This Spaghetti Carbonara is easy, quick, and delicious…and it’ll whisk you away to Italy for the night (or at least a few minutes)!
Are there certain foods that remind you of different vacations you’ve taken? For instance, my wife and I went back to Charleston, SC last summer (I grew up there), and I can’t get smoked bourbon salt out of my mind. One of the restaurants we visited used this amazing creation to finish their dishes, and it has stuck with me ever since. Spaghetti Carbonara falls into the same category. This time it was our honeymoon trip to Italy several years ago. I fell in love with Spaghetti Carbonara, and I ended up ordering this delicious dish all over Italy. This is one of those dishes that I often order when I go out to eat, and I finally decided I needed to make it at home. And guess what? It’s shockingly easy to make!
After just one bite of this Spaghetti Carbonara, my wife deemed it company-worthy. That’s when I know a recipe is not just good, but really good. Not only is this dish creamy and packed full of flavor, but it’s incredibly easy to make. The creaminess of Spaghetti Carbonara comes from an egg and cheese mixture that is stirred into the hot pasta. The pasta then cooks the eggs indirectly. That sounded a bit odd to me at first, but then I remembered eating some not-so-good Spaghetti Carbonara on our last night in Rome. It was basically scrambled eggs mixed with pasta. And now I know why that particular version missed the mark…the eggs were probably added to the pan while it was still on the stove. All that does is scramble the eggs. While I love a good scrambled egg, Spaghetti Carbonara is not supposed to have scrambled eggs in it. Don’t worry…the eggs will cook fully thanks to the hot bowl and hot pasta. So to make Carbonara, you really just need to cook the cubed pancetta and pasta, then stir in the egg mixture. The longest part of this recipe is literally waiting for the pasta water to boil. A dinner that’s quick, easy, and delicious? Count me in!
One of the real dividing points about Spaghetti Carbonara is whether or not it should include heavy cream. A lot of American versions have added cream to the recipe, but Italians (particularly those in Rome) are adamant that Spaghetti Carbonara should never include heavy cream. Since I was out to create a truly authentic version of this recipe that would remind me of the meals I ate in Italy, I left the cream out. And you know what? It doesn’t need cream. The additional egg yolks and grated cheese provide plenty of creaminess, and I’m more than happy to omit the heavy cream.
One other recipe note is that Spaghetti Carbonara is traditionally made with guanciale, or smoked pork jowl. Not surprisingly, guanciale isn’t exactly easy to find in the U.S., or at least not in upstate New York. If necessary, substitute pancetta for the guanciale. (I found pancetta in the deli at my local market, and I asked for 2 slices about 1/4″ each.) Worst case scenario is you could use thick cut bacon, but spend the extra couple of minutes looking for pancetta before turning to bacon. Also, if you can, use real Parmesan Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheese…not the fake stuff in the shaker can! Like most Italian meals, Spaghetti Carbonara is pretty simple, so you should go with the best quality ingredients you can afford. And of course you should open a bottle of wine for this dinner. It is Italian after all. Cheers!
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated (plus more for serving)
- ¼ cup Pecorino Romano cheese grated
- 1 tsp pepper plus more for serving
- 12 ounces thick spaghetti
- 4 ounces pancetta or guanciale diced into ¼” cubes (can substitute thick-cut bacon if necessary)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, Parmesan, Pecorino and pepper; set aside. (Tip: Do this first to allow egg mixture to come to room temperature before using it later in the recipe.)
- Fill a large stock pot with 6 quarts of water and salt liberally. Heat over high until boiling. Add spaghetti and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water; Drain rest of pasta water into a large serving bowl. (See note below)
- While the pasta is cooking, add the cubed pancetta to a deep frying pan over medium-low heat; cook for 7-8 minutes or until slightly crispy.
- Add cooked pasta and ¼ cup of reserved pasta water to pan with the cooked pancetta; stir well and cook over medium heat for 1 minute, or until most of the water has evaporated.
- Pour water out of the large serving bowl. Transfer pasta and pancetta into the bowl, and stir in the egg mixture. Stir constantly until eggs begin to thicken and coat the spaghetti. (The heat from the pasta and bowl will indirectly cook the eggs. If the mixture becomes too thick, add a splash of the reserved pasta water. I typically add about 1/4 cup of additional pasta water at this point.)
- Top liberally with freshly ground black pepper and additional Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
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Carbonara has to be my favourite comfort food! So good- now I’m really fancying a bowlful for dinner! 🙂
I am SO craving a huge bowl of carbonara tonight, too, Jess!!
Looks delicious…..going on the list for dinner really soon 🙂
Thank you so much, Laura! Carbonara has to be one of my favorite easy comfort food dishes!!
Carbonara is one of my favorite comfort foods!! This is so happening this week 🙂
Thanks, Zainab! It’s a little surprising how easy it is to make a delicious Spaghetti Carbonara!! I hope you enjoy. 🙂
Have we known each other long enough for you to realize how much of a bacon glutton I am, Dave? I NEED this in my life! 🙂
Bacon is an instant friend-maker!! And I agree…you need this in your life ASAP!!
Totally making this soon!! I had been away from the blogging world for a little bit due to studying for finals (ugh) and I sure missed seeing a lot of great recipes from your blog!!
Wow, thanks, Jenn! I hope finals went well for you! You should totally reward yourself with a nice hot bowl of this Carbonara…it’s one of the best comfort foods ever. 🙂
Pasta Carbonara is – hands down – one of the best food ever; especially when paired with a bottle of good Italian red wine.
You sure know how to treat your wife David, good job!
PS Two weeks ago I made it using sweet potato spiralized noodles instead of wheat pasta (you know for the Paleo thing and all), and you what? It was pretty good, you should totally give it a shot!
Sweet potato noodles? No way! Mike, I think you win the award for knowing how to treat your wife well!! When it comes down to it, any meal can be made better with a bottle of good Italian wine! You know me…I love me some wheat flour, but I also love experimenting and this idea of sweet potato noodles is now stuck in my mind. Gonna have to make that one happen. Thanks!
Wait . there’s Parmesan that isn’t in a shaker can????
My daughter LOVES spaghetti and she would love this carbonara; I bet your wife is transported back to yalls honeymoon every time you make this!
Haha! Yes, there is indeed Parmesan that isn’t in a can, Shashi! 🙂 And yes, this is one of our favorite recipes around here…not only because it’s delicious, but it totally takes us back to Italy, too!
Spaghetti carbonara is freaking awesome! That velvety egg is where it’s at! Now I’m thinking I need to go to Italy… perhaps we can tell our wives we are going on a “food conference” and just eat our way around Italy!
Oh, I like the way you think, Chris! I’m pretty sure we both just got invited to a meeting at the “International Consortium of Food and Food Bloggers.” Coincidentally the meeting is in Italy. We really shouldn’t let an invitation like this one go to waste, right? Hopefully we can get Mike an invite, too!
Love recipes that remind us of special places. I still have not made Spaghetti Carbonara, but for sure need to soon. Love easy and delicious recipes! Take care, Terra
You totally need to make Spaghetti Carbonara, Terra! I was amazed at how easy it is to make at home…and without cream, too! Thanks so much for stopping by. 🙂