With just a few quality ingredients, our Classic Creamy Carbonara is simple, elegant and guaranteed to make your eyes roll back in pure bliss with every bite.
When it comes to traditional Italian pasta, it seems the simplest and ones with the fewest ingredients are often the most delicious and beautiful. Pomodoro pasta are made using tomatoes and basil, Puttanesca uses tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and anchovies, Cacio e Pepe is just cheese and pepper, and our favourite, Creamy Carbonara is made using just eggs, pecorino Romano, cured pork and pepper.
When you travel to Italy and really taking in the food culture, you notice the appreciation for simple and beautiful ingredients and meals. These simple dishes are the ones where you get the best tomatoes. You use fresh herbs instead of dried, and get the real cheese as opposed to the stuff you sprinkle on. When you use the best, you will get amazing results. It forces you to slow down and truly appreciate the food you are eating.
If there was one dish to sum up my experience in Italy this past May, it’s Creamy Carbonara. In between gelato, cannoli and all the americanos, this simple and elegant dish consisting of bacon, eggs and pasta was literally my food version of a summer romance. Every menu, every restaurant in Rome, if Carbonara was on the menu, it was being ordered.
“Just a handful of ingredients makes a fantastic carbonara and, done properly, it’s a thing of beauty. ” - Jamie Oliver
Reminiscing on my love affair, Carbonara is a pasta dish consisting of eggs, bacon (pancetta or guanciale), pecorino cheese, black pepper and pasta, and has climbed the charts as my favourite Italian dish. While made with simple ingredients, the elegance of this dish is all in the technique.
How to Make Creamy Carbonara Step by Step
Boil Water for the Spaghetti
Get a large pot of water and salt it heavily. If you taste the water, it should taste like the sea. Bring the water to a boil and toss in the pasta. Cook until it's tender but still a little firm to the bite. This is what Italian's call al dente.
How to Cook the Pancetta
Place cubed pancetta or guanciale in a large skillet with a clove of garlic and cook on medium heat. Start with a cold pan so that the fat renders out slowly, resulting in a tender chew. Cook the meat until it is browned but not crispy. It should take about 4-5 minutes for guanciale or 5-7 minutes for pancetta. Remove and discard the garlic, then add the black pepper.
Prepare the Eggs to Make Carbonara
While the pork is cooking, get a small bowl, crack the eggs into it, add a handful of grated pecorino Romano and beat them until well combined.
Add the Spaghetti
Once the pork is cooked, reserve about a half cup of the pasta water, drain the spaghetti and toss into the skillet with the pancetta. Stir the spaghetti until it begins to soak up the pancetta fat then add a good splash of the pasta water.
Creating the Carbonara Sauce
While stirring and tossing the pasta, pour in the eggs. Keep tossing, incorporating the eggs into the water until it forms a creamy and glossy sauce around the spaghetti. You can add a couple more splashes of water as necessary. Serve with an additional sprinkling of pecorino and a few twists of black pepper.
Helpful Tools and Ingredients to Make Carbonara
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Classic Creamy Carbonara with Pancetta
- 1 lb fresh or dry spaghetti
- 8 oz pancetta diced
- 1 large garlic clove skin in tact and smashed
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup pecorino romano, grated
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente (tender but still firm to the bite). Do not drain the pasta.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and three-quarters of the grated pecorino.
- Place the pancetta and garlic clove in a large skillet. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring every minute, until the pancetta has browned, but not crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic, then add the black pepper.
- Reserving about a half cup of the pasta water, drain the spaghetti and add it to the pancetta. Toss until the spaghetti is coated with the pancetta fat. Remove from heat and add about a ⅓ cup of the pasta water.
- While stirring and tossing the pasta, pour in the eggs, continuing to toss until the spaghetti is well coated and glossy. Add additional pasta water if necessary, to get a creamy consistency.
- To serve, use tongs to pick up a good serving of pasta. Place the tongs on a large spoon and twist to wrap them in the spaghetti. Place the spaghetti on a plate while twisting and slowly release the tongs, leaving a serving that resembles a bird’s nest. Sprinkle with additional pecorino Romano and black pepper.