Here is a real Italian spaghetti carbonara recipe, made the traditional Italian way without a drop of cream. It relies solely on eggs and cheese to create a deliciously creamy carbonara. Food fit for a king (or queen!) may seem simple, but it can be downright delicious.
Carbonara is a beautiful, classic pasta dish that is so creamy you’d swear it was filled with cream. In fact, there are many recipes that cheat by adding cream.
But today we properly make spaghetti carbonara in the authentic traditional way. no cream. Just eggs, cheese and a little starchy pasta in boiling water.
In 15 minutes, the face will appear in front of you. You will be the pride of 60 million Italians!
You can imagine taking a bite of sticky spaghetti with a creamy sauce, can’t you? Stop dreaming. Make it a reality!
! It’s so quick and easy, it will blow your mind!
What happens if I add cream?
Outside of Italy, many recipes “cheat” by adding cream to the carbonara, for various reasons. That’s not a bad thing per se, it’s just that it’s not really carbonara anymore.
But the most important for me (and of course I share the recipe to respect the origin), the cream changes texture and taste. You see, a real carbonara tastes rich and creamy. But you don’t get a creamy coating in your mouth like you do with cream.
In other words, carbonara is the way you make creamy pasta without feeling heavy like when you indulge in thick, creamy pasta. earn!
Ingredients in carbonara sauce
Carbonara calls for vigorously whisking raw eggs from the stovetop, adding hot cooked pasta, guanciale (a type of roast pork like bacon), Parmesan, and a little water in which the pasta was cooked. Watch the magic unfold before your eyes as 4 simple ingredients transform into a luxurious creamy sauce! No cream allowed!
Economic note: Substitute bacon for guanciale and parmesan for parmesan. You will still capture the essence of real carbonara that makes Italians so proud!
- Guanciale – This is a key ingredient in carbonara, and is a cured fatty pork that is similar to bacon and pancetta. It adds adds flavour into the dish and the fat makes the sauce creamy when mixed with the egg and starchy pasta cooking water. Find it at Italian delis, Harris Farms (Syd, QLD), and speciality produce stores. It’s a bit of a speciality product but can be substituted with pancetta or streaky bacon in a pinch! Best to get block form so you can cut it into thick batons. If pre-sliced is all you can get, try to get thick cut. More information on guanciale below.
- Parmigiano reggiano – This is basically a premium parmesan that’s been aged so it has more complex flavours. It adds salt into the sauce as well as thickening it. Pecorino romano, which is made from sheep milk, is also commonly used, or a combination of the two. Substitute with parmesan cheese. Must grate your own! Whatever you use, don’t use store bought pre-grated as it won’t melt properly in the sauce.
- Egg yolks and whole eggs – The egg combined with the guanciale fat is what makes the stunning creamy carbonara sauce that the world is obsessed with. There’s no need for cream for a creamy sauce! See section above for why. We use a combination of whole eggs, plus egg yolks for richness. If only yolks are used, the richness is a little too off-the-charts! Raw egg concerns? These days in developed countries, food safety standards are such that you should not have to be concerned about eating raw eggs sourced from reputable stores. In fact, raw eggs are used more commonly than you probably realise, such as in tiramisu and mayonnaise. So if you’ve ever had any of these at restaurants, you’ve had raw eggs! However, if you are pregnant or immunity compromised, I would recommend avoiding raw eggs as a precaution. Make fettucine alfredo instead!
- Spaghetti – While you can use any long pasta, the most common type used is spaghetti.
- Pepper – For seasoning. Freshly ground black pepper recommended here.
- No salt in sauce – The pasta cooking water is salted so it flavours the spaghetti as it cooks. And the carbonara sauce gets salt from the guanciale and cheese.
- Garlic, optional – While not strictly traditional, garlic is a popular addition and it does add extra flavour into it.
How to make (real) carbonara
Fry the guanciale until golden. Combine hot cooked pasta with guanciale, eggs, cheese and a little pasta cooking water, then watch it transform into a luxurious creamy sauce.
Important: Use the handle of a wooden spoon to stir. Fast and effective !
- Batons – Cut the guanciale into thick batons. Biting through the golden brown crust into meaty bits of salty guanciale is part of the awesomeness that is carbonara!
- Finely grate the parmigiana reggiano or pecorino. I use a microplane – one of can’t-live-without kitchenware items!
- Sauce – Whisk together the egg, cheese and pepper in a large bowl. It needs to be a large bowl because the pasta will be stirred into the sauce in the bowl, off the stove, to avoid scrambling the eggs.
- Cook pasta – Bring 4 litres (4 quarts) of water to the boil with 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the pasta per packet directions. It should be firm, not soft, but fully cooked through.
- Reserve pasta cooking water – Just before draining, scoop out one cup of pasta cooking water. Then drain the pasta in a colander.
- Cook guanciale until golden while the pasta is cooking. You don’t need any oil, the guanciale will fry in its own fat.
- Toss pasta in guanciale – Tumble the hot pasta into the pan with the guanciale then toss so the pasta gets coated in the guanciale fat.
- Transfer into sauce bowl – Tip the hot pasta into the bowl with the egg and use a rubber spatula to scrape out every drop of the guanciale fat into the bowl. That stuff is gold!
- Add 1/2 cup pasta cooking water into the bowl.
- Mix vigorously with the handle of a wooden spoon, spinning the pasta around, for around 30 seconds to 1 minute. Watch as the watery pale yellow liquid magically transforms into a creamy sauce. You know it’s ready when the sauce is no longer watery and pooled in the bottom of the bowl. Instead, it will be thickened, creamy, and clinging to the pasta!
- Serve immediately in warm bowls. Pasta waits for no one! Warm bowls? Yes. I don’t usually warm bowls for serving food, but for pasta, I almost always do. This is because pasta is at its best when it’s freshly made with the sauce is slick and the pasta is juicy. As it cools, the sauce thickens and the pasta gets stodgy. A warm bowl prolongs the life of pasta. I just warm bowls by placing a stack in the microwave for 1 minute. Else, run it under hot water or put in a low oven.
- And there you have it. One of the most luxurious pasta dishes in the world. Did you know it was this quick and easy to make? Such is the beauty of Italian food. The simplicity, letting produce take centre stage with a few little tricks to make magnificent good with so few ingredients.