Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of my favourite fall-back meals when there is nothing else to eat in the fridge. All you really need is some dried pasta, cured pork, good cheese and a fresh egg to pull off a delightfully rich and satisfying meal. It’s one of those dishes where less is more, so forget about making an involved cream sauce.

Carbonara sauce is simply a mixture of egg, cheese, and olive oil whisked together. Adding the hot pasta to the mixture melts the cheese and starts to set the egg, making a thick creamy sauce that clings to every strand of spaghetti like bark on a tree. The fried guanciale batons add texture and an immense amount of flavor, making pasta carbonara a dish with about the highest reward to effort ratio I can think of.

Of course, as with anything so simple, the quality of each ingredient is critical. Since the egg straddles the border between raw and cooked, you should be very confident that your eggs are fresh and safe. Ideally you’re getting your eggs from a local farm that you trust, but I’ve had good luck with Eggland’s Best Cage Free Eggs.

Spaghetti Carbonara

For the cheese, a nutty aged Pecorino Romano is ideal, but Parmigiano-Reggiano will do in a pinch. Just please do yourself a favor and avoid the green can of Kraft. I grew up on the stuff and remember dumping it on everything I could, but since discovering the joys of freshly grated real cheese I haven’t once looked back.

Guanciale isn’t the easiest thing to find, but if you can get your hands on some, it makes a world of difference in Spaghetti Carbonara. If you can’t find it, Pancetta makes a descent substitute, and if you’re in a real bind, a slab of bacon will do. I say slab because you want to hand cut your choice of meat into thick meaty batons for the full effect.

While this authentic pasta carbonara is good as is, I’m not one to leave well enough alone, so I like adding a slow cooked egg on top. If you’ve never had one before, slow cooked eggs are made by cooking an egg in its shell in a 146 degree F water bath for 45 minutes. A Sous Vide Supreme or thermal circulator make it easy to make, but you can also make them with a heavy bottomed pot and a instant read thermometer. The rich custardy egg on a bowl of piping hot Spaghetti Carbonara is better than sex!

Equipment you'll need:

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    Spaghetti Carbonara
  • A rich satisfying pasta made with guanciale, cheese, and egg.
ServingsPrep TimeCook Time
2 3 minutes 9 minutes

Ingredients

  • 50 grams Pecorino Romano grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 170 grams Guanciale Pancetta or Bacon will also work
  • 170 grams dried pasta boiled according to package directions
  • 2 slow cooked eggs (optional)
Servings:
Units:

Instructions

  1. Boil a large pot of well salted water, then cook the pasta according to the package directions. For dried spaghetti I usually boil the noodles for 8 minutes rather than the 9 recommended on the package to ensure they are al dente.
  2. Combine the Pecorino, egg, olive oil and black pepper in a large bowl and whisk together until the mixture is smooth and there are no clumps of egg whites.
  3. Chop the Guanciale into batons and add to a pan over medium high heat and fry until cooked through.
  4. Drain the pasta (do not rinse), then immediately dump it into the egg mixture. It's important that the pasta be very hot, otherwise the egg mixture won't thicken into a sauce. Add the fried Guanciale and toss to coat evenly. Plate your Spaghetti Carbonara and top with a slow cooked egg.
  • http://twitter.com/babysumo Baby Sumo

    That looks so good!! The addition of a slow cooked egg on top definitely does it for me.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      I love Carbonara on it’s own but the slow cooked egg really sets it off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dortu2 Daniela Ortu

    Hi nice to see an authentic carbonara recipe without cream or other weird ingredients…I am from Rome and we cook it with Guanciale a kind of bacon taken from the cheek and neck of a pig at least 9 month old and in the region where I come from (Lazio) this is matured with salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic and sometimes sage. Anyway bacon or streaky bacon is more than ok to cook carbonara!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      I’m with you I see too many people making this with a cheese and cream based bechamel.

      • Nero Di Seppia

        We really should spread the word as much as we can: cream, bechamel and such are absolutely forbidden in the Carbonara! :)

  • http://kellysiewcooks.com/ Kelly Siew

    That’s the best looking Spaghetti Carbonara I’ve ever seen! So sexy!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/quatrofromaggio Paolo Quatrofromaggio

    Absolutely perfect – and, being Italian, I have high standards on this dish. Wonderful addition of the slow-cooked egg – what a great way to add a twist without changing the concept of the dish!

  • http://twitter.com/TheCooksSister The Cook’s Sister

    What a lovely carbonara! The colours are so vibrant!

  • Louis

    Marc, didn’t you have an older post on here using pancetta instead of guanciale? I’ve also found that using just the egg yolk makes for a richer and more dry (told “traditional”) end product. Just a thought. :-)

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Yep, I posted about the Japanese version of carbonara once. As for the yolks it sounds delicious, but for me, this pasta is all about no-fuss, and separating whites and yolks is probably more trouble than I’d go through. If you put the noodles in when they’re hot, the egg sticks to the pasta and shouldn’t be wet.

      • http://www.facebook.com/quatrofromaggio Paolo Quatrofromaggio

        In my experience, Carbonara is made with whole eggs. I also confirm that guanciale is the most traditional, though pancetta is a decent replacement.

  • Agnes

    Hi Marc: Do you real mean to slow cook the egg in 146F water bath for 45 minutes?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      The water needs to be 146 F (63.5 C). You can do this a number of ways. One way is to put a pot on the stove and heat it 146 degrees, add the eggs, wait for the temperature to come back up to 146 again, then cover the pot and stick it in a warm oven. You can also do it all on the stove, adjusting the temperature down with ice water.

      • Agnes

        tks, Marc: I will try this method this weekend.

  • Serena Palumbo

    Great idea with the poached eggs! here is my version of the recipe http://serenapalumbo.com/blog/?p=2219

  • Sodamoeba

    Wow this was delicious and took exactly the amount of time it took to boil the pasta. I’m surprised how much flavor the cheese imparts to the dish. I used Vintage Van Gogh aged gouda because it’s what I had available, and it imparted almost a fruity aroma to the whole dish. I’m interested to try it again with the recommended romano.

  • Anita

    My husband makes something like this but its never had a name. Usually he uses bacon (though its also good without) Parmesan cheese, a little seasoning (usually whatever he’s in the mood for) egg and angel hair spaghetti noodles. I have found in learning to make this that the trick is to mix really fast!! because the noodles heat actually cooks (though I use this term loosely) the egg until its nice an creamy as you described but is in NO way a raw egg. Of course the cheese and meat really bring it home and its so fast and quick. I cant believe I found this recipe! I’ve really enjoyed your website and this was a nice variation on a fast weekday meal that takes only the time needed for the noodles! I’ve been looking for a really good sweet and sour sauce for sweet and sour chicken. Any thoughts? Thanks again for sharing this! Your food is simply amazing….a hard compliment from an extremely picky eater with texture issues!! Amazing!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Anita, thanks for your nice note! I have my take on sweet and sour pork (minus the MSG and food coloring) that will be showing up on PBS Food on 2/19, so keep an eye out for it:-)

  • Nero Di Seppia

    Much respect for this, Marc! I’m really impressed to see how close you are to the authentic Italian Carbonara, closer than a lot of other Italian people really! The only difference with mine – http://nerodiseppiablog.com/2013/01/20/spaghetti-alla-carbonara/ – is that instead of the full eggs, I use 1 egg yolk x person + 1 full egg “for the pot” (x4 servings of 100grams of spaghetti each). And if I may, the one ingredient that should not be missing is freshly ground black pepper on top ;)

  • Sara Almoalla

    that looks so yummy. I love you for all the wonderful ideas on this blog. I want to try every single thing.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks:-)

  • Pingback: Pasta Carbonara is an Easy Weeknight Meal that’s Sure to Impress! | Itadakimasu Anime!

  • Carlos V

    Should I drain the fat of the pancetta before adding it to the pasta?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      You can if you want to reduce the calories, but you’ll lose some flavor.

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I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!