Pasta carbonara is an egg based pasta dish from Italy, specifically the Rome region in Lazio where my family is from. Once you learn how the original spaghetti alla carbonara is made, you can make changes to suit your tastes, but you’ll be privy to the authentic and genuine Italian pasta carbonara recipe!
Originally published July 25, 2012.
Before I share this authentic pasta carbonara recipe with you, I want you to know that this is ready in the time it takes to cook your pasta: it’s super quick, and also very easy to make, if you use these directions.
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What is Pasta Carbonara?
When I ask people if they’ve ever had spaghetti alla carbonara, and the answer is “no”, I attempt to describe it as “spaghetti with bacon and eggs” and I get the strangest looks. (Since I wrote this in 2012, spaghetti alla carbonara has increased in popularity, immensely. However, it is clearly more recognizable as “pasta carbonara“.)
Well, I can imagine what they’re picturing, and maybe you’re picturing it too, but It’s not what you think, as you can see by the picture above. I’ve had this recipe on my site since July 2012, however, I had two versions: this original pasta carbonara recipe, and my own version which I will be re-sharing on another post entitled pasta with eggs and bacon. So if you’re looking for that recipe, fear not, it’s only temporarily missing!
Now, everyone and their brother seems to have a recipe for pasta carbonara, but not everyone has the proper background and knowledge to steer you in the right direction. Some of these recipe writers have never even been to Italy, let alone had spaghetti alla carbonara in Rome (at a restaurant called, La Carbonara, no less). They include garlic, peas, and other ingredients that simply don’t belong in the original dish.
Why it is Called Pasta Carbonara (Spaghetti alla Carbonara)?
Spaghetti alla carbonara, or “coal miner’s spaghetti” is a traditional Roman meal, and one of the best known from the central Italian region, Lazio, where my family is from. Most people tend to believe pasta carbonara is named after the coal workers, because it was a staple for those who collected wood in the Appenine Mountains to make charcoal. Carbone = coal.
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There is also the theory that the quantity of bacon and powdered eggs that American soldiers had readily available during World War II was the inspiration for this pasta, which is the theory that Chef Stefano Barbato (from Rome) tends to lean towards. His recipe is the one I based mine on for you, so you know it’s the ‘real deal’.
TIP: grate your own cheese, always.
It’s the only way to be sure of the quality, and that you get what you pay for. (The gloves save my fingertips.)
I honestly don’t know, or really mind who, or what the reason was because the bottom line is that this pasta is fantastic! I’m just glad someone thought of making it!
Can I Reheat Pasta Carbonara?
Of course you can reheat any leftovers, even french fries, but some leftovers just won’t taste right. Others will taste even better, like leftover minestra, or crispy leftover pasta with tomato sauce!
No one else will probably admit this to you, but if you can avoid having leftover pasta carbonara, do it. The original dish is made off the heat, so heating it up once it’s been refrigerated will not bode well. Don’t get me wrong, you should definitely eat whatever’s leftover, just be prepared for a different culinary experience.
I recommend adding a little water in a nonstick pan and using a lid to sort of steam the leftover pasta carbonara.
Traditionally, this dish is made with guanciale which is Italian style bacon made from pig’s cheek, however, since it’s not easily obtained in the US, I usually use pancetta (you can make your own pancetta) or American bacon and it’s still delicious, just not authentic.
- NOTES: to make the genuine recipe, you need to use guanciale and Pecorino Romano, however, if you are outside of Italy, guanciale is quite difficult (and expensive) to source, so please don’t fret if you have to use pancetta or bacon, or Parmigiano Reggiano instead of Pecorino Romano (a cow’s milk cheese instead of a sheep’s milk cheese).
- Chef Stefano recommends a “secret ingredient” in his pasta carbonara recipe, and it is lard. I highly recommend it despite being a small amount, I think it adds to the sauce, a certain glossiness.
- It’s better to use quality ingredients over the “right” ingredients. For example, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese would be my choice over a copycat Pecorino cheese. Also, if you can buy guanciale, but it’s full of spices and nitrates, use a plain pancetta, or nitrate-free bacon.
- As the name suggests, you can use whatever shaped pasta you like, but traditionally it is made in Italy using plain old, spaghetti :)
Pasta Carbonara with Step by Step Directions
slightly adapted from Chef Stefano Barbato serves 5
FULL PRINTABLE RECIPE BELOW
- good quality pasta (like Dal Raccolto or Rustichella D’Abruzzo)
- guanciale (or pancetta if you can’t find guanciale, or even lean bacon)
- egg yolks
- Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmigiano Reggiano, if you can’t find Pecorino)
- black pepper
Cook the Pasta
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil to cook the pasta. Just before it starts to boil, add enough salt so that the pasta will be salted.
Prepare the Guanciale/Cured Meat
Slice the guanciale (remove the rind), pancetta or bacon into bite sized pieces or strips.
In a large pan (I used a wok) over medium-low heat, add the lard, then add the sliced guanciale (pancetta or bacon pieces). Cook until just starting to brown, but do not let it get dark or crisp. While the pasta and guanciale cook…
Make the Sauce
Beat the egg yolks in a bowl, then stir in the grated Pecorino cheese. Add some grated black pepper, next. Do not add salt: the Pecorino is salty, and we’re adding salted pasta water next.
Now, pour in some of the pasta water a little at a time and beat into the egg mixture. It should form a nice sauce.
Combine the Ingredients
When the guanciale is ready, turn off the heat. When the pasta is ready, remove it from the water and add directly into the guanciale in the pan. Stir to combine well.
Now it’s time to add the egg mixture. Do not turn the burner on, this is done off the heat.
Continue to mix well until the egg mixture forms a creamy, smooth sauce on the pasta. It’s so glossy and beautiful when made correctly: no clumps or curdled eggs.
Using a large fork, or kitchen tweezers, twirl some of the pasta into a ladle.
Bring the ladle to the plate. Keep twirling as you start to remove the ladle.
Remove the ladle and place the pasta onto the plate. Gently remove the tweezers.
Grate some more cheese on top of the pasta.
And grate some black pepper, too.
Serve immediately. Congratulations, you’re a star! Let me know what you think in the comments/reviews below.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Authentic Roman Recipe)
An egg-based spaghetti dish which comes from the Lazio region, and is made with guanciale and Pecorino cheese.
- 7 oz (200 g) guanciale (if you are in the US, just use pancetta if you can't find guanciale, or even 6 or 7 rashers of lean bacon) chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tsp organic lard
- 6 pasture raised, organic egg yolks
- 5 oz (150 g) grated Pecorino Romano, DOP cheese
- sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 lb of high quality spaghetti
Cook the Pasta
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil to cook the pasta.
- Just before it starts to boil, add enough salt so that the pasta will be salted.
Prepare the Guanciale/Meat
- Slice the guanciale (remove the rind), pancetta or bacon into bite sized pieces or strips.
- In a large pan (I used a wok) over medium-low heat, add the lard, then add the sliced guanciale (pancetta or bacon pieces). Cook until just starting to brown, but do not let it get dark or crisp. While the pasta and guanciale cook…
Make the Sauce
- Beat the egg yolks in a bowl, then stir in the grated Pecorino cheese. Add some grated black pepper, next. Do not add salt: the Pecorino is salty, and we’re adding salted pasta water next.
- Now, pour in some of the pasta water a little at a time and beat into the egg mixture. It should form a nice sauce.
Combine the Ingredients
- When the guanciale is ready, turn off the heat. When the pasta is ready, remove it from the water and add directly into the guanciale in the pan. Stir to combine well
- Now it’s time to add the egg mixture. Do not turn the burner on, this is done off the heat
- Continue to mix well until the egg mixture forms a creamy, smooth sauce on the pasta. It’s so glossy and beautiful when made correctly: no clumps or curdled eggs
- Using a large fork, or kitchen tweezers, twirl some of the pasta into a ladle. Bring the ladle to the plate. Keep twirling as you start to remove the ladle
- Remove the ladle and place the pasta onto the plate. Gently remove the tweezers Grate some more cheese on top of the pasta And grate some black pepper, too.
- Serve immediately.
- As long as you know the authentic Italian recipe, feel free to make it your own version.
- I would advise trying to make it as written the first time to see how it is, and then making changes (as will all other recipes).
- To make the genuine recipe, you need to use guanciale and Pecorino Romano, however, if you are outside of Italy, guanciale is quite difficult (and expensive) to source, so please don't fret if you have to use pancetta or bacon, or Parmigiano Reggiano instead of Pecorino (a cow's milk cheese instead of a sheep's milk cheese).
- It's better to use quality ingredients over the "right" ingredients. For example, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese would be my choice over a copycat Pecorino cheese. Also, if you can buy guanciale, but it's full of spices and nitrates, use a plain pancetta, or nitrate-free bacon, instead.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 497Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 273mgSodium: 1821mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 17g
Nutrition information is only estimated.
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I have been cooking Diane Seed’s recipe for years. It is my go to dinner when there is very little in the fridge. There is always bacon and cream though!
Nect time I will try your version.
I love the fact that you always have bacon and cream in your fridge. We’re birds of a feather! ;) Let me know what you think, but it might be too “low fat” for you after using Diane Seed’s all these years! :)
Now, it’s funny, the first post on my blog that went kind of viral—this was several years ago now, not long after I moved back from Italy—was on the authentic version of carbonara. I put it right up front: no cream! And lots of Italians chimed in to agree and say finally someone had said it (to an American audience).
I may have mellowed a bit since then. Perhaps it’s having lived in the States again for so many years now, but I tend to be less doctrinaire these days. And if your Mom, who is from the region, adds milk to her carbonara, who I am to differ? I’m actually intrigued by the idea of milk (rather than cream) which is totally new to me. I’ll have to try it next time.
Can you believe this is MY post? The only thing is, I am being super clear that my version is completely inauthentic and do still give the REAL recipe. I could drink cream, so when I saw that recipe in the 100 sauces book, I wanted to try it, of course toning it down a bit. I also did really enjoy the carbonara I had at the Carbonara restaurant in Rome, though! :)
I think it’s important to know the authentic version, which 99% of the time (to me), it’s the best!
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OK, I made this for dinner the other night, and like Krista I used a version of both recipes. I was out of both bacon and pancetta :( so I used some nice ham instead. 1/2 & 1/2 and (of course) peccorino romano. Delicious. We all loved it. I made a trip to the store today, and now have pancetta as well as my fave peccorino romano – and I can’t wait to try the full-fat version. Hey, we all need a little sinfulness occasionally – right? Next thing from your recipes I want to try is the cream buns. Like you – I LOVED these when I was a child, and never thought to make them myself – but that is DEF the next thing on my list! Keep cooking Christina, and please keep posting! I love to see your posts on FB, and try to always “Like” so you know that I can see them.
Thank you SO MUCH for letting me know about your ventures into Carbonara-land, Lee! Love that you made your own version and so happy you all enjoyed it! If you grew up on Cream Buns (Cream Cookies) then you’re going to be in heaven! Let me know once you make them, and thank you for liking my FB posts! It keeps FB sharing my posts with you and others, too!
Love, love, love spaghetti carbonara! I don’t really follow a recipe, just throw it all in. I confess I haven’t tried using cream or half and half, but next time I definitely will. I’m usually making it for two or three people, and therefore a pound of spaghetti would be too much.I totally agree that you HAVE to use peccorino romano – nothing else tastes right.
[…] Spaghetti alla Carbonara (my recipe, he made […]
One of my favorite pasta dishes…So easy and delicious!