable pairs were based ENTIRELY on color contrast, not on taste or perceived caloric content. The most compatible vegetable pairs included one green and one non-green vegetable. Clusters of green vegetables (e.g., peas and spinach), clusters of deep-yellow vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes and squash), or clusters of red vegetables (e.g., tomatoes and beets) were regarded as incompatible. In general, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes were regarded as the most versatile items, easily combined with many other vegetables.

    The author of this study suggests that these and other data on consumers’ perception of vegetables may be helpful to health authorities arid the food industry in devising strategies to encourage increased vegetable consumption.

    Adam Drewnowski, From Asparagus to Zucchini: Mapping Cognitive Space for Vegetable Names, J American College of Nutrition 15(2):147-153 (Apr 1996) [Reprints: Adam Drewnowski, PhD, Human Nutrition Program, School of Public Health M-5170, 1420 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor MI 48109]””

    My God my friend’s advice was not as far afield as it seemed…but then again she is a cook… by color who knew???? More research is needed here.

  • faustianbargain

    colour of vegetables/fruits indicate the kind of nutrients it possesses. carrot=carotenoids/vitA, spinach=chlorophyll, red/blue erries=antioxidants, tomato=lycopene etc..

    veg combining should be about optimal/balanced combo of nutrients, flavour, texture. one cant live on potatoes or carrots alone.

    p.s. wrt mentioned article, bitterness is combated with acidity. too much acidity/sourness can be dealt with addition of heat.

    and cabbage goes nicely with fresh grated coconut and carrots. there is no such thing as an unloved vegetable. somewhere, its someone’s favourite vegetable…their favourite veggie ever! the others just dont know how to prepare it.