Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti pasta alla carbonara. Luscious and wonderfully indulgent, it takes as long to make as it does to cook the spaghetti. The ingredients are simple, just spaghetti (or other long pasta), pancetta or bacon, eggs, Parm, 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.

By the way, for those of you who must eat gluten-free, I’ve found an excellent gluten-free pasta that works well with this recipe. Look for the bionaturae brand. I’ve found it at Whole Foods.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

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 traditionally included in spaghetti alla carbonara, but I like the addition of it, so it's in my version. By the way, traditionally "guanciale", or pork jowl, is used in this dish, so if you can get it, by all means use it.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

1 Put a large pot of salted water on to boil (1 Tbsp salt for every 2 quarts of water.)

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2 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 In a small bowl, beat the eggs and mix in about half of the cheese.

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4 Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add the pasta, and cook, uncovered, at a rolling boil. 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. 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, then add the beaten eggs with cheese and toss quickly to combine once more. Add salt to taste.

Serve at once with the rest of the parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

If you want, sprinkle with a little fresh chopped parsley.

Links:

Pasta carbonara with bucatini with video from Matt Armendariz on Goodbite.com
Spaghetti carbonara for beginners from Adam the Amateur Gourmet
Cooking with Pastor Ryan: Pasta Carbonara from The Pioneer Woman

65 Comments

  1. Brazos

    Thanks for posting this. I haven’t made it in a long time and it’s soooo good.

  2. Chris B.

    This is my favorite pasta dish. Glad to see it so well represented here! A splash of white wine in the bacon or pancetta mixture is a nice addition. Also, to help cook the eggs, I like to first toss the egg mixture with the cooked pasta, and then reheat and stir in the bacon mixture. Either way, great stuff :)

  3. Becki's Whole Life

    Divine! Love the simplicity of a carbonara, but all of the flavors are just perfect together. I love the big chunks of pancetta in yours. I want some right now!

  4. Victoria

    I am so happy you know how to make carbonara the right way!! My husband is Italian and always complains about recipes we find online! This is awesome!

  5. Katie G.

    Hi…

    I’m a little uncomfortable about this recipe ONLY due to the fact that raw eggs are used. I guess the heat from the pasta won’t cook it…

    ktg

    Hi Katie, have you ever made a custard base with eggs, for example for homemade ice cream? As you heat the egg mixture, at about 160 degrees the eggs begin to thicken the mixture. This is the temperature the eggs need to get too to be safe if you are concerned about salmonella. The boiling water out of which you took the pasta is at 212°F. What you are counting on in this recipe is that the very hot pasta is enough to bring the temp of the egg mixture up to 160°F. By the way, if the eggs get too hot, they will curdle. That has happened to me several times, which is why we take the pasta off the heat before mixing with the egg mixture. If, however, you, or anyone you are serving this recipe, is in a risk group for salmonella, you may not want to make this recipe. ~Elise

  6. Virginia

    This dish proves once again, the simplest recipes are often the best. That’s why this recipe has stood the test of time.

  7. Cherie Harper

    Oh gosh, I just love a good Carbonara, especially when I’m in a hurry. It may just be the fastest comfort food out there. Ok…considering speed, perhaps a grilled cheese, then Carbonara. :)

  8. rita

    I love pasta and spaghetti alla carbonara is one of my favourite dishes, I usually do not use garlic, but next time I will! Thanks for your tip. Rita

  9. Marc Goodman

    I’m glad you posted a carbonara recipe. I had been using Claire Robison’s Spinach Carbonara recipe which is good, but this one seems much easier. I plan on making this soon.

  10. Lisa

    Really, Carbonara isn’t that indulgent. If you look at it, it’s no worse than a bacon/eggs/homefries/toast breakfast and lots of people have that multiple times a week!

    I mean, I agree it’s not every day food, but it really isn’t that bad. (Especially if eaten with a nice side salad)

  11. Joannenicole

    I don’t suppose there’s a vegetarian way to do this? (sacrilege, I know.) For health reasons my family has decided to go vegetarian. I gave up most meats pretty easily, but bacon is the one I’m really going to miss.

    Could you just saute the garlic in the olive oil without the pancetta/bacon and follow the recipe from there? Would that still work?

    You might try this zucchini carbonara but skipping the prosciutto. You’ll need to increase the salt and maybe add more cheese. ~Elise

  12. awineguy

    One of the ultimate comfort foods, I never use garlic or salt in mine but lots of cracked black pepper.

    It’s one of the first things I cooked for my wife when we were dating, so easy yet soooooooooo good.

  13. Joe

    I love carbonara but my guilt complex can’t handle it very often.

    Our compromise is to make a fusion version of Aglio e Olio (Garlic & Oil) and Carbonara.:

    Garlic
    Pancetta (or bacon) – minimal amount
    red pepper flakes
    spaghetti
    pecorino
    olive oil
    salt & pepper to taste

    Same simplicity but minimal amount of meat and no eggs.

  14. Rita

    Morningstar vegetarian bacon is actually pretty good. I think I will try this recipe using that.

  15. Lorenz

    Just nit-picking here, but usually the kind of bacon used is “guanciale” and not pancetta. It’s just a minimal difference, I know, but there must be a reason entire generations of italians have argued about it… :)

    For vegetarians, you could use chopped onions instead of guanciale and keep the rest of the recipe as it is. Tasty as well.

    Yes, thank you for that reminder. I’ve added a mention of guanciale to the notes of the recipe. It’s not widely available here, but if one can get it, it’s fabulous. ~Elise

  16. Cris

    I love this recipe, I was first taught it by Italians who made it daily in University. We make it all the time.

    Occasionally, we have people over who are freaked out by raw eggs. This is what I do: I put the hot empty pasta pan back on a medium flame adding some olive oil and toss the finished carbonara into the hot oil/pan with a sprinkle of seasoned breadcrumbs. The bread crumbs crisp up nice and all is good… :-) Must be flexible with in-laws!

    Every time I’ve tried to make it that way I’ve curdled the eggs. You have better luck than I do with this way! ~Elise

  17. Shawna @ CheekyChicFamily

    mmmm….splurge is right. This looks amazing. I’ll have to try is soon on one of my splurge days.

  18. DGNYC

    This is one of the best dishes my husband makes, and his recipe is very similar. It’s quick and comforting.

    For those nights we just want to use ingredients in the house (and sadly we don’t keep bacon laying around) we use anchovies as a substitute. It gives a little fat (but not quite as much as bacon) and a nice saltiness, so those who are worried about the bacon fat you can use that. Eggs are good for you, so for those concerned about the fattiness of the meal, don’t shy away from the eggs!

    Some add ons that we occasionally use: basil and some sort of veggie like zucchini, asparagus or fresh peas.

    We also sometimes use short pasta instead of spaghetti or linguine.

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I know what I’m having tonight :)

    Love the idea of using anchovies. I use anchovy paste all the time, it’s especially good in salad dressings. Thank you for the suggestion! ~Elise

  19. Gary

    Pasteurized eggs are good option if you are concerned about the possibility of under-cooked eggs.

  20. Bev Weidner

    Oooooh my gosh this is SO MADE for me.

  21. Rossella

    Can I make a quick suggestion to make sure the eggs won’t congeal once heated?
    Separate egg whites from yolks, and put the whites first in the bowl: add hot pasta, mix quickly and then add the beaten yolks/pecorino mix(or Parmigiano, or 50:50).Obviously the two phases occur in matter of seconds still, splitting the eggs, will help get a creamier version of the sauce (and avoid lumps of egg).
    To Katie G.: this quintessential “Roman” recipe is done daily in 95% of Italian restaurants across the country…had it seriously threatened the population with salmonellosis, I think we would not have been making this since the 1930s ;) Enjoy!

    Thank you for the suggestion Rossella! ~Elise

  22. Gina

    I would gladly suffer through a week of kale (not my favorite leafy green!) for a plate of this!

  23. Luca

    Being Italian myself I’d suggest an easier way to avoid to congeal the eggs is to add a bit of cream to the mix, that’s an addition that you find in most Italian cooking books. It tastes better too.

  24. Robyn

    Thanks for posting the REAL way to make Carbonara! No cream, no stock, no wine…this is the way it’s made in Italy where I first fell in love with the dish!

  25. sylviane santi

    Hi, very close to the original one. I use a little white wine once the pancetta is cooked to take away the ‘greasy’ side of it.
    I use only egg yolk and mix it with the cheeses, and a little cooking water. The egg should not be cooked while you mix it it should be ‘bavosa’ but I understand not everyone likes raw egg.
    Of course the taste doesn’t change much. If the egg gets cooked while mixing, the whole pasta will result a bit dry, so keep some of the cooking water.
    thanks for your beautiful work

  26. Holly

    I’m actually making this tomorrow with the real proper Italian meat – guanciale (a bacon-like cured meat made from pig’s jowl). I was able to find it at a local Italian grocery store. I can’t wait to use it. I’m trying to replicate the Pasta Carbonara I had outside of Venice last year. If it’s a smashing success, I’ll report back!

  27. tommy2rs

    Ah, carbonara. I do love this stuff. I’ll change it up every so often by using Mexican chorizo and anejo cheese in place of the bacon and parm. Maybe a bit of cilantro to garnish.

  28. Julie

    I love carbonara! This recipe looks great, and is very similar to the one that I use. (In my house, garlic is far from optional – it’s required!).

    One thing I’ve picked up from making tons of carbonara is that taking the eggs out of the fridge ahead of time can really make things easier. Sometimes, in a really spur-of-the-moment carbonara session, the eggs are so cold that the hot pasta fails to “cook” them thoroughly. Then I end up reheating the whole pan of noodles, eggs, and bacon, stirring like crazy and hoping like hell that the eggs don’t scramble.

  29. Rocky Mountain Woman

    My problem is that I kind of skip the kale and go straight for the carbonara.

    This looks wonderful! I might have to try it this weekend…

  30. Robyn | Add a Pinch

    There is absolutely nothing like this dish! So quick, simple and yet so scrumptious!

  31. saundra

    carbonara was made during lent..added lots of butter to the pasta and a cup of the pasta water..no meat..parsley for color.

  32. hel

    I am sorry Elise, but I found this recipe to be very bland. I added cracked red pepper, margoram and parsley to no avail.
    Perhaps I will try a vegetble version of said recipe in the future. Maybe a summer savory, fennel and leek version would put this dish over the top.
    Thank you for all of your other recipes and keep up the great work!

    If you add salt and pepper to taste, it shouldn’t be bland. ~Elise

    • Jenn

      I found many pasta recipes bland until I started following the directions on the pasta box, and adding salt to the boiling water! Is there any chance you didn’t salt your pasta water?

  33. Michelle/Mickle in NZ

    Mmmmm, a favourite of mine. I mix the eggs, cheese and black pepper together and then temper this mix with a tablespoon or 2 of the hot pasta water. This way the egg mixture is warm and has never curdled on me when mixed through the pasta.

    Happy Eating!

  34. Cooking with Michele

    I just made a batch of homemade pancetta before I left for vacation – just might need to make this tonight!

  35. Lasse

    Oh, I do love this and make it quite often. I add just a tiny bit of white wine near the end of the bacon cooking time and let it reduce almost completely.

    @ hel: If this turned out bland, my guess would be that there wasn’t enough salt in the pasta water. It’s hard to get flavor into pasta after it’s been cooked with too little salt in the water. Just a guess…

  36. Chris

    I will second the recommendation for bionaturae. I love their spaghetti, and use Tinkyada for the shaped pasta (shells, elbows, what have you.)

    Very excited to try this recipe!

  37. Oui, Chef

    There is no better pasta dish than carbonara, especially one made authentically like this one (no cream or peas). I use guanciale when I can get my hands on some, it makes for an even better dish. – S

  38. Sarah

    Funny how you mention splurging on this after a whole week of kale! I actually made this recently and added blanched kale to the pasta at the end. It added great texture.

  39. Joanne

    The one time I attempted spaghetti carbonara I scrambled the eggs :( This is inspiring me to make it again though, your recipes are so reliable! Thanks Elise.

  40. Adam Kalsey

    I temper the eggs with a ladle full of the pasta water. Helps keep them from curdling. And i find a pinch of red pepper flakes added with the garlic is a nice addition.

  41. jonathan

    really? only 1/2 pound of bacon? are you sure those measurements are correct?

  42. Elise

    Just made a variation of this tonight that I thought I would share with you. I steamed some broccoli florets for 5 minutes and set aside. Cooked up a little diced pancetta. Whisked 2 eggs with some grated robusto cheese (tastes like a cross between Gouda and Parm). Cooked 12 ounces of gluten-free spiral pasta. Strained the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Tossed the pasta with the pancetta. Stirred in the eggs. Stirred in a little of the cooking water. Stirred in the broccoli and some more cheese. Aggressively seasoned with freshly ground black pepper. YUM! Serves 3. So good! Broccoli loves black pepper. The pancetta was just enough for a little extra flavor. You could go meat-free with this and just toss the pasta in a little olive oil before adding the eggs and cheese.

  43. Val from PA

    Carbonara is one of my all-time favorite ways to serve pasta! One of my favorite recipes uses chunks of ham rather than the bacon and some sauteed onions as well (it’s a great way to use up leftover ham at Easter). It may not be “traditional” but it’s delicious! Thanks for posting such a humble but yummy dish!

  44. Erin

    I too have problems with the egg curdling – I used to let the egg come to room temperature and then temper it with pasta water which worked for a while, but lately when I make this dish the egg has started to curdle which makes the dish a bit dry and the sauce much less silky. Do you know what causes the egg to curdle? Is it the heat of the pasta? Should I not beat the egg before I add the pasta to it?

    It’s the heat from the pasta. You should beat the eggs, and you should add them to the pasta, but first toss the pasta a few seconds with the bacon/pancetta. You might try adding a little egg, and stirring madly. If it curdles, the pasta is still too hot. If not, then add the rest of the egg mixture. ~Elise

  45. Irene

    I absolutely love your website and is great to finally find a non-Italian cooking a proper carbonara WITHOUT cream and only with raw eggs!!!:) we italians are really proud about our recipes!

  46. Everett

    made this tonight before watching The Oscars. Amazing. Next time I’ll probably add some crushed red peppers because I like a little heat, but yeah it was amazing.

  47. Ann

    Have made this twice now since you posted it – once with bacon and once without. Yum! Even my 8- and 12-year-old nephews loved it – and we know how picky kids can be. One commenter said it was bland. No. Delicate flavor, yes. An easy one added to my repertoire. Thanks. Love, Ann

  48. Tara

    I was wondering about re-heating, and worried about cooking the eggs in the process of re-heating. Any suggestions?

    Reheated carbonara is problematic for that reason. It will still taste good, but the eggs in the sauce might get a little cooked. ~Elise

  49. Howard

    I made this yesterday, substituting turkey bacon an adding some scallion and sundried tomato for balance and it was amazing! Thank you for this simple, delcious and indulgent recipe. Perfect for a raw NY night!

  50. Joy

    Success! My family loved it yummy simplicity!

  51. Susana

    i love Spaghetti alla Carbonara, i used to cook it in a different but similar way because i did not know the traditional one. For sure i will try this one as soon as possible.

  52. Rebecca H.

    One of the things I love about Carbonara, aside from it’s glorious taste and texture, is that despite it’s richness, it is such an elegant dish, whether it’s made for one or two or en masse for ravenous hoards.

    It’s a such a good people-feeder too, lots of calcium, protein, potassium and fiber. Of course we all need to eat lots of veg and fruit but we need these things too.

  53. OM

    I love this recipe. That’s great!

  54. Tracy @ Daily Deal Blog

    I like it! It so quick and easy to prepare. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  55. marty

    Nice blog, but I’m italian, I live in Rome and I can tell you that in this recipe there’s an error. The Carbonara classic recipe needs 1 yolk for person plus one “for the fryingpan”. The cheese needs to be 1 part of parmesan and 2 of pecorino romano dop.

    Goodbyeeee

    :)

  56. Phyllis

    I’m addicted! I first made it yesterday, just made more and guess what’s for dinner tomorrow. It’s such as delicious dish and keeps me full all day. Thanks for my new obsession!

  57. Ryan s

    Elise, when transferring the spaghetti to the bowl with tongs: is it important to let the water drip off the spaghetti? Or does the extra liquid go into making the sauce?

    The extra liquid goes into making the sauce. ~Elise

  58. nas

    I whip the eggs with a bit of fresh cream.makes it so much yummier and creamier. Adds more calories though. :(

  59. Emily

    Just made this tonight for dinner and it is delicious! I also added a can of (drained) sliced mushrooms while cooking the bacon and garlic. My husband is already begging me to make it again. :)

  60. Boofy

    I just made this for the first time and the pasta is very dry. Should there be a creamier consistency? Most people have been commenting on how creamy and wonderful it is, but mine seems to be strangely dry like the egg absorbed. Was I supposed to drain the bacon or is the bacon fat part of the “sauce”?

    The best way is to use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon or pancetta from the pan to a bowl. That way it has some of its extra fat, but not all of it. I think your pasta might be dry because perhaps you drained it? Rather than using tongs to lift it out of the water? When you use tongs, then you get very wet spaghetti, which is what you want and what contributes to the creaminess of the sauce. If it ends up too dry while you are making it, you can also always just add a bit of the pasta cooking water to it. ~Elise

  61. Michael

    Just did this with half my eye on the computer and the other half on the kitchen.
    It was so amazingly easy to do.

    I nearly messed the whole thing up by using too small of a bowl to beat the eggs in. I ended up draining out the water halfway through pulling out the pasta with the tongs. I put the pasta, eggs and cheese back into the pot and stirred it up with the tongs.

    Wasn’t dry or anything and got really good towards the bottom of the pot. MMmmmmmm gravity doing its thing.

    ~MikeFromQueens

  62. Allie

    I see that I am entering into a long-ago exchange, but I thought I’d add my two cents’ for anyone coming across this… I do NOT use garlic; rather, after the bacon (or alternative.. for vegetarians or those who might not like bacon, I would suggest adding extra virgin olive oil, if you have a good quality one it would end up very flavorful). Wow long digression! What I wanted to say is that you then take that fat, the animal fat or olive oil (I usually drain out most of the bacon fat and add extra olive oil to make up for it), and saute onions or maybe even better, shallots! Someone else mentioned black pepper, I agree, LOTS of black pepper and sometimes just a bit of good red pepper. The heat from that is a nice counterpoint. Some people say that the word “carbonara” derives from a phrase something like “coal miners’ pasta” and many believe that it refers to the great amount of ground black pepper throughout the dish! It makes sense to me.
    For those who end up “scrambling” their eggs, I wouldn’t worry. I like it however it comes out, creamy or not. When I was younger and had “picky” people over for a meal I would tell them that it was “pasta with bacon and eggs” and that didn’t scare anyone away with an unfamiliar name and people also seemed to find the very american-seeming combination of simple ingredients to be much like a comfort food!
    BTW I much prefer linguine or linguine fini for this dish; since it has just a tiny bit more variation in size I find the dish to be more cohesive. I think simple things like this end up sliding off of perfectly round and slippery spaghetti. That is just a personal preference of mine! But the onions/shallots, extra virgin olive oil, and both black and red pepper… THEN you’ve got a dish! Thanks, I enjoyed reading the recipe and going through the comments!

  63. Harry

    Wonderful stuff, one can so easily become tired of the famous italian tomato sauce. I add capers and thinly sliced tops from scallions to mine. Actually this is peasant food and that is why it is so delicious.

  64. Kevin Aldrich

    If you make this with low-carb pasta, this is a perfectly healthy, no weight-gain recipe.

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