Pasta Carbonara

October 15, 2020  ·  Published August 27, 2015

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This easy Pasta Carbonara comes together in about 30 minutes and is the perfect weeknight dinner! Packed with crispy bacon and mixed with the creamiest carbonara sauce, this recipe is a total knockout. 

Pasta carbonara shown in a large white serving bowl.

Easy Pasta Carbonara

Pasta carbonara is one of those simple dinners we should all know how to make. It’s the perfect go-to for a busy weeknight, and it’s also a dish fit for the weekend or even to serve to guests.

It seems like one of those dinners with so few ingredients that how could you possibly mess it up, but oh how you can if you aren’t using with the right method. I’m no expert on carbonara, which is why I turned to Cook’s Illustrated, they are the kitchen geniuses.

This recipe works so well because pasta is boiled in less water with to really concentrate the starches, which will help bind everything in the sauce and prevent separation when you add it to the egg mixture.

Another helpful tip is that the bacon is simmered in water first. Bacon seems easy to burn or can cook unevenly in a skillet, and pieces stick. But when going this route and cooking it in water first, it works like a charm.

And lastly this recipe contains the perfect ratio of eggs and yolks (or one yolk in this case) to have the perfect carbonara, custard-rich flavor and the perfect consistency.

Recipe originally lists Romano cheese, but I always have Parmesan on hand so I went with that to keep the simple weeknight meal idea here, but I’m sure Romano would also be delicious. Better yet, use half of each. Just be sure it’s freshly grated. Enjoy!

Spaghetti carbonara shown close up swirled around a fork.

What is Carbonara?

If you’ve never had homemade pasta carbonara before, you’re in for a real treat! Pasta carbonara typically features a creamy sauce that’s made with pancetta, garlic, heavy cream, cheese and eggs. The egg-based sauce is cooked by combining it with the piping hot spaghetti pasta and a little of the cooking water.

For this easy carbonara recipe, I used bacon instead of pancetta since it’s generally easier to find. But otherwise this is a pretty authentic carbonara recipe!

Image of pasta carbonara ingredients. Includes spaghetti, bacon, parsley, parmesan, eggs, egg yolk, water, garlic, salt and pepper.

Pasta Carbonara Ingredients

For this pasta carbonara recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Bacon
  • Water
  • Garlic
  • Spaghetti or linguine
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh parsley

Collage of six images showing steps to make pasta carbonara. Includes sauteing bacon in a skillet, straining rendered fat into a bowl, sauteing garlic, and preparing carbonara sauce.

How to Make Pasta Carbonara

  • Add bacon and water to a skillet and bring to a simmer.
  • Continue simmering until water is evaporated, then continue to cook the bacon until crispy.
  • Remove bacon from pan and reserve the drippings.
  • Saute garlic in that same skillet until golden brown, then add to a bowl with 1 tablespoon bacon fat, eggs, egg yolk, Parmesan and pepper. Mix well.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti or linguine pasta until al dente. Once cooked, drain pasta and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.
  • Slowly pour the hot cooking water into the egg mixture. Then pour over the hot pasta and toss to coat. Add crumbled bacon.
  • Let pasta rest for a few minutes, tossing frequently until the carbonara sauce thickens. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

Collage of six images showing how to prepare pasta and toss with sauce for pasta carbonara.

Is it Safe to Eat Raw Eggs in Carbonara Sauce?

With eggs, it is not recommend to serve partially cooked egg to the elderly and children. The food safe temperature for eggs is 160 degrees and in Pasta Carbonara the eggs won’t reach that temperature or they’d be scrambled.

Can I Use Another Type of Cheese in the Sauce?

Yes, any hard Italian cheese should work well in this sauce. Romano cheese would taste delicious in this recipe, as would a blend of cheeses.

Does This Pasta Reheat Well?

No, pasta carbonara is one of the Italian dishes that doesn’t reheat well. The creamy sauce thickens in the fridge and loses its silky texture. But don’t throw away leftovers, as they’ll still taste fine!

Overhead image of spaghetti carbonara in a large serving bowl set over a grey kitchen cloth.

Tips for the Best Pasta Carbonara

  • Use freshly grated Parmesan, not the stuff in the shaker can. It’ll melt better and gives this dish a richer flavor.
  • Be sure you immediately add the hot pasta water into the egg mixture to help cook it (if needed, you could even re-warm it in the microwave, but it needs to be very hot).
  • Pasta carbonara is best enjoyed immediately after you make it.

More Easy Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:

Pasta carbonara shown in a large white serving bowl.
4.95 from 18 votes

Pasta Carbonara

This easy Pasta Carbonara comes together in about 30 minutes and is the perfect weeknight dinner. It's an Italian recipe the whole family will love!
Servings: 6 Servings
Prep15 minutes
Cook20 minutes
Ready in: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 - 10 slices bacon , cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 1/2 cups water , divided
  • 4 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 lb spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 1/4 cups finely grated parmesan cheese , plus more for serving (2 oz)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper , or to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley , for garnish

Instructions

  • Add bacon and 1/2 cup of the water to a large non-stick skillet and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  • Allow to simmer until water evaporates about 6 - 7 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until bacon is brown and crisp, about 6 - 8 minutes longer.
  • Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl then pour bacon into strainer while reserving about 1 tsp of the rendered fat in pan. Return pan to heat and saute garlic about 30 seconds, until fragrant and lightly golden.
  • Pour into a medium mixing bowl then add 1 Tbsp rendered bacon fat (drippings in bowl set under strainer) to mixing bowl with garlic. Add eggs, egg yolk, parmesan and pepper to garlic mixture and whisk until well combined.
  • Meanwhile, bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large dutch oven (no more than 8 cups because you want a very starchy water for the sauce). Add spaghetti and salt to boiling water and cook until al dente. While pasta is boiling, set a colander in a large bowl.
  • Carefully drain al dente pasta into colander in bowl, while reserving pasta water in bowl. Measure out 1 cup hot pasta water and discard remaining water. Immediately place pasta in now empty large bowl.
  • Slowly pour and whisk 1/2 cup pasta water into egg mixture, then slowly pour mixture over pasta while tossing to coat. Add bacon and toss to combine. Season with salt if desired.
  • Let pasta rest, tossing frequently, 2 - 4 minutes until sauce has thickened slightly and coats pasta. Thin with remaining 1/2 cup hot pasta water as needed. Serve immediately topped with additional parmesan and parsley.

Notes

  • Use real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for fresh flavor and only freshly grated. It will melt better and gives this dish a richer flavor. I like to use a zest to grate it. Slightly pack when measuring or use a kitchen scale.
  • Be sure you immediately add the hot pasta water into the egg mixture to help cook it (if needed, you could even re-warm the water it in the microwave, but it needs to be very hot).
  • If you want a thicker sauce another option I have tried is to toss the pasta with the sauce mixture in a large heat proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, cooking for only about 1 minute or just until thickened nicely. Careful not to overdue it or it can be gluey.
  • Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated
Nutrition Facts
Pasta Carbonara
Amount Per Serving
Calories 414 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Cholesterol 132mg44%
Sodium 761mg33%
Potassium 233mg7%
Carbohydrates 58g19%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 21g42%
Vitamin A 340IU7%
Vitamin C 0.7mg1%
Calcium 277mg28%
Iron 1.7mg9%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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102 Comments

  • Pam

    Why the water for the bacon? Bacon is excellent either die on top of stove. Y itself or even in the microwave! Seems like a waste of time.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      It helps the bacon cook more evenly and also helps separate the pieces. If you’d prefer you could omit the water to save a few minutes cook time.

      • Nina Graham

        In Italy, this is pasta dish that does not use garlic. It can use minced or chopped shallot or yellow onions. I learned the authentic recipe living in Florence, Italy for a year. This is a romantic, middle of the night dish fir lovers,, so easy to make in-between dinner + breakfast.😉 Nothing overpowers a delicate dish like Carbonara of eggs bacon parsley than a pile of overpowering garlic. If anything, use a half a chopped shallot, or, a bit of chopped yellow onion, saute in olive oil, stir 8n when you stir in bacon peppered pancetta is what is used for this dish in Italy. You can add a bit of milk or cream to stir in if the pasta seems dry. I was so happy your recipe omitted green peas which really upsets Italians because they are not added to this dish. I only make this with angel hair or Cappelli pasta to keep it from being to filling.
        Thank you for your great selection of recipes.

  • Glenn Speirs

    Sorry that’s not carbonara, there is no bacon or garlic, guanciale pecorino egg’s spaghetti,

  • Linda Brown

    For anyone concerned about using eggs not fully cooked, highly recommend using pasteurized eggs. A little harder to find, but safe.