Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Categories: Main Course, Recipes, West
Tags: , , , ,
Comments: 6 Comments
Published on: October 16, 2011

Carbonara has to be one of my favourite Italian dishes.  It’s so simple but incredibly tasty.  Sadly a lot of restaurants get it horribly wrong.  It must be a British thing but there does seem to be a propensity to add cream to a Carbonara or stranger yet mushrooms?  Carbonara is not meant to be a white sauce otherwise it would be “Spaghetti with a Bacon, White Wine and Mushroom sauce”.  And if that was the case I wouldn’t be using Spaghetti because it doesn’t really pick up a heavy sauce.  I would instead use Pappardelle or Fettuccine… something that would be better with a heavy sauce.  In case you are wondering I don’t use Spaghetti for Bolognese either.  It’s something many Italians raise their eyebrows at – Spaghetti with Bolognese?  I’ll save the explanation for when I do my own Bolognese recipe on here!

Back to the Carbonara, this is my ultimate weeknight quick supper.  It takes all of 30mins to cook and prepare and it is simply delicious!  It is a perfect quick dinner for two or you can easily scale up the quantities and make this for a large family.  This dish symbolises what I love most about Italian cuisine – simplicity.  It’s so simple, but what separates a good Carbonara from a bad one (apart from the quality of the ingredients) is how well it is cooked.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as it’s taken a few years to get it just how I like it.  I’ve tried it using different ingredients and even using Creme Fraiche but none of them have been quite so satisfying as this recipe.  All this recipe needs is some good quality ingredients, use the best dried spaghetti you can get your hands on.  Buy some nice pancetta and Pecorino from an Italian deli and use some good quality free range eggs.

Ingredients (Serves 2):

240g Pancetta

300g Spaghetti

2 Eggs

2 Cloves Garlic

150g Pecorino + extra for sprinkling

Freshly ground black Pepper

Pinch of Sea Salt

1 tbsp Olive Oil



1.  Bring a large pan of heavily salted water to the boil

2.  Cut the Pancetta into lardons and finely dice the Garlic

3.  Pour the tablespoon of Olive Oil into a saute pan and put on a high heat until the oil shimmers

4.  Put the Spaghetti in the now boiling water and cook until just Al Dente.

5.  Fry the Pancetta for a few minutes then add the Garlic.  Fry the Pancetta until it is nice and crispy.  Add the pinch of sea salt and plenty of black pepper.

6.  Using a pasta scoop or slotted spoon take the Spaghetti out of the pan and put it into the saute pan over the Pancetta.  Once you have removed all the Spaghetti from the pan, fry the whole thing for a minute.  Ensuring all the Spaghetti is coated in the oil.

7.  Remove the saute pan from the heat.  Grate in the cheese and mix well.

8.  Add the eggs into the pan and mix well.  Add some more black pepper.

9.  Spoon over a few tablespoons of the pasta water to make the Spaghetti nice and glossy.

10.  Plate the Carbonara and sprinkle generously with some more cheese.



I prefer using Pecorino for this recipe but Parmesan works just as well.  You can also swap the Pancetta for Smoked Streaky Bacon (as a cheaper alternative) but it’s not as good as the real thing.

When adding the egg make sure the pan isn’t still roasting hot.  The pasta itself should be warm enough to cook the eggs as a sauce.  This is the trickiest part of the recipe, you have a margin of 2 degrees… too hot and it’s scrambled eggs, too cold and the eggs won’t cook.  You can get away with it being too cold but scrambled eggs don’t make a nice sauce.

Keep the pasta water boiling while you add in the cheese and eggs.  If the pasta is too cold for the eggs the addition of the hot water will soon sort it and it will reheat it a little, ensuring you don’t end up serving a cold dish.  Don’t add too much water though, you want a glossy sauce not a watery one.

6 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. james lloyd says:

    I agree with most of what you say but I think people have a propensity to overcook the egg. I agree with using pecorino or even a pecorino/parmesan mix but I mix my egg and Parmesan together before combining and crucially I don’t and it to the pan. I plate up the pasta and then add the egg/cheese mix to the bowls and mix in the bowl. The pasta is about the right temperature here and doesn’t overcook.

    The other ingredient I use is Guanciale. It’s difficult to get hold of but its flavour compared to pancetta is incredible (honestly will change your life!). Its bacon made from pigs cheek and I believe this is the traditional Roma bacon that they use. Be careful with it because the burning temperature of the fat in Guanciale is very low.

    • chef_cerro says:

      Thanks, I’ll try and hunt down some Guanciale, I love all things pork and I can’t say I have ever tried Guanciale, so it will be one to look out for.

      I made this post a while ago, I’ve actually changed the way I now do the eggs. I picked up some tips from an Italian chef and what they do it is to temper the egg first using the pasta water, THEN they add it to the pan, works every time. It seems so obvious now as I do it all the time when making custard, can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier.

  2. Robin says:

    Enjoyed this one very much, kids did to. Had a slight scrambled egg issue, but i know better for next time.

  3. Thanks! Your recipe makes justice to this phenomenal dish. As an Italian living in Vancouver I know exactly what you mean – even the most classic recipes often get distorted. I just discovered your blog, I’ll be following it.


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