Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara, a pasta and sauce rich with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pancetta or bacon, is a quick and easy dinner that takes just 25 minutes from stove to table. Click to read about the questionable origins of spaghetti carbonara.

A bowl filled with spaghetti carbonara, topped with freshly grated Parmesan.

This knock-it-out-of-the park spaghetti alla carbonara recipe calls for extra egg yolk, which lends an extra silken richness and lusciousness to the dish. If you want a traditional version, use 4 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 are 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.  Originally published April 14, 2004.David Leite

Raw Egg Reminder

A gentle reminder that this spaghetti alla carbonara recipe contains raw egg. Please be aware of this if you’re making the recipe for anyone for whom that’s a potential food safety no-no, including the very young, the very old, the very pregnant, and the very compromised in terms of immunity. All the rest of you, go ahead and sit down to this outrageously easy and traditional Italian carbonara recipe with gusto.

Video: How to Make Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Video courtesy of CT Style

Spaghetti Carbonara

  • Quick Glance
  • (17)
  • 10 M
  • 25 M
  • Serves 4
4.9/5 - 17 reviews
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Grab your largest skillet and place it over medium heat. Pour the olive oil into the skillet and wait until the oil ripples. Toss in the guanciale (or pancetta or bacon, if using) and cook, stirring often, until crisp. Slide the skillet off the heat.

Meanwhile, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Toss in the salt and the spaghetti and boil, stirring to keep the strands from sticking to one another, until al dente. Carefully scoop out 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve it. Then drain the spaghetti in a colander, shaking it to release any excess liquid.

Working quickly, dump the hot drained spaghetti into the skillet with the pancetta. Dribble a bit of the reserved cooking water into the beaten eggs and whisk quickly. This prevents the eggs from cooking.

Immediately add the eggs and half the cheese to the skillet of spaghetti and toss well. Add just enough of the reserved pasta water to make the mixture lusciously creamy. (You’ll want to add the pasta water incrementally, tossing all the while you’re dribbling in the water, as everything magically coalesces into a velvety sauce that cloaks each strand.) Sprinkle generously with pepper and serve at once. Pass the remaining cheese at the table.

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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 that I had on hand—with one minor substitution of regular 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 spaghetti carbonara! Just remember to mix the pasta quickly once you add the eggs and add in the hot pasta water slowly (you might not need it all). 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 laying around? This spaghetti carbonara was so simple to make. It's perfectly my cooking style—a handful of ingredients with simple preparation with 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! Next time I make this dish I want to add fresh peas. I think the sweetness of the peas would contrast beautifully with the saltiness of the pancetta. I love that certain “pea-ness” (love you, Iron Chef) that only comes from fresh peas.


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  1. Flavor was awesome. Simple and easy to make. We added a touch of Worcestershire sauce and a lil more egg yolk drizzled on top when it was plated! Amazing! Side note- the best part of this recipe is that there’s no butter! Didn’t feel as heavy.

  2. This was wonderful and easy to make! My first time cooking with Guanciale and it came out scrumptious. I was much more liberal with the amount of Guanciale and adjusted with a bit more olive oil. Make sure to season and taste as you go along and use the freshest ingredients. Definitely a go to recipe!

    1. Terrific to hear, Good Bitee! Guianciale does lend a very distinctive note to recipes and once you’ve had it, you may find that you come to miss it in the future when other meats are substituted!

  3. Excellent recipe, my family loved how creamy and luscious the pasta was. Definitely recommend adding more pancetta (at least a few more ounces) because you really can’t have too much. Also make sure to use an egg yolk alongside the three eggs for a smooth texture.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your tips and experience with us, Ann.

  4. ! can’t tell you how many friends that I have impressed serving this delicious impromptu supper–so delicious and satisfying–lots of good friends and good times associated with this simple and non-fussy dish! Even better with a glass of pinot grigio or prosecco (I’m always partial to bubbly…)

    1. Debbie, I agree. I always have the ingredients on hand, and I can whip it up in no time. Never fails to impress and…never fails! Oh, and brava to Prosecco. We always start every dinner party with bubbles.

  5. Spaghetti alla Carbonara is my most favorite pasta dish and this is a delicious and reliable version of it. I will return to this recipe again and again. Thanks, David!

  6. Your recipe is great. Three cloves of chopped garlic makes it just a little a little better. I must have made this dish a hundred and fifty times.

  7. David, I wrote your recipe in my food journal several years ago. It is absolutely the BEST. I have excluded pasta from my diet for the last few years and dream about this recipe constantly. The last time I made it was during a blizzard. I was home alone and am ashamed to say that I ate the entire (yes!) batch myself during that 24 hour storm. Hence the reason for the pasta embargo. Anyway, I recall you recommending putting a lid on the assembled dish for 5 minutes to cook everything and to create a silky sauce. I don’t see this now. Is there a reason for this because it was magnificent. I have passed this tip on to friends and they agree.

    1. Beth, thank you for your kind words. I think I may have removed that tip for health reasons: the use of raw eggs. Yet I personally still do it myself. IF you chose to unembargo (disembargo?) pasta, don’t put the pan back over a low flame. Just toss the hot noodles and egg mixture together, cover, and let sit for several minutes, stirring occasionally.

  8. Your blog is my one-stop-shop for recipes. Ever since you posted the ultimate chocolate chip recipe, I thought, “Wow. This is the first legit chocolate chip recipe I’ve ever tried.”

    2nd in line was the pasta carbonara. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel to Europe and visit Italy, which I hope to one day get to do…But I have had plenty of what many would claim to be pasta alla carbonara. I grew up in the Philippines, and had my fair share of watered-down white sauce, claiming to be carbonara….And perhaps because I was used to it, I enjoyed it to a degree.

    But when I read your blog about the story behind the pasta alla carbonara, I also couldn’t resist a good story. Strangely enough, I don’t read most blogs. I’m not much of a reader to begin with, but I did read this one. And then I watched the video and was thrilled to learn how quick this dish could be made…

    So, needless to say…I made it…Again…and again…and again.

    It’s incredible. So, simple, so rich… so easy. I only wish that reheating leftovers the next day was as impressive as it is straight out of the pan. But that never deterred me. I’ll eat it anyway!

    Now I plan on making it again, while attempting to make fresh pasta as well.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that your chocolate chip cookie recipe and this carbonara recipe sparked my fondness for Leite’s Culinaria. While everyone else is recipe hunting on food network, I feel like I’ve discovered a secret gold mine.

    Thank you for all the inspiration!

    1. Jenny, few people leave me speechless. But your comment has me gobsmacked. Just gobsmacked! Thank you so much for your kind words. This was my goal when I started the site in 1999. We hope you find many more recipes that delight.

  9. Finally! Spaghetti alla carbonara the right way!! I lived in Italy for 3 years (I’m a military brat) and I would eat spaghetti alla carbonara every time we went to a restaurant off base because I loved it so much. When I moved back to the States, no one makes it right!! Thanks so much for this recipe!

    1. Sharday, thanks for the kind words. I, too, adored spaghetti alla carbonara in Italy and was so disappointed when I got back to the States. So I researched for months until I found the traditional way to make it. This recipe is the result!

  10. great recipe i cooked it in culinary arts for eighth grade it was a two-day lab and it turned out great we all got A’s thanks!

  11. What I loved about this recipe was that all the ingredients are readily available in our household and can be made on a whim!

  12. I love spaghetti alla carbonara, but I never heard the story of the campsite before. Like most culinary things there is plenty of stories around each recipe.

    I have a hard time finding pancetta in the town where I live so I make this dish with bacon, but it is never the same. I also use onions, to add a little sweetness to an otherwise very earthy dish.

    I periodically check the site to become a tester without luck. Now going back to check more entries.

    Happy cooking!

  13. I will make these tonight replacing the pancetta with bacon. I have some smoked pork used on Brazilian Feijoada could I use this instead?

    On a different subject. David, you have a recipe for pork and beans in your book, the New Portuguese Table. I was wondering if you have a recipe of authentic Brazilian feijoada. The history behind the dish is fascinating, the black beans give a special touch and the bay leaves just complete the ensemble. I was wondering if you would know where the tradition of serving it with orange and fried collard beans come from?

    1. Hi Humberto, my name is Leticia, and I’m a Brazilian chef based in the US. David suggested I reply to you regarding feijoada. (Thank you, David).

      To answer your spaghetti alla carbonara question, even though pancetta is unsmoked, yes, you can use any leftover smoked pork from a feijoada, and it will still have a strong enough flavor to stand to the carbonara sauce. (That is, if you have’t tried it already, sorry for being a day late.)

      As for the feijoada, I agree with you, it is a fascinating dish, with lots of history behind it. Collard greens are most often served braised rather than fried. The tradition of serving oranges with feijoada is based on the idea of “cutting through” some of the fat, which is left in the beans from all the meats cooked in pot. Some Brazilians serve orange segments on the side; some throw an orange cut in half into the beans; some even squeeze fresh orange juice and add it to the beans. My theory is a little different: if I use a lot of salted and/or fatty meats, the beans will end up fatty anyway, and no amount of orange or juice will fix that. So I like to make another batch of black beans to serve. In other words, the beans that the meats are cooked in aren’t the same beans served. But, of course, it all depends on what kinds of meat you use and how fatty the beans get.

      If you would like more info on the subject, my cookbook The Brazilian Kitchen is coming out this February and features a great recipe for feijoada. If you have more questions, please feel free to contact me

      1. Thanks Leticia
        I did the recipe with smoked pork and my wife loved it. I am sure going to check the Brazilian Kitchen book as I am Brazilian as well and I love to cook.
        Thank you.

  14. great recipe for an italian favorite, david! however, the real reason i’m commenting is because your title is so clever and i wanted you to know that i appreciate such brilliance. :)

  15. This is comfort food at its finest. I have a similar recipe for fideo. Takes me home every time I prepare it. Thanks, David.

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