Pasta

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

March 26, 2020 (Last Updated: July 6, 2020) by Emily

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A super simple Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe made with guanciale, eggs, and Parmigiano Reggiano. This is a traditional Italian recipe so there’s no cream involved yet it’s still super creamy, rich and delicious. 

An overhead shot of pasta carbonara on a plate with a glass of red wine at the side

La Carbonara, a timeless classic Italian recipe that’s creamy, rich and comforting yet so simple, and humble in ingredients.

Salty cured pork, creamy and rich eggs, parmesan cheese and spicy black pepper tossed with spaghetti pasta.

You don’t need much to make this dish yet it’s so satisfying, delicious and makes the ultimate 10-minute weeknight dinner!

Top Tip: You can use Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (or a combination of both) to make this recipe. Parmigiano Reggiano is easier for me to find so that’s what I use.

Guanciale – what is it and where to find it?

Guanciale is cured Italian pork jowl (cheek) whereas more commonly found pancetta is cured pork belly.

It’s unbelievably delicious and has a stronger flavour than pancetta.

It’s also very fatty but that’s where all the beautiful flavour is.

I don’t use any oil to make carbonara, the guanciale cooks in its own fat and creates the base for the most delicious creamy and rich sauce.

Important tip: Do not drain any of the fat from the skillet as it adds a ton of flavour!

It’s sold in whole pieces or slices and you should be able to find it in most Italian speciality food stores just make sure you get a thick enough piece to cut it into 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick cubes or strips.

You need guanciale to truly experience authentic spaghetti alla carbonara but don’t worry if you can’t find it.

You can use cubed pancetta or thick-cut bacon instead!

A side shot of spaghetti carbonara on a plate with a fork

How to stop the eggs from scrambling

Don’t be afraid of making carbonara it’s not nearly as hard or tricky as you think.

The key is to take the skillet off of the heat about 2-3 minutes before adding the pasta.

You need to make sure the skillet isn’t burning hot!

You also need to make sure that when you add the egg mixture to the spaghetti that you are constantly mixing everything together so the eggs don’t scramble from the heat of the pasta.

The end result should be creamy and glossy as the eggs cook through the residual heat without scrambling.

Top tip: Did you know that Pasta alla Gricia is the base recipe for La Carbonara and it’s just as easy and delicious. If you’d rather avoid eggs then Pasta alla Gricia is for you!

How to make spaghetti alla carbonara – step by step

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti, cook until al dente (around 7 minutes) (photo 1).

Meanwhile, add the guanciale to a hot skillet and fry until brown and crispy then turn off the heat (do not drain the fat) (photo 2-4).

Step by step photos showing how to fry guanciale until crispy

While the guanciale is frying add the eggs, parmesan and pepper to a bowl, whisk until well combined (photo 5).

Once the pasta is ready, remove it with kitchen tongs to the skillet with the guanciale and toss so it’s well combined in the fat (photo 6).

Step by step photos showing how to make pasta carbonara

Next, add the egg mixture whilst tossing the pasta to ensure the eggs don’t scramble. Once the sauce turns glossy and creamy it’s ready, add extra parmesan and pepper to serve (photo 7 & 8).

What to do with leftovers

Leftover carbonara isn’t great. The sauce thickens and turns claggy and well, cold egg sauce? Meh, no thanks!

BUT that doesn’t mean you should throw out your leftover carbonara, oh no!

Leftover pasta can be thrown into casseroles, frittatas or even pan-fried until crispy! I never throw away any food if I can help it.

A close up of spaghetti on a plate with pieces of guanciale

Top tips for making the best Spaghetti alla Carbonara

  • Make sure the skillet or frying pan isn’t super hot by turning it off a few minutes before adding the egg mixture. If the skillet is too hot the eggs will scramble!
  • If you don’t have guanciale then pancetta or thick-cut bacon will also work well.
  • Make sure to cut off the dark outer layer (skin/rind) of the guanciale before cutting into cubes.
  • Don’t drain any fat from the guanciale or pancetta it adds a ton of flavour to the pasta.
  • If you’re using pancetta or bacon with less fat content then you might need a little olive oil to fry it.
  • I don’t add salt to anything other than the pasta water because the guanciale and Parmigiano Reggiano add a lot of seasoning but taste before serving and add extra salt to taste.
  • Try to use freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (or both) for best flavour, pre-grated stuff doesn’t taste great.
  • No Spaghetti? You can use any pasta you have on hand although a long pasta shape will work best.
  • If you are draining the pasta rather than removing it with tongs make sure to reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water, you may need it to loosen the spaghetti before adding the egg.

More quick Italian pasta recipes you might like:

If you’ve tried this Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe or any other recipe on the blog please let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

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5 from 1 vote

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A super simple Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe made with guanciale, eggs, and Parmigiano Reggiano. This is a traditional Italian recipe so there's no cream involved yet it's still super creamy, rich and delicious.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 741kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

  • 15 oz spaghetti (425g)
  • 3 large eggs free range
  • cup parmigiano reggiano cheese (30g)
  • 1 cup guanciale cut into cubes (150g)
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper plus more for serving

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti, cook until al dente (around 7-8 minutes, check packet instructions).
  • Meanwhile, add the guanciale to a hot skillet and fry until brown and crispy then turn off the heat (do not drain the fat).
  • While the guanciale is frying add the eggs, parmesan and pepper to a bowl, whisk until well combined.
  • Once the pasta is ready, remove it with kitchen tongs to the skillet with the guanciale and toss so it's well combined in the fat.
  • Next, add the egg mixture whilst tossing the pasta to ensure the eggs don't scramble. Once the sauce turns glossy and creamy it's ready, add extra parmesan and pepper to serve.

Notes

  • Make sure the skillet or frying pan isn't super hot by turning it off a few minutes before adding the egg mixture. If the skillet is too hot the eggs will scramble!
  • If you don't have guanciale then pancetta or thick-cut bacon will also work well.
  • Make sure to cut off the dark outer layer (skin/rind) of the guanciale before cutting into cubes.
  • Don't drain any fat from the guanciale or pancetta it adds a ton of flavour to the pasta.
  • If you're using pancetta or bacon with less fat content then you might need a little olive oil to fry it.
  • I don't add salt to anything other than the pasta water because the guanciale and Parmigiano Reggiano add a lot of seasoning but taste before serving and add extra salt to taste.
  • Try to use freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (or both) for best flavour, pre-grated stuff doesn't taste great.
  • No Spaghetti? You can use any pasta you have on hand although a long pasta shape will work best.
  • If you are draining the pasta rather than removing it with tongs make sure to reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water, you may need it to loosen the spaghetti before adding the egg.

Nutrition

Calories: 741kcal | Carbohydrates: 80g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 168mg | Sodium: 495mg | Potassium: 296mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 237IU | Calcium: 134mg | Iron: 2mg
Helpful Info for All Recipes
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan (convection) oven
  • Find out more about how nutrition is calculated here
  • Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples here
  • You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking here
Did you try this recipe?Mention @insidetherustickitchen or tag #insidetherustickitchen! We'd love you see what you're getting up to in the kitchen!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Angela
    March 31, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Just looking at this photo makes me want to make and eat it RIGHT NOW!! I’m going to crave it until I do! Yum! Thank you!5 stars

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