Spaghetti pasta alla carbonara. Luscious and wonderfully indulgent, pasta carbonara takes as long to make as it does to cook the pasta. The ingredients are simple—just spaghetti (or other long pasta), pancetta or bacon, eggs, Parmesan, a little olive oil, salt and pepper. A silky sauce is created when the beaten eggs are tossed with the hot pasta and a little fat from the pancetta or bacon.
Did I already mention indulgent? Yes, this is not a make-it-everyday recipe. This is a I’ve-been-eating-my-kale-for-weeks-and-now-I-want-to-splurge recipe. But heck, if you are going to splurge, you may as well do it right.
The trick to making a successful carbonara? Stirring the egg mixture quickly into the pasta which should be hot enough to “cook” the egg to make a sauce but not so hot as to make it curdle. Getting it just right can take some practice so don’t despair if your sauce is a little lumpy the first time you make it.
Some people add cream to their carbonara. It’s not traditional, but you can certainly do this, and make an even creamier sauce for the pasta. Personally I think it’s rich enough without it. Enjoy!
Updated recipe and photos, first published 2012.
Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe
This recipe uses raw eggs, which are essentially cooked by tossing with hot pasta. They are not cooked to the point of scrambled though, just enough to thicken the eggs into a sauce.
The garlic is optional. It is not usually included in pasta carbonara, but it tastes great so we’ve included it. By the way, “guanciale”, or pork jowl, is traditionally used in this dish, so if you can get it, by all means use it.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil or unsalted butter
- 1/2 pound pancetta or thick cut bacon, diced
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced, about 1 teaspoon (optional)
- 3-4 whole eggs
- 1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1 pound spaghetti pasta (or bucatini or fettuccine)
- Salt and black pepper to taste
1 Heat pasta water: Put a large pot of salted water on to boil (1 Tbsp salt for every 2 quarts of water.)
2 Sauté pancetta/bacon and garlic: While the water is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook slowly until crispy. Add the garlic (if using) and cook another minute, then turn off the heat and put the pancetta and garlic into a large bowl.
3 Beat eggs and half of the cheese: In a small bowl, beat the eggs and mix in about half of the cheese.
4 Cook pasta: Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add the dry pasta, and cook, uncovered, at a rolling boil.
5 Toss pasta with pancetta/bacon: When the pasta is al dente (still a little firm, not mushy), use tongs to move it to the bowl with the bacon and garlic. Let it be dripping wet. Reserve some of the pasta water.
Move the pasta from the pot to the bowl quickly, as you want the pasta to be hot. It’s the heat of the pasta that will heat the eggs sufficiently to create a creamy sauce. Toss everything to combine, allowing the pasta to cool just enough so that it doesn’t make the eggs curdle when you mix them in. (That’s the tricky part.)
6 Add the beaten egg mixture: Add the beaten eggs with cheese and toss quickly to combine once more. Add salt to taste. Add some pasta water back to the pasta to keep it from drying out.
Serve at once with the rest of the parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.
If you want, sprinkle with a little fresh chopped parsley.
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