This knock-it-out-of-the-park, authentic spaghetti alla carbonara recipe calls for extra egg yolk, which lends a silken richness and lusciousness to the dish. If you want a traditional version, use four whole eggs. I’ve also seen Italian cooks use an extra large egg yolk per person, which is super luxurious. Whatever you do, please forgo cream, peas, garlic, etc. They’re wonderful; they’re just not part of the classic recipe.

Also, a lot of readers have asked whether they can use freshly made pasta. You can, but I find that using a premium dried pasta made from durum or semolina wheat really helps the sauce to cling.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

My testers unanimously agreed that this authentic spaghetti carbonara recipe is a keeper thanks to its easy preparation and simple ingredient list. Alexander C. calls it a “creamy, porky bowl of pasta love.” I can’t argue with that.

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for spaghetti carbonara--spaghetti, pancetta, olive oil, eggs, and Parmesan cheese.
  • Pancetta—Guanciale is the classic meat in carbonara, but it can be hard to find. You can use pancetta (pork belly) or slab bacon in its place.
  • Pasta—For this recipe, I recommend using excellent-quality dried pasta (pasta secca) preferably made with bronze dies. Pasta extruded through bronze dies has a rougher texture that helps sauces to hang on.
  • Cheese—For the best flavor, this recipe calls for a combo of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano. Always use freshly grated cheese, as the packaged, pre-grated stuff doesn’t melt well and…tastes like sawdust.

How to Make Authentic Spaghetti Carbonara

Pancetta frying in a skillet; dry spaghetti in a large pot.
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the pancetta in the hot oil until crisp.
  2. Boil the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water until al dente.
A person using tongs to toss spaghetti with crispy pancetta; carbonara sauce added to a skillet of spaghetti.
  1. Grab big bunches of spaghetti with tongs and transfer them to the skillet with the pancetta.
  2. Add the eggs and half of the cheese to the pasta in the skillet and toss well. Add some pasta water, as needed, until the pasta is creamy.
A person grinding pepper into a skillet of spaghetti carbonara.
  1. Season with pepper and serve with the remaining cheese.

Common Questions

What is guanciale?

Guanciale, which comes from the cheek of the pig, is a richly fatty piece of meat that is often cured. It’s usually found in Italian pasta dishes from Umbria and Lazio, in central Italy. Two of the most famous and beloved dishes that call for guanciale are spaghetti alla carbonara and Bucatini All’ Amatriciana.
A slab of guanciale on a cutting board
: detlevn

Does classic spaghetti carbonara contain cream?

Absolutely, 100 percent, utterly no. There is no cream in the dish. The creaminess comes from the proper cooking of the eggs with pasta cooking water, making it luscious, creamy, and addictive. Also, while I’m at it, there are no peas, garlic, cinnamon, or nutmeg in carbonara, either.

What’s the origins of spaghetti carbonara?

“Carbonara” comes from the Italian word carbonaro, meaning “coal burner.” There’s a legend, which most believe to be apocryphal, that says the dish was created as an easy-to-make, stick-to-your-ribs meal men who working outside all day long could make for themselves. The requisite ground pepper is supposedly a nod to coal dust that landed on the dish as the miners ate.

The more widely accepted origin of the dish is that American soldiers during the Second World War brought their taste for bacon and eggs to Europe, and hence the dish was created to sate ally tastes.

Helpful Tips

  • Remember, this spaghetti alla carbonara recipe contains raw eggs. So, use care if making the dish for the very young, the very old, the very pregnant, or the very immuno-compromised. For the rest of you, sit down to this outrageously easy and traditional Italian carbonara recipe with gusto.
  • Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go, as this pasta dish comes together in just minutes once you begin cooking.

Storage and Reheating

Spaghetti alla carbonara is best enjoyed immediately after cooking, but leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days. If you know you’ll have leftovers, save some pasta water for reheating.

Gently reheat the carbonara in a skillet over very low heat, stirring frequently. Add just enough pasta cooking water to loosen the pasta and achieve a creamy consistency. Don’t be tempted to speed things up by cooking over medium or high heat; this will cause the eggy sauce to cook.

Two plates of spaghetti alla carbonara with cubed guanciale.

More Amazing Spaghetti Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Finally! Spaghetti alla carbonara the right way!! I lived in Italy for three years and would eat spaghetti alla carbonara every time we visited a restaurant. When I moved back to the States, no one made it right–except you!.

A plate of spaghetti carbonara with crispy pancetta, Parmesan, and ground black pepper.

Spaghetti Carbonara

4.92 / 24 votes
Spaghetti carbonara, a pasta and sauce rich with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and guanciale, pancetta, or bacon, is a quick and easy dinner that takes just 25 minutes from stove to table.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories744 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces thickly sliced guanciale, pancetta, or slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) cubes
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, well beaten
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, combined with 1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Grab your largest skillet and place it over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil and wait for it to ripple. 
  • Toss in the guanciale (or pancetta or bacon) and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Slide the skillet off the heat.
    Cubes of pancetta frying in a skillet.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add the salt and spaghetti and cook, stirring to prevent the strands from clumping, until al dente.
    Dry spaghetti noodles in a large pot.
  • Working quickly, grab big bunches of cooked spaghetti with tongs and add them to the skillet with the guanciale.

    ☞ TESTER TIP: The cooking water that dribbles from the pasta will make the sauce silky while not cooking the eggs.

    A person tossing spaghetti and crispy cubed pancetta in a skillet.
  • Immediately add the eggs and half the cheese to the skillet and toss well. If the dish isn't as creamy as you'd like, add a small ladleful of the cooking water.
    A skillet filled with spaghetti, pancetta, and carbonara sauce with a pair of tongs resting inside.
  • Sprinkle generously with pepper and serve at once. Pass the remaining cheese at the table.
    A person grinding pepper into a skillet of spaghetti carbonara.



  1. Raw egg warning–Remember, this spaghetti alla carbonara recipe contains raw eggs. So, use care if making the dish for the very young, the very old, the very pregnant, or the very immuno-compromised. For the rest of you, sit down to this outrageously easy and traditional Italian carbonara recipe with gusto.
  2. Get prepped–Have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go, as this pasta dish comes together in just minutes once you begin cooking.
  3. Storage and reheating–Store leftover spaghetti carbonara in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat in a skillet over low heat until heated through. Add a splash of water (or pasta cooking water) to loosen the sauce, if needed. 


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 744 kcalCarbohydrates: 86 gProtein: 29 gFat: 30 gSaturated Fat: 11 gMonounsaturated Fat: 13 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 179 mgSodium: 4083 mgFiber: 4 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2004 David Leite. Photos © 2024 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

It was a rainy night, and I had no desire to brave the elements and hit the grocery store. This spaghetti alla carbonara recipe allowed me to use ingredients I had on hand—with one minor substitution of slab bacon for pancetta—and create an easy, soul-satisfying meal.

The eggs, cheese, and pasta water formed a rich creamy sauce that, when combined with the crisp bacon, made for a real wow factor.

Don’t be scared of traditional spaghetti carbonara! Just mix the pasta quickly once you add the eggs and add the hot pasta water slowly.

I’ll never be able to eat the versions served with cream in restaurants again. This was delicious, so easy, so fast (!), and is ideal as a pantry dinner. The longest part really is waiting for the water to boil!

This is one of those wonderful recipes that doesn’t require you to run out and buy a thing. Who doesn’t have pasta, cheese, and eggs lying around?

This spaghetti carbonara was so simple to make. It perfectly fits my cooking style—a handful of ingredients, simple preparation, and a great-tasting result. I’m most certainly adding this to my arsenal. It just doesn’t get much better than this creamy, porky bowl of pasta love. Great recipe!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This recipe almost mirrors the way I’ve been making spaghetti carbonara for years, since a mom in Cesa, Italy showed me how to make it. It is SO CLOSE that I’m giving it five stars. The only difference, and it is a tiny one, is that I whisk the eggs and cheese directly in the bowl the dish will be served in, and add the hot pasta tossed with guanciale and its fat to the egg mixture. I very recently made it for my friends using fresh eggs from their chickens that roam freely in their backyard. It was a transformative experience for my friends—they had only known carbonara made with heavy cream and garlic.

    1. Thanks, Chiyo. Your experience sounds truly amazing and I’m so glad you were nearly able to recreate it and share it with others.

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe was the freaking BOMB! So easy to follow, only a few steps and ingredients (read: easy for a working mama to make during the week!) and our family literally devoured it. My husband and kiddos always order this dish when we visit high end restaurants, and they all said this was right up there in flavor. Will most definitely be making this again. And again. And again. 🙂

    1. Tifany, you da bomb! Thank you for such an enthusiastic review. This is one of my favorite, go-to recipes. So glad you, the hubs, and the kids liked it!