Spaghetti carbonara is an easy pasta dinner made with eggs, bacon, cheese, and garlic. Hot pasta is tossed with eggs that create a light, creamy and silky sauce. The combination of the salty bacon with the cheese and light sauce is so delicious.
The first time I ever had homemade spaghetti carbonara was back when Mr. K. and I were dating and he learned how to make it while visiting his family in Italy. His aunt taught him while he was there and he was so excited to make it for me when he got home.
It’s a really simple pasta dish made with pancetta, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and egg. He absolutely loved it when he tried it in Italy and was confident he could make if for me when he got home. I was excited at the time, too, because he’d never cooked for me and I thought it was so sweet he was going to all the effort to make it.
Ingredients for Spaghetti Carbonara
There are many variations of spaghetti carbonara but it’s usually a combination of cheese, pasta, egg, and pancetta or bacon. Pancetta is cured pork and is what is traditionally used, but many people in the US use bacon since it is more easily accessible.
- Olive oil
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Black pepper
- Chopped parsley
How to Make It
- Once you have all of your ingredients, spaghetti carbonara is a very quick recipe. While the pasta is boiling in a separate pot, render the fat from the bacon in a large pan. Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and discard all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat.
- Cook the garlic in the bacon fat for a minute or two. At this point, add the cooked spaghetti to the bacon fat and garlic. Add the olive oil on top of the pasta.
- Next, add the eggs right into the pasta. It might seem weird, but the heat from the pasta cooks the eggs and they create a light silky sauce. As soon as you add the eggs use tongs to toss the pasta with them so they cook.
- Once the egg is coating the pasta evenly, add in the chopped bacon and most of the Parmesan cheese, reserving some for garnish. Toss it all again and it’s ready to serve. I like to sprinkle the rest of the cheese over each serving along with the chopped parsley.
This is the way Mr. K.’s aunt made it for him in Italy and I got to experience it too after we got married and went to Italy for our honeymoon. It doesn’t have nearly as much sauce as what I see served at Italian restaurants here, but just enough to flavor the pasta. I used to love lots of sauce on my pasta but really learned to appreciate the more minimal sauced pasta when I ate my way through Rome with Mr. K’s family. It’s so delicious and comforting.
I love how easy it is, although when Mr. K. first made it for me back in college it didn’t go as well.
When he first made it for me back when we were dating it was a lesson in what NOT to do. He’s notoriously slow in the kitchen and so he waited too long to toss the pasta with the eggs. By the time he did it the pasta was cold and the eggs didn’t cook when he tossed them with the pasta! When he showed it to me it was basically raw egg and pasta and we agreed it wasn’t safe to eat.
I don’t quite remember what we ended up eating that night because the failed spaghetti carbonara is all we remember! But now I make it for us and every time I do we can’t help but remember the first he made it for me – the memory of it always makes us laugh.
Tips for Making Carbonara
Two of the biggest issues I’ve seen with this dish are undercooked eggs or scrambled eggs. Here are some tips to avoid these results:
- Work quickly. You want to toss the egg while the pasta is still hot and the bacon fat is still warm. If your pasta or bacon fat has already cooled, you won’t have enough heat to cook the egg.
- The heat from the pan must be turned off. Too much heat will also result in scrambled eggs. So even though you want the bacon oil and pasta to stay warm, make sure your burner is not still on when you toss in the egg.
- Only add pasta water a little at a time. You only want enough sauce just to coat the pasta.
More Pasta Recipes to Try
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 lb pasta
- 2 eggs whisked
- 2 tbsp oil from bacon
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- pinch black pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
- Bring skillet to medium heat. Cook bacon in skillet until crispy. Reserve 2 tbsp of oil and drain out the rest. Remove bacon and slice into small pieces. Add garlic to skillet with bacon oil and cook until garlic is soft.
- Meanwhile, in a separate pot, bring water to boil and cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta but keep the water on the stove (you will need some of it for your sauce) and place hot pasta into the skillet with bacon grease (which should still be hot) and add the olive oil on top of noodles. If your bacon grease has cooled down, heat it back up before adding the pasta. Turn off the stove before adding the pasta.
- Working quickly, add eggs to the pasta and start tossing noodles with tongs until egg is barely cooked and coated. Make sure your stove is off otherwise you will have too much heat which will lead to scrambled eggs. If needed, add a few tbsp of the water used to cook the pasta to thin out the sauce.
- Once a sauce is created, add in bacon and a little more than half of the parmesan cheese until mixed and coated. Sprinkle pepper, remaining Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley and serve.
- Make sure you turn off the stove before adding the egg into the pasta dish. Keeping the pan too hot will overcook the eggs and create scrambled eggs.
- The heat from the pasta should be enough to cook the eggs to create a silky sauce. Just make sure you work quickly before the pasta cools down.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.