Are you maybe thinking of carbonara* (spaghetti with eggs and cheese and pancetta)? If so, it doesn't much matter: if you have thick-cut, cut it into cubes or sticks. If you have thin, cut into shreds. It will work either way, although the thicker bits will take a little longer to cook.
As for the salt question, I find that pancetta tends to be less salty than American bacon. Plus, most bacons are too heavily smoked to allow a proper balance of flavors in carbonara. If you do choose to use bacon, you might want to blanch it first (cook it very briefly in boiling water, then drain) to remove some of the salt and smokiness. Of course, you can do that with pancetta, too, to remove salt. But to my palate, at least, that's not necessary for pancetta.
*Of course, now we can have a debate over cream or no cream in carbonara. But let's do that in a separate thread. eace:
Oh, no: Alfredo is cream, butter, Parmesan, S&P. Definitely cream in Alfredo. It's eggs (or just yolks) that are questionable there.
I hear you, amazingrace. But I've long since given up on getting upset over that. One of my best friends describes herself as a vegetarian, but she eats seafood. Oh, and foie gras, sometimes. I guess it's easier for people to label themselves that way rather than go through the whole "Well, I don't eat ONLY vegetables and fruits, maybe some eggs and dairy, so I guess then I'm an ovo-lacto vegetarian, I just don't eat meat from four- or two-legged animals, but I do eat fish (just not the kinds I don't like, like mussels), so I'll just pretend I'm a vegetarian because that's hipper anyway."
NO CREAM in Alfredo, at least not a true Alfredo, at least not the Alfredo that Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks fell in love with on their honeymoon when they dined frequently at Alfredo's in Rome.
The "real" Alfredo is just an al burro, with extra technique. I.e., you really, really, really and truly cream the butter; then really, really, really and truly incorporate the cheese. The heat of the fettuccine and perhaps a splash of the cooking water is the only cooking it gets. The "sauce" and the pasta should always be mixed tableside.
The creaming and incorporation of the cheese have to be so thorough that the sauce is an emulsion which holds together even as it melts.
The story of that Alfredo, from the lineal descendant of the Roman restaurant is all over the net. So is the recipe, for that matter.
It's a very matrimonial story, romantic really. To cut it short, when young Signora Alfredo got pregnant for the first time, she had a hard time holding anything down. Signor Alfredo made the most digestible and calorie laden thing he could imagine; and she liked it!
Not too long afterwards, the PickFair couple spent part of their honeymoon (the most well-covered event to that point in the century) in Rome. They ate at Alfredo's and fell in love with the dish and the Alfredos; and continued to eat there frequently. When the couple left Rome they gave Alfredo a pair of golden spoons for the tableside mixing.
I went to Rome for the first time in 1963, and was taken to eat at the famous Alfredo's. We had fettuccine (or was it tagliatelle?) Alfredo and I still remember those spoons.
Maybe there's another Alfredo somewhere else who did use cream. Quien sabe? No one appointed me the keeper of Alfredo authenticity but I do love the original dish and the associated story.
I've done the popular US variations with cream, and even with cream and egg, and while they have their charms, neither can hold a candle to the original. The best you can say is that they're less effort if you're not using a food processor, and they're stable too.
On the other hand, I've done some lighter plays on Alfredo like whipping cream almost to the butter stage, whipping a dry cheese like cotija in it, and melting that in the pasta -- which have worked very well.
I realize that's the standard here in the US, in this day and age.
And it's how I make it myself.
But, there is no cream in the classic preparation.
However, I believe the original used butter with a higher fat content, making it a creamier than using your typical US butter.
I use the condensed cream in cryovac container from Italy......
ummmmm whipped butter and parm over pasta, yeah I'd eat that....
There's an Italian egg pasta that is extrodinary, picked it up @ Southern Seasons in Carolina....tried to find more, not having any luck.
Ivana maroni, La Pasta di campofilone, maltagliati...paid about $1 an oz and it is soooo worth every penny.
Its a general misconception that Italian pasta sauces are either cream or tomato based, Maybe in American-Italian food, but true Italian cuisine has a vast amount of pasta preparations that use neither.
You would be surprised how useful a liaison pasta water can be, it's full of starch.
-fresh gnocchi tossed in crumbled gorgonzola, butter and pasta water will yield a sauce so creamy you'd swear it has cream in it, but no.
and to back up earlier posts:
Carbonara: pancetta, parmesan, a splash of pasta water and an egg, -parsley or chili flake is optional
Alfredo: butter, parmesan and pasta water (although I really like pecorino)
"Al Tartuffo" fresh parpardelle, truffle oil, butter, parmesan and pasta water (one of my personal favorites!)
Although, I must confess, at my restaurants our pasta water is typically quite salty -so you didn't want to use a lot of it in your dishes. To make up for the starch we would make a very weak "beurre manie" 4 parts butter to 1 part 00 flour, which we would all affectionately referred to as "magic butter".
When added to a pasta sauce, it thickens it just a little, rather than turning it into gravy.
I said cream in Alfredo because Santa Marcella (that is, Marcella Hazan) says of her recipe for Cream and Butter Sauce:
She is one of my culinary goddesses, and if she says it, I believe it.
For the record, she also has a recipe for Butter and Parmesan Cheese Sauce, which is indeed just butter and cheese as buonaboy mentions. (I do diverge from her on this, though: like buonaboy, I would loosen it with a little pasta cooking water if necessary.)
You are 100% right no cream in Aldredo and no Panchetta in Putinesca. Many of these dishes were What I call Frenchized or Americanized. Take Bolonaisse, in North Italy near French border it has cream added, down southern tip no cream they would think you have gone mad. Over here hardly anybody uses egg or egg yolk in Alfredo (salmonella fear I guess) over there they do. Tomato sauce in Sicily or to Tony Soprano's crew is gravy here it is sauce>>?????Every place different as you know.
BDL ..:chef: Good Yuntiv and a Healthy one