Luscious, Creamy Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara
The Spruce
Ratings (81)
  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 Servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
950 Calories
43g Fat
87g Carbs
49g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The Italians make carbonara with guanciale, which is a sort of bacon made from cured pork cheeks, but you can substitute pancetta, which like ordinary bacon is from the pork belly, or just use ordinary bacon. Guanciale is not typically smoked, though, so for the most classic flavor, don't use smoked bacon.

Although the recipe says "spaghetti," you can make this carbonara recipe with penne or fettuccine or bucatini.

But what about the cream? Traditional carbonara in Italy is made without cream. It's a drier carbonara, to be sure, but not less satisfying. 

Still, if you're accustomed to the North American version of carbonara as it is served at popular restaurants like Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden and so forth, a cream-free carbonara might not be what you want. 

And we're here to say: no judgment! You like what you like, and trying to convince someone to stop liking what they like is always futile. Therefore, we have cream in this recipe. If you don't want it, you can leave it out.

In fact, even the version of carbonara in this recipe will seem downright minimalist compared to the standard North American version, which usually features peas, or sometimes diced, roasted red peppers, even chicken or shrimp. Again, the solution is: add it if you like it that way.

If you're adding peas, for instance, a cup of frozen peas stirred into the sauce at step 5 will do the trick. A grilled chicken breast cut into strips can either go in at step 5 or you can hold it to the end and serve it atop the pasta, garnished with some chopped fresh parsley.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 pound bacon (cut into 1/2-inch dice)
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon Italian parsley (chopped)
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino-romano cheese (parmesan may be substituted)

Steps to Make It

  1. Fill a large soup pot with cold water and add a handful or so of Kosher salt. Stir and taste; it should taste like seawater. Cover the pot and heat the water until it boils.​

  2. Add the diced bacon to a cold sauté pan and cook slowly over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels.​

  3. Drop the spaghetti into the boiling salted water and cook according to package instructions, about 6 to 9 minutes or until al dente, or tender, but still firm to the bite.​

  4. While the pasta cooks, combine the egg yolks, cheese, cream and olive oil in a bowl and beat with a whisk until completely mixed.

  5. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the pasta water and set it aside.

  6. Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot along with the bacon.

  7. With the pot off the heat, add the egg and cream mixture and stir briskly while the sauce thickens up. You can adjust the consistency with some of the reserved pasta water.​

  8. Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with the chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Serve right away, with additional grated cheese if desired.