4.64 from 11 reviews

Authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara

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spaghetti carbonara on a speckled plate garnished with black pepper

Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Let’s talk about it!

Are you just craving some comfort food just as much as me these days? Spaghetti alla Carbonara is the answer!

All it takes is spaghetti, guanciale (a.k.a. dry-cured pork jowl), eggs, black pepper and some good quality Pecorino Romano cheese.

The mixture of eggs and Pecorino Romano will create the most amazing, creamy, silky sauce.

About Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Since spaghetti alla carbonara has been around for so long, there are many theories about the origin of the dish.

However, there’s one thing that everyone can agree on — carbonara originates from Rome and is simple with the few ingredients it uses: egg, hard cheese, cured pork, and black pepper.

spaghetti carbonara on a white plate garnished with black pepper

Some people believe that it was originally created as a meal for charcoal workers, since “carbonara” comes from “carbonaro,” which is the Italian word for charcoal burner. Other people believe that during World War II, Allies distributed rations to Italians, including a lot of bacon and powdered eggs.

Eventually, the Italians figured out that adding water and pasta to the bacon and eggs was an easy way to use the rations.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of those dishes that is simple yet impressive. There are only a few ingredients, but making the perfect, creamy sauce can take some technique.

Some people also choose to garnish their carbonara or add cream, but my recipe follows the more traditional, authentic route. Keep reading to see all the tips and tricks to making an amazing spaghetti alla carbonara!

And if you find yourself still craving comfort food after trying this Spaghetti alla Carbonara, check out my Cream Cheese Pasta Bake, Hamburger Macaroni, or Creamy Gnocchi with Italian Sausage for more ideas!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Ingredients:

Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for the full list of ingredients.

ingredients needed for spaghetti carbonara
  • Guanciale: What the heck is it? Guanciale is a type of Italian-cured meat that is washed in wine, seasoned, and marinated for 40 days before drying. It adds great umami flavor to any dish!
  • Spaghetti: Traditionally, spaghetti is used to make, well, Spaghetti alla Carbonara. However, linguine and bucatini are equally as popular. Feel free to choose any type of pasta you have on hand.
spaghetti carbonara on a white plate garnished with black pepper
  • Salt: This is optional since the guanciale can add a lot of salty, umami flavor to the dish. You will however, want to add a large pinch of it to the water to cook the pasta in.
  • Black Pepper: The black pepper adds a peppery, bold flavor to the silky sauce. The simple seasoning of salt and freshly cracked black pepper allows the flavor of the guanciale to shine.
  • Pecorino Romano: This is a hard, salty Italian cheese that is usually made of sheep’s milk. The cheese is essential to making the silky carbonara sauce as it is tossed with the beaten eggs, hot pasta, and fat from the guanciale.
  • Eggs: The eggs combined with the Pecorino Romano will act as a thickener to create a creamy carbonara sauce

How to make Spaghetti Carbonara

I recommend reading the directions 1-2 times and watching the video before you begin making carbonara.

Carbonara is made up of simple ingredients, but requires a bit of technique so you don’t end up with scrambled egg pasta.

step by step photos of how to make spaghetti alla carbonara

Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe instructions.

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the spaghetti.
  2. Beat the eggs and egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and then beat in 3 oz. of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Set aside.
  3. Turn the frying pan on medium heat and cook guanciale until it becomes dark and crisp. This process renders the fat out of the guanciale. Don’t strain the guanciale or bacon fat – it adds flavor!
  4. Once the guanciale is finished cooking, turn the heat off. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al-dente, ~ 7 minutes. Using a measuring cup, reserve ~ 1/2 cup – 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. Reserving 1 cup is more than enough.
  5. Remove the pasta from the pot and place directly into the guanciale in the frying pan. Make sure you don’t drain the pasta, the water and the fat emulsifies and helps create the creamy sauce we want.
  6. Toss the spaghetti with the guanciale and quickly stir/pour the egg and cheese mixture into the hot pasta until thickened. Add some of the reserved pasta water in small increments to create a creamy sauce, if needed.
  7. Season with pepper (and salt if desired). Serve immediately. Garnish with more freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiana-Reggiano.
spaghetti carbonara in a non stick frying pan garnished with black pepper

Tips to make the best homemade carbonara

Carbonara can be tricky to make, and getting it just right can take practice.

If your carbonara sauce is a little lumpy the first time you try, don’t worry, you can always improve!

Here are some tips and tricks on making the best homemade carbonara:

  • Cream isn’t traditionally added to the sauce, since the mixture of Pecorino Romano, guanciale fat, and egg goes a long way, but it can make an even creamier sauce if you prefer it that way.
  • Make sure to let the pasta cool slightly so that your egg mixture doesn’t turn into something similar to scrambled eggs. The pasta should be just hot enough to “cook” the egg and make a silky sauce.
  • The better quality your ingredients, the better your carbonara will be. Try to get good quality guanciale at your local specialty market and maybe even attempt your own homemade spaghetti.
  • Keep your eggs at room temperature — it will help to bind the sauce and emulsify everything together.
  • Pecorino Romano is the most traditional type of cheese used in spaghetti alla carbonara. However, if you can’t find Pecorino Romano, freshly grated Parmesan also works as a great substitute.
  • Start cooking the guanciale by placing it in a cold pan, and then turning on the heat after adding the guanciale. This helps to render more fat out of the guanciale and create a thicker, creamier sauce!
spaghetti alla carbonara with guanciale and black pepper

FAQ

How to reheat spaghetti alla carbonara?

Of course, spaghetti alla carbonara is best finished the same day you make it but to reheat it, preheat a pan with some olive oil. Make sure the pan isn’t too hot, and add your leftover spaghetti carbonara. Toss the spaghetti for about 5 minutes until completely heated through, making sure to stir consistently. This prevents the sauce from turning lumpy. Feel free to add some fresh Pecorino Romano.

Can you freeze spaghetti alla carbonara?

This dish can be frozen, but the sauce will lose some of its original quality and the spaghetti may become mushy when you reheat it.

What's your favorite side to enjoy with pasta?

Before You Begin! If you make this, please leave a review and rating letting us know how you liked this recipe! This helps our business thrive & continue providing free recipes.

spaghetti carbonara on a speckled plate garnished with black pepper
4.64 from 11 reviews

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Spaghetti alla Carbonara made with guanciale, Pecorino Romano and eggs. You can use bacon or pancetta in place of the guanciale but the guanciale is authentic and traditional. This recipe is made with traditional creamy sauce, yet uses no cream!

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks (no whites)
  • 3 oz. Pecorino Romano
  • 8 oz. guanciale*
  • 1/2 cup pasta water
  • freshly ground black pepper

Last step! If you make this, please leave a review and rating letting us know how you liked this recipe! This helps our business thrive & continue providing free recipes.

Instructions 

  • Add the salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil for the spaghetti.
    1 Tbsp. salt
  • In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks together and then beat in 3 oz. of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. Set aside.
    2 large eggs, 3 large egg yolks (no whites), 3 oz. Pecorino Romano
  • Cut the guanciale into lardons, or small cubes, and add to a non-stick frying pan. Turn the frying pan on medium heat and cook until guanciale becomes dark and crisp, about 7-10 minutes. This process renders the fat out of the guanciale. Don’t strain the guanciale or bacon fat – it adds flavor!
    8 oz. guanciale*
  • Once the guanciale is finished cooking, turn the heat off. Cook the spaghetti until al-dente, ~ 7 minutes. Using a measuring cup, reserve ~ 1/2 cup – 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.
    1 lb. spaghetti
  • Using a pair of tongs, drag/remove the pasta from the large pot and place directly into the guanciale in the frying pan. Make sure you don’t drain the pasta, the water and the fat emulsifies and helps create the creamy sauce we want.
  • Toss the spaghetti with the guanciale and quickly stir/pour the egg and cheese mixture into the hot pasta until thickened. Add some of the reserved pasta water in small increments to create a creamy sauce, if needed.
    1/2 cup pasta water
  • Season with pepper (and salt if desired). Serve immediately. Garnish with more freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiana-Reggiano.
    freshly ground black pepper

Video

Notes

You can find guanciale at your local specialty Italian markets.
If you can’t find guanciale or prefer not to use it, use 1/2 lb. of bacon or pancetta instead. 

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 629kcal (31%), Carbohydrates: 57g (19%), Protein: 21g (42%), Fat: 35g (54%), Saturated Fat: 14g (88%), Cholesterol: 117mg (39%), Sodium: 1478mg (64%), Potassium: 204mg (6%), Fiber: 2g (8%), Sugar: 2g (2%), Vitamin A: 149IU (3%), Calcium: 176mg (18%), Iron: 1mg (6%)

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is automatically calculated. It should only be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Kroll’s Korner can’t make any guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Krolls Korner

Krolls Korner

Welcome to my tiny “korner” on the Internet! I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who loves cookies as much as kale. (OK, maybe I like cookies a little bit more but shh, don’t tell anyone). I am so glad you’re here! Follow along for hassle free, realistic and approachable recipes.

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5 Comments
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Sindhu

I made it today. It came out so well. Thanks for recipe

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Last edited Posted: 1 month ago by Sindhu
Eric

Here’s a good tip-take some of the hot pasta water and slowly whisk it into the egg-this tempers the eggs a bit and makes it easier to make the sauce.

Lauren Grant

THIS LOOKS PERFECT! I can’t wait to make it! guanciale is my love language.