Spaghetti Carbonara

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. 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.–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.

Spaghetti Carbonara FAQs

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 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 so that it’s luscious, creamy, and addictive. Also, while I’m at it, there are no peas in carbonara, either.

What’s the origins of spaghetti carbonara?

“Carbonara” comes from the Italian word carbonaro, which translates as “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 were working outside all day long could make for themselves. 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.


Spaghetti Carbonara

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

Prep 10 mins
Cook 15 mins
Total 25 mins
4 servings
744 kcal
4.95 / 19 votes
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  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces thickly sliced guanciale, pancetta, or bacon cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) pieces
  • 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 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 cooking pasta 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 guanciale. 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. 

    TESTER TIP: 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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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 744kcal (37%)Carbohydrates: 86g (29%)Protein: 29g (58%)Fat: 30g (46%)Saturated Fat: 11g (69%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 179mg (60%)Sodium: 4083mg (178%)Potassium: 369mg (11%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 3g (3%)Vitamin A: 346IU (7%)Calcium: 267mg (27%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

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.

Originally published April 14, 2004


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  1. 5 stars
    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.

  2. 5 stars
    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.

  3. 5 stars
    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.

  4. 5 stars
    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!

  5. 5 stars
    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!

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