Pasta Carbonara

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 in a white skillet with a fork

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.

I loved how they cooked their pasta in less water to begin 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.

I also loved that they simmered the bacon in water first — I always feel like my bacon burns or unevenly cooks for some reason when I cook it in a skillet, but when I went their route and cooked it in water first and let it simmer off and then continued to brown, it worked like a charm.

I had perfectly browned and crisp bacon. I also loved that they tested and came up with the perfect ratio of eggs and yolks (or one yolk in this case) to have the perfect custard flavor and the perfect consistency.

Their recipe listed 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!

Pasta Carbonara garnished with Parmesan and fresh parsley in a white dish

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 pasta and a little of the cooking water.

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

Pasta Carbonara Ingredients

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

  • Bacon
  • Water
  • Garlic
  • Linguine or spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh parsley

Pasta Carbonara in a white dish with a fork

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 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.

pasta carbonara swirled around a fork

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!

fork resting in pan of pasta carbonara

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

4.74 from 19 votes

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
Prep Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 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 linguine or spaghetti
  • 1 1/4 cups finely grated parmesan cheese , plus more for serving
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper
  • Chopped fresh parsley , for garnish

Instructions

  1. Add bacon and 1/2 cup of the water to a large non-stick skillet and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. . 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. Place pasta in now empty large bowl.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Recipe Notes

  • Recipe source: adapted from Cook's Illustrated
  • 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).
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.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: carbonara, spaghetti carbonara
Author: Jaclyn

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95 Comments

  • Tom Roth

    8-10 slices of bacon in a full pound of pasta ain’t gonna look like your photo! And there’s no creamy sauce in your picture, either. Otherwise, it’s a classic recipe; just so you realize the photo is pure fiction.

    • A

      Real Italian Carbonara does not have a creamy sauce. That’s a commercial take that many Americans believe Carbonara is. Her picture is not ‘fiction’ to what any Italian knows Carbonara to be. It’s not a Alfredo sauce, though many commercial places and those who frequent them believe it is. 8-10 pieces of bacon would be on target.

  • Hillary

    This was my first time making carbonara. Your recipe was great! thank you very much for it!

    I have never left a comment on a website for a recipe, but it was so EASY and came out so good I wanted to let you know.

    It was hard to leave a comment, however. When I turned off my JavaScript blocker to leave a comment, all the advertisements on your website froze and crashed my browser!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Yes, sorry for the misunderstanding. Just keep scrolling down a little ways and there’s a recipe box there with amounts.

  • Patti Pawlisz

    Super recipe. I added canned and drained mushrooms and tomatoes. It turned out excellent.

  • Pam and Dorris

    Wowzers!! Never been so happy with a homemade meal, me and my bestie will be enjoying this for years to come!!! #lovethis #homemadepasta #mmm #pastaforlife. Thanks for sharing this with us, forever thankful!!??

    • Cel De

      Just made this for dinner and it was a HIT! It didnt turn out as pretty as the picture but it tasted wonderful. This is going to be on menu from now on.

    • A

      Heavy cream is NOT used in traditional Italian Carbonara. The Carbonara made with heavy cream is a commercial American take on the recipe.

  • U.B.F.

    Loved this dish, lots of leftovers which got fried in butter and served with a salad.
    Shared the recipe with my daughters and granddaughter.
    Real comfort food. Thank you for a delicious recipe!