There are certain rules in life. Like Jim Croce said, you don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger, and you don’t add tomatoes to carbonara unless you want to ignite the ire of countless bloodthirsty Twitter users.
Here’s what happened. Last week, the New York Times Cooking section shared a recipe for “Smoky Tomato Carbonara” from contributor Kay Chun. The recipe involved adding cherry tomatoes to an otherwise fairly straightforward Italian carbonara to “lend a bright tang to the dish.” This angered the masses since carbonara traditionally contains the following—and only the following: egg, pork jowl, pecorino cheese, and pasta. That’s it. Nothing else.
Twitter users were quick to decry Chun’s attempt to funk with carbonara, an objectively perfect dish. Commenters called the recipe “the worst thing to happen to Italy since Super Mario tennis,” asking that NYT Cooking “go stick the bright tang somewhere it can do no harm.” Chun is far from the first to anger the carbonara mob: The Daily Beast reports that Martha Stewart once devised a “Nightmare Carbonara” by adding garlic and cream.
Despite the passion, carbonara isn’t some sacred centuries-old culinary tradition. The Daily Beast found that carbonara, which was inspired by American military officers after they liberated Rome in 1944, is often considered the “ugly cousin of traditional Italian cuisine.” It didn’t even start appearing on menus until the 1950s. Relatively secular roots aside, carbonara is a thing of beauty, and it certainly doesn’t transformation via tomato-y tang. That said, this recipe sounds like a solid bet for a weeknight dinner—it just isn’t carbonara. Mamma mia.