Pasta carbonara is an Italian family favorite made with simple ingredients.
Picture perfectly al dente spaghetti enveloped in a luscious cheesy egg sauce with crispy pancetta. That’s this timeless dish!
It’s a restaurant-worthy meal you can make in just 25 minutes. So grab a big pot because tonight, we’re having pasta carbonara!
Pasta carbonara is a classic Italian dish featuring a rich egg sauce. Cozy, creamy, and cheesy, it will please the whole family!
Like many Italian foods, there are some variations. Some versions include cream, but that’s not authentic carbonara.
Traditionally, it’s made with simple ingredients, including spaghetti, guanciale, egg, and Pecorino Romano. Comfort food like this would make any nonna proud!
The secret to mastering it is all in the sauce. Whisking the eggs in can be a little tricky. But don’t worry, this recipe will show you how.
Pasta carbonara is all about the rich, creamy sauce! Surprisingly, you don’t need a drop of cream.
Instead, here’s the list of ingredients:
- Spaghetti – Spaghetti is traditional. Other types of pasta noodles work, too. Just be sure to cook the pasta until it’s al dente.
- Egg Yolks – You can’t have carbonara sauce without it! I use four large eggs for the best texture and flavor.
- Hard Italian Cheese – Pecorino Romano or Parmesan both work. Just be sure to use freshly grated cheese. Pre-grated cheese contains additives and doesn’t melt properly.
- Black Pepper – Add a pinch of black pepper to enhance the flavor.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – For cooking the pancetta or guanciale.
- Guanciale or Pancetta – Guanciale is traditional, which is pork jowl. But you can also use pancetta, which is a salt-cured pork belly. It’s just as delicious and easier to find.
- Garlic – For a proper carbonara sauce, fresh garlic is a must.
- Salt – Add it to taste.
How to Make Pasta Carbonara
Pasta carbonara looks and tastes like it came from a restaurant. And yet, it’s simple enough for any beginner to make.
Here are the basic steps:
1. Cook the pasta. Add the spaghetti to a boiling pot of salted water. Cook it for about 8-10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.
2. Combine the egg mixture. Whisk together egg yolks, grated cheese, and freshly ground black pepper in a bowl.
3. Cook the pancetta. In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil. Add the pancetta and garlic. Cook it for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and discard the garlic.
4. Add the cooked pasta. Add the spaghetti to the skillet and mix well.
5. Stir in the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the pasta. Stir it rapidly without scrambling the eggs. Add the reserved pasta water until reaching the desired consistency.
6. Garnish. Top it with more grated cheese. Serve immediately.
Tips and Tricks
Despite the simple ingredients, nailing the egg sauce can be a little challenging at first. But don’t worry!
I’ve included some tips and tricks to ensure your pasta is perfect.
- Quality is key. The quality of your cheese can make or break the dish. So be sure to use quality Pecorino Romano or Parmesan. Or better yet, add both!
- Be prepared! When making the sauce, timing is key! So, it’s important to have all your ingredients ready to go.
- Don’t mess up the eggs. It’s important to add the egg mixture off the heat. This will help prevent the eggs from cooking too quickly and scrambling. Also, use a large shallow bowl to disperse the heat evenly.
- Give it a kick. A sprinkle of red pepper chili flakes would be delicious. They add a complementary, spicy twist.
- Throw in some fresh herbs. A pinch of parsley on top will make the dish pop!
- Try surf and turf pasta. I know it’s not traditional. But some plump shrimp would be super scrumptious on top!
- Swap the meat for bacon. Can’t find pancetta or guanciale? Use bacon instead. The flavor will change, but it will still be delicious!
What to Do with Leftovers
Pasta carbonara is best enjoyed immediately. So I recommend eating it all as soon as you make it!
The sauce thickens and loses its signature silky smooth texture as it sits. The consistency of the pasta will also change as it absorbs the sauce.
But don’t toss it out! The dish is still safe to eat. Just refrigerate leftover pasta and enjoy it within 3 days.
Keep in mind, this dish doesn’t reheat well. So the texture will be different from when you first made it.
More Pasta Recipes
- Million-Dollar Spaghetti
- Easy Pesto Pasta
- Chicken Florentine Pasta
- Easy One-Pot Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Bruschetta Chicken Pasta
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