Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of the most delicious pasta dishes the Italians make. With just four main ingredients, it’s a breeze to prepare. People worry about having raw eggs in the sauce, though I think the eggs cook with the heat from the spaghetti. I’ve never had a problem, but if you’re really concerned, you could use pasteurized eggs or omit the eggs altogether.
Traditionally, Spaghetti alla Carbonara is made with guanciale. Guanciale is an Italian bacon made from pork cheeks or jowls. It’s delicious, but unfortunately, I can’t get guanciale where I live. Thankfully, you can substitute bacon or pancetta. Half a pound of bacon is good for a pound of pasta, but my family likes lots of bacon so I use a whole pound. I never have leftovers when I make this dish.
SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA
- 1 lb. spaghetti noodles (can also use fettucine or linguine)
- 1 lb. bacon (or pancetta or guanciale), sliced into ½-inch strips
- ½ small onion, diced
- 3 large eggs
- 1½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp. salt, plus extra for the boiling water
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil, set another large pot over medium heat and fry the bacon until crispy; then remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.
- In the same pot, sauté the onions in the bacon grease until the onions become translucent; remove the pot from the heat and add the bacon back in.
- When the water in the first pot is boiling briskly, add the spaghetti and boil until al dente.
- While the spaghetti is boiling, prepare the sauce. It’s important to make the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the noodles will be hot when the sauce is done. The heat from the noodles is what cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
- To make the sauce, beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork; then stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Drain the cooked pasta well, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Slowly drizzle the reserved hot pasta water into the egg mixture, mixing well. This tempers the eggs, so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs in your pasta.
- Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pot with the bacon and onions.
- Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and toss all together until the noodles are well-coated with the sauce and the cheese is melted.
- Taste the spaghetti and adjust the seasonings. Depending on the pork you used, you may need to add more salt.
Cooked it! Carbonara is definitely best fresh before the noodles soak up the liquid.
I cooked this again recently! My housemates are loving it. Things I learned this time around:
If you got really fatty bacon like me, don’t be afraid to drain out some of the bacon grease! I used a pot with a pour spout so iit was easy to pour some out before cooking the onions. Mine would have been deep fried if I used all the grease!
If you feel it’s too dry, using a little more pasta water helped a lot, or you can use some of the bacon grease if you drained any. The noodles will soak up even more moisture as it cools, if you have any leftovers.
And, I used a microplane to grate my parmesan. It gave it a nice fluffy texture and melted flawlessly.
Lastly, don’t forget the salt. The bacon is salty, but it was nicer when I had the other ingredients also a bit salted to match. It goes well with the slight sweetness of the yellow onion I used.