Spaghetti Carbonara is one of the best pasta dishes of all time—because it’s so good and yet so easy to make!
Never made spaghetti carbonara? You’re in for a treat. It’s one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes. Because it’s so amazingly flavorful, yet so easy to throw together. You will love it.
And if you have made carbonara, you know how wonderful it is. But my recipe might make you love it even more. Because I’ve got a few tips that’ll make it even easier.
Let’s dig in.
The Basics of Carbonara
The main thing that makes spaghetti carbonara so special is that it’s basically hot, just-cooked pasta tossed with eggs, cheese, and crisped pancetta. That’s it.
In other words, there’s no “sauce” to make—a sauce just happens, as if by magic, as you mix the ingredients together. The heat of the pasta and the agitation of tossing turns the eggs and cheese into a flavorful, silky, creamy sauce.
Making Carbonara Even Easier
As simple as it is to make spaghetti carbonara, I’ve found ways to make it even easier.
For example, most recipes tell you to fill a mixing bowl with hot water and let it sit for a while, to warm the bowl before you toss everything together. A warm bowl helps “cook” the eggs, melt the cheese, and make a smooth, glossy sauce.
But I’ve found that I can eliminate that step by simply using a metal mixing bowl and setting it near the stovetop while my pasta is cooking. That gets it plenty warm and saves the bother of heating water, adding it to the bowl, waiting for the bowl to heat, and then dumping the water.
Here’s another step I’ve eliminated. Like most recipes, I crisp my pancetta in a skillet with a little garlic. Once the pasta is cooked, most recipes toss the pasta in that skillet—combining pasta, pancetta, garlic, and yummy pancetta pan drippings—and then toss it all in the warm bowl with the eggs and cheese.
But I’ve found I can instead scrape my crisped pancetta, garlic, and pan drippings right into my mixing bowl. Then I set the bowl near the stove while the pasta cooks. The bowl gets warm and the pancetta gets no-longer-screaming-hot. A little before draining my pasta, I add the eggs and cheese to the bowl. Then finally, I add my just-cooked pasta and toss.
This way I get all the flavor from the pancetta’s skillet but with only one tossing, saving a step.
Making my Carbonara your Carbonara
My spaghetti carbonara is purposefully basic, but you can add to it.
For example, sometimes carbonara includes peas, so you can add them by simply tossing fresh or frozen peas into the pasta cooking water for the last minute or two. Then just drain the whole mixture and toss it in the mixing bowl with the pancetta, eggs, and cheese.
But don’t limit yourself to peas. I’ve made carbonara with broccolini, asparagus, carrots, and even corn. Keep it simple or add whatever is on hand that inspires you.
You can also fool around with the cheese. I like a combination of Parmesan and pecorino, but you could use one or the other. Or try other cheeses.
You could garnish with some chopped fresh parsley or other fresh herbs.
You could also try my recipe for Pasta Carbonara with Greek Yogurt. And while we’re on simple pasta sauces, you also might like my Authentic Italian Fettuccine Alfredo.
But whatever you do, don’t overdo it. Part of what makes carbonara so delicious is its simplicity. :)
Here’s one of the best pasta dishes of all time—because it’s so good and yet so easy to make!
- 4 oz. pancetta, diced (see note)
- 12 oz. spaghetti
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 large eggs
- 3 oz. finely shredded Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), plus more for serving
- 1 1/2 oz. finely shredded Pecorino cheese (about 3/4 cup), plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
- Salt to taste
- Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
- Scrape the pancetta mixture, including any fat that accumulated in the pan, into a large metal mixing bowl. Set the bowl near the stovetop to keep it warm.
- Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, add the eggs, cheeses, and pepper to the bowl with the pancetta, whisking to combine.
- Drain the spaghetti, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then immediately add the drained hot pasta to the bowl with the egg mixture.
- Add 1/3 cup of the pasta water and toss vigorously until the cheese melts and a creamy sauce forms, adding more water as desired. Add salt and more pepper to taste.
- Serve with additional cheese on the side.
Note: Pancetta is an Italian style of bacon available at the deli counter at most major supermarkets. Ask for slices about 1/4-inch thick so it’s easy to turn into 1/4-inch dice. Sometimes you’ll see it already packaged as thin slices, which you can cut into pieces.