Pasta Carbonara is an easy Italian recipe that can be made in less than 20 minutes from start to finish and is so creamy and delicious. This classic carbonara sauce can be served with your favorite pasta variety and makes an indulgent and quick dinner!
Spaghetti Carbonara is the perfect weeknight dinner! This authentic Italian recipe is so fast to make from scratch with a few simple ingredients that you probably always have on hand and tastes so rich and creamy – without using cream. We love quick dinners during the week that taste like a million bucks but are quick and easy to make like Pork Medallions with Blue Cheese Sauce (perfect with pasta) or Creamy Mushroom Chicken Pasta.
The origin of this Italian dish is the area of Rome in the middle of the 20th century. In Italy, Spaghetti Alla Carbonara isn’t made with cream because it was a meal of the poor people and cream definitely wasn’t cheap in the middle of the 20th century. But I promise you won’t miss it because the freshly grated parmesan cheese combined with the eggs creates a super smooth and creamy sauce.
My bacon carbonara recipe is definitely a favorite in our house! We make it every week, sometimes twice. It’s a perfect dish to make when you don’t have a lot of time and want something that’s easy to make with ingredients you have at home.
Tips for making the BEST Spaghetti Carbonara
- This recipe is super simple so the quality of the ingredients will influence the taste.
- Use freerun or organic eggs in this recipe for the best taste.
- You can use bacon, pancetta, or Guanciale. I prefer bacon because I always have it on hand!
- Prep all your ingredients before you start cooking.
- Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (“Real” Parmesan), Pecorino Romano, or a mixture of both makes the BEST Carbonara sauce.
- The eggs won’t be raw! The hot pasta will cook them to a safe temperature.
- Don’t forget to remove and discard the garlic before adding the pasta. Otherwise, it will be difficult to find!
- Reserve the pasta water. Pasta water is great for adding a bit of liquid without watering something down because the starch in the water helps to make pasta dishes creamy.
- Serve this dish immediately because it will cool down quickly and tastes best hot.
What is Carbonara Sauce and what are the Ingredients?
Carbonara sauce is an indulgent egg-based sauce that can be made quickly in less than 20 minutes and is not fixed by a specific type of hard cheese or pasta. This recipe uses bacon, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, whole eggs, and garlic.
Traditionally Spaghetti Carbonara is made with pancetta or Guanciale. The only difference between bacon, guanciale, and pancetta is that bacon is smoked after being cured. That’s why they can be used interchangeably in dishes. I prefer to use bacon in my carbonara sauce recipe because pancetta and guanciale can be harder to find and I always have bacon on hand.
The same thing goes for Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, it is not the only option for this recipe. Classic Italian Carbonara is not fixed by a specific type of hard cheese so you could also use Pecorino Romano or a mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano. What you should not use in this recipe is pre-grated Parmesan.
Some carbonara recipes use a mixture of yolks and whole eggs. I always use whole eggs, it’s more convenient and results in the same creaminess. The eggs are completely safe to eat and won’t be raw after the dish is finished because the pasta has a temperature of more than 160F after cooking which is the federally recommended temperature for egg dishes. You could also use pasteurized eggs if you don’t feel comfortable using regular eggs in this dish.
What kind of pasta is best for Carbonara Sauce?
Various kinds of pasta can be used but spaghetti, linguine, and fettuccine are best because the raw egg can only cook properly with a shape that has a sufficiently large ratio of surface area to volume. We always have spaghetti in the pantry so that’s what we use most of the time but we’ve also used penne and it worked fine.
How to make Pasta Alla Carbonara
You’ll love how simple this recipe is. First, I always prefer to prep all the ingredients I need. This makes cooking less stressful especially if you are cooking a quick dish like this. Start with grating the cheese. I usually use a box grater for that, but you could also use a food processor. Combine it with the eggs and set it aside, and chop the bacon and crush the garlic while you wait for the pasta water to boil!
Next, you’re going to fry the bacon together with the garlic. We only want the garlic flavor in the sauce that’s why we use whole garlic cloves that get removed before we add the pasta and just crush them with the back of a knife. Combine the pasta and the bacon in the pan and after a minute or two add the egg mixture. We wait for it to cool down a bit so the eggs don’t scramble. Sprinkle with some more grated cheese and you’re done. This pasta dish comes together really quickly, perfect for weeknights!
How to reheat Carbonara
Carbonara is tricky to reheat because it dries out with time and the eggs will scramble if it is heated too quickly. I don’t recommend using the microwave, it’s better to reheat it in a large pan with a little bit of water over medium-low heat. Keep tossing the pasta with tongs while you heat it and start with only a tablespoon or two of water depending on how much pasta is left.
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- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
- 4 large eggs
- ground black pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 pound dried pasta
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 9 slices bacon chopped
- Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, whisk together 1 cup grated parmesan cheese with the eggs in a small bowl and season with a little bit freshly ground black pepper.
- When the water is boiling add 2 tsp salt, then add the dried pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions.
- Peel the garlic and crush it with the blade of a knife (see picture above). Melt butter in a large wide pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and crushed garlic cloves and fry at a medium temperature for 5 minutes until the bacon is crispy.
- When the bacon is crispy, remove the garlic and reduce the temperature to low so the bacon stays warm.
- When the pasta is al dente, transfer it with tongs or a slotted spoon to the pan with the bacon. Don't discard the pasta water. Toss the pasta and the bacon together until combined.
- Turn off the heat and let the pasta sit for 1 minute. Then pour the eggs and cheese mixture to the pasta and toss together until evenly coated. If the sauce is too thick add a little pasta water, start with a tablespoon.
- Sprinkle with remaining cheese and a little bit of black pepper and serve immediately!
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