Spaghetti Carbonara – DORIE GOES ITALIAN (It’s French Fridays)

Spaghetti Carbonara, a classic Italian recipe, was created in the middle of the 20th century. Although it’s origins are unknown, it first appeared in cookbooks after WW II when many Italians were dependent on foods supplied to them by American troops. But eggs and bacon were plentiful and a constant ration. The thrifty Italian housewives soon realized all that was necessary to create a spectacular sauce for a hearty bowl of pasta were small amounts of cream, butter and Parmesan.


Spaghetti & Onion Carbonara

Spaghetti & Onion Carbonara


Dorie’s riff on Spaghetti Carbonara is this week’s FFWD choice, Recipe-swap Onion “Carbonara” and we do know it’s origins. This distinctive dish was first created by legendary French chef Michel Richard, with later variations made by American cookbook author Patricia Wells who graciously shared it with her colleague and friend, Dorie.


I used a mandolin to get thinly sliced onions.

I used a mandolin to get thinly sliced onions.


If you’re watching your carbs, here’s an Italian dish with none. Zero. While the sauce is the sauce is the sauce, the pasta is replaced by thinly sliced onions, steamed to al dente. This makes an interesting starter or a veggie side to a main course. Steaming the onions is the trick to this dish. Simple. Quick. Tasty.


Steaming the onions is the secret to this delicious recipe. I placed my steaming basket inside a big pot.

Steaming the onions is the secret to this delicious recipe. I placed my steaming basket inside a big pot.


Since I’ve never met a carb I didn’t love, I tried Dorie’s Bonne Idee, adding Spaghetti to the Onions Carbonara. (The first picture shows the onion carbonara as a topping for the spaghetti.)  Man, it was delicious.


Our Camp Hale & Hearty Tour


A Tenth Mountain Division soldier featured on the cover of POST Magazine. Photo by

A Tenth Mountain Division soldier featured on the cover of POST Magazine. Photo by


Dorie doesn’t often “do” Italian but her timing was perfect this week. Early last Saturday, my friend, Donna Grauer, and I headed 120 miles east to chase history and pay homage at Colorado’s Camp Hale, the training site of the 10th Mountain Division. Located at 9,300 feet, surrounded by the historic mining towns of Leadville, Red Cliff and Minturn, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.




The 10th, created during WW II with 15,000 men in residence, was transformed into an elite high alpine corp – perfecting skiing skills and learning cold weather survival techniques under harsh mountain terrain and conditions.  The training was brutal. Imagine climbing to 14,000’ feet on skis or snowshoes while carrying a weapon and 90-pound rucksack on your back.


Soldiers training in the Rockies

Soldiers training in the Rockies in 1943.   Photo by Denver Public Library Tenth Mountain Resource Center



In January 1945 they were shipped over to Italy to accomplish what other army divisions had failed to do for the previous 6 years – breach the heavily-fortified  German Gothic Line located high in the Apennine Mountains. The force successfully scaled a 1,500‘ vertical assent at night while under intense German fire, prevailing in the legendary battles of Riva Ridge, Mount Belvedere, and Mont Gorgolesco. Their ability to take the Po River Valley played a vital role in the liberation of northern Italy. Success came at a terrible loss, however with over 4,000 men being wounded and 1,000 killed during the campaign.


Camp Hale

Camp Hale

Camp Hale

Camp Hale










Donna and her husband, Bernie, were in Italy this fall and followed the 10th Mountain Division route, climbing both Mt Belevedere and Riva Ridge. While the trip to Camp Hale was moving and thoughtful for me, it was Donna who felt she had come full-circle.


Bernie, standing in a German Bunker on Riva Ridge

Bernie, standing in a German Bunker on Riva Ridge



Donna, standing at the 10th Mountain Division on Mt. Belvedere

Donna, standing at the 10th Mountain Division Memorial on Mt. Belvedere


Wherever you live, there is something special to discover, visit, see and learn. It isn’t much of a stretch to believe that the 10th Mountain Division helped play a role not only in the liberation of Italy but, as a result of that victory,  in the Italians’ creation of Spaghetti Carbonara.


The memorial to the 10th Mountain Division in the  Aspen's Gondola  Plaza. Several 10th Mountain Division veterans returned to Aspen to bolster the area's ski industry.

The memorial to the 10th Mountain Division in  Aspen’s Gondola Plaza. Several 10th Mountain Division veterans returned to Aspen to create, bolster and support the area’s ski industry.


French Fridays with Dorie, is an international cooking group working its way through Dorie Greenspan’s latest cookbook “Around My French Table”. To see if my colleagues chose to make this week’s recipe with or without pasta, go to  our  FFWD link.


  1. says

    Oooh, I should have tried this on top of pasta! YUM! And I’m loving your Aspen/Leadville photos…along with the excellent history lesson :) Merry Christmas, my friend!!! xo

  2. says

    Loving your post this week. There are just so many little stories like this one which get lost in the bigger history of an event.

    And I too was impressed by the plain steamed onions. Who woulda guessed?

  3. says

    The history major in me loves the side roads through these lesser known bits of Americana :-)

    Now, I totally missed the “no carb” selling point of this dish – I just played up the bacon, cream and cheese aspect to make sure it made its way from the plate into joe’s stomach.

    Mary – I hope you and your family have an absolutely lovely holiday. XO

  4. nana says

    This was really good and such a surprise. Loved you blog this week, very informative.
    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, it has been such a great and exciting year and I
    am looking forward to more of the same next year.

  5. says

    I love how carbonara gets tangled up in the ski corp… great serendipity. My husband and son are both interested in Military history and they would add: thanks to this ski division and the Trapp family (of Sound of Music), our ski industry was born. Many of these men opened ski resort in the US after the war.

    • Mary says

      There are actually 62 ski resorts throughout the United States that were founded, managed, financed, and developed by veterans from the 10th Mountain Division. When Michael and I moved here in 1988, some of these men were still alive and became our friends. Now, they are all gone but still honored and rememberedin this community.

    • says

      Incredible that you got to know some of these men. They must have been quite interesting and adventurous to have been part of that group. Thank you so much for your kind words about my family. I am very proud of them, and I enjoy there diverse interests (which I, of course, helped cultivate), Merry Christmas Mary.

  6. says

    Wow- so interesting. First the recipe – yes, this was a surprise/revelation. My hubby adored it and I definitely enjoyed it (though was not shoveling it down like him….probably because he had been watching carbs while I had Christmas cookies for dinner…) and will add it to chicken next time. Mostly I was just in shock that I had never heard about steaming onions or encountered them in any such low carb/gluten free or otherwise recipe. Fabulous. Now – the history. Boy did I enjoy the background you shared about our troops as well as the photos. So cool that your friends were able to visit this area in Italy. Indeed does come full circle and I love hearing about appreciation and recognition of these important contributions. So glad you included this !

  7. says

    Excellent history lesson Mary! Thank you for the information. There is always so much to learn! What a wonderful experience for your friend Donna to have been to the training camp and the location in Italy where that training was put to good use! I also made the pasta version and loved it!

  8. says

    While onions are always good in anything by themselves, not so much so we went with the sauce mixed with pasta. Better but still thinking on it.

    Wonderful story of the 10th.

  9. says

    I love your travelogue posts, Mary. You’re right, there are wonderful places to discover wherever you are. As a person who has always enjoyed seeing people’s vacation photos, I love when you share your adventures. It lets me see more of the world. Great idea to use this to top spaghetti! I also have never met a carb I didn’t like! We ate this without pasta. I ended up using the leftovers as filling for a breakfast frittata the next morning. Delicious!
    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!!! xox

  10. says

    Love the way you tied in so much history with this week’s recipe – great post! We enjoyed this as a light (gluten-free!) main course. I’d love to use it for an appetizer or on the side, too.

  11. says

    What a great history lesson! Loved it!!

    I loved this too – I had mine with pasta as well, though it would be tasty without. Happy that you enjoyed!

  12. says

    You always have great stories to tell Mary! Colorado suits you well, and yes, living in a smaller place has its ups too. I am loving my new apt, neighbourhood and job. Change is good imo. And this twist on carbonara pasta has my name on it. A plate of spaghetti with these onions, amazing!


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