Everything I Know About Pasta Carbonara

Jun 28, 2019 | Cooking Tips, Pasta

Pasta Carbonara sometimes gets a bad rap. Often in restaurants what is sold as carbonara is actually nothing like the real thing. It is all too common to see a big bowl of pasta tossed in a heavy cream sauce with a bit of bacon and maybe some peas and have it labeled as pasta carbonara. I’m here to tell you that that ain’t it. Today, we are going to talk about the real thing.

Prepare to have your mind blown because this is…

Everything I Know About Pasta Carbonara

What is pasta carbonara?

Pasta carbonara is a simple pasta dish originating in Rome. A true carbonara should have five, maybe six ingredients maximum. One of those being pasta. It absolutely does not contain cream of any kind.

If carbonara doesn’t have cream in it, what makes the sauce so creamy?

Great question!

The creaminess of the sauce comes from the combination of two ingredients; egg and cheese.

How to make carbonara

I’ve been trying to kind of beat around the bush here and build up suspense but it’s almost impossible to talk about carbonara without completely giving up what it is. So, let’s cut preamble and get to it.

Carbonara consists of guanciale (we’ll get to that in a second), pasta, parmesan or pecorino cheese, eggs, and pepper. Sometimes parsley will be added. That’s it.

What is guanciale?

Guanciale (guan-chal-a) is cured and dried pig cheek or jowl. It is very similar in taste and texture to good bacon with the exception that there is no smoky flavour. If you can’t find or don’t want to use guanciale, pancetta, or bacon can be used as a substitute.

What type of pasta should you use?

The pasta used for carbonara is most commonly spaghetti or a slightly thinner spaghettini.

How is it made?

Okay, here comes the fun part!

When I say that carbonara is a simple pasta dish, I really mean that. In fact, most classic Italian pasta dishes only contain a handful of ingredients and take a few minutes to make. They are often light as opposed to their North American counterparts.

To make carbonara get a pot of water boiling for the pasta. Dice up the guanciale or bacon into pieces (about 1/2 a cup total) about the size of the fingernail or your little finger. Put the bacon in a pan with a teaspoon or two of olive oil and turn on to medium-low heat. Cook the bacon until it has crisped up a little.

While the bacon is cooking put a handful of dried spaghetti in the pot of boiling water, you want enough pasta for two people.

Now, in a mixing bowl combine two eggs, plus one extra yolk along with half a cup of grated parmesan cheese. It is really important to use real parmesan for this, not the pre-grated stuff out of the bottle. Mix the cheese and egg yolks really well and season with fresh cracked pepper.

Keep the bacon in the hot pan but drain off half of the oil. Add the cooked pasta to the bacon pan and toss to mix and coat the pasta with the remaining oil. Add the hot pasta and bacon mixture to the egg and cheese mixture and stir with tongs.

If you’ve been paying attention you will realize that the eggs aren’t cooked. Good eye! But, that’s not really true. The heat from the bacon and the pasta, as long as your timing is right, will be enough to cook the egg and melt the cheese. This will make the sauce and give the pasta that creamy consistency.

Serve the pasta garnished with a little more grated cheese and maybe a touch of parsley.

That’s it. That is how you make a true pasta carbonara.


The simplicity of carbonara is part of its magic. This dish can be made in as long as it takes to boil some pasta and cook some bacon and with ingredients you probably already have.

It is fantastic for a quick dinner, along with a salad. Or, for a light lunch. And, that’s actually something to think about as well, this dish, pasta carbonara is not heavy. It is actually very light. You don’t feel gross after eating it, unlike the version that is made of pure cream.

If you’ve never had anything like this before I beg you to try it. Because once you see how amazing this is, you may start to understand the real reason why pasta is so popular in Italy. It isn’t because it’s heavy, or because it has twenty ingredients. Pasta is popular in Italy because it is a terrific vessel for almost anything, no matter how simple it may seem.

Thanks for reading everyone and remember to subscribe so you never miss a post.

Just as a quick note, Monday is Canada day and I will be taking the day off. This means that there will not be a 30 minutes or less post this week. I will be back in full force the week after. Enjoy your long weekend!


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