Friday, January 16, 2009

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

This is one of my absolute favorite quick yet elegant pasta dishes. In fact, I’m surprised that in about two months of blogging, I have yet to bring it up. You can whip up spaghetti alla carbonara in as little as fifteen minutes, and it’s a dish that just about always impresses.

It’s so straightforward; I’m just going to walk you through the steps rather than typing up the recipe separately. For four servings, start by dicing up 5 ounces of pancetta. You can use bacon—I did because that’s what I had in the fridge—but the pancetta really is superior. You’ll also need a small onion, finely chopped, and a clove of minced garlic. Heat a large deep skillet over medium-high heat, and then add the pancetta. Once that gets going, you can start boiling your water for the pasta. When the fat begins to render on the pancetta, lower the heat to medium and add the onion. Sauté for about five minutes, then add the garlic and continue to cook until the onion is translucent, about three more minutes.
When the pasta water boils, salt it and add the spaghetti. Cook until al dente. Careful about your timing—you want your pasta to be ready right when the rest of your ingredients are ready so that it’s nice and hot. Don’t cook the pasta in advance.

While the spaghetti cooks, whisk together two eggs, a cup of finely grated Parmesan, a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and a quarter teaspoon of salt.
Now here comes the fun/tricky part. Drain your pasta, and immediately add it to the skillet with the pancetta, onion, and garlic. Toss the pasta to mix well, and then remove the skillet from the heat. Now, immediately stir in the egg and cheese mixture. Don’t dump it all in one spot—spread it around, and stir and toss the pasta so that the mixture is spread out on the pasta. The egg will cook with the heat of the pan and the pasta, but you don’t want to get clumps of scrambled egg, so it’s really important to make sure the mixture is spread around. I do have to warn you, the egg is likely to be a little undercooked, so there is a risk of salmonella. Whether or not you want to take that risk is up to you.

Give your pasta a taste and see if you want to add any more salt and pepper. You shouldn’t need too much salt as the cheese is quite salty, but I find that freshly ground black pepper makes this dish, so you’ll probably want more of that.

Serve hot with a fresh green salad and you’ve got a classy dinner!


  1. MMMMM! Don't forget a nice Chianti!!
    Nice pics, btw! ;)

  2. I love this dish. You should try it using cured pork jowl (Guanciale) instead of the Pancetta - adds a whole new level of awesome to a great dish!

  3. Thanks for the tip, Matt. I'll definitely have to try that!

  4. I'm going to make this tonight Jess. I'll let you know how it turns out!!

  5. Can't wait to hear about it, Mom! :)

  6. Didn't have anything left in the fridge but an egg and a few strips of bacon and a block of Parmesan... then I remembered your recipe. Great save of the day, and I didn't have to go out in frigid temperatures. Very easy and very satisfying. Next time I'll make enough for Michelle and Paul!

  7. Hey, Tony, glad this was helpful! I often use this as a fallback recipe when I don't have much left in the fridge, but it still tastes like something special. Thanks for the comment!