A recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara that’s so easy to make and so incredibly delicious, you’ll never order it at your favorite trattoria ever again. This creamy pasta is perfect for low-key dinner parties, or just carb-loading on the couch with your favorite show.
Make this easy weeknight meal with baby greens tossed in red wine vinagirette or an Asparagus Salad, or serve it at your next dinner party with my favorite red sangria. Discover even more Italian recipes (but don't look when you're hungry).
Why is homemade pasta carbonara so hit-or-miss? While this humble Italian staple couldn’t be simpler, many people never dare to make it at home. And when they do, the internet is filled with their woes of overcooked eggs in the carbonara sauce and less-than-creamy results.
If you think that pasta carbonara is beyond your abilities, think again. You just might surprise yourself. This genius technique makes fail-proof pasta without scrambling the eggs, making every bacon-studded bite unforgettably good.
Here's the secret: Pre-heat a bowl for tossing the pasta with the egg and cheese - that keeps them from turning into scrambled eggs. The result? A delightful, silky texture that's as good as any Italian restaurant.
Making Spaghetti Carbonara for a crowd, or just one? Just click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Spaghetti Carbonara ingredients:
Although creamy tasting, this recipe for carbonara sauce has no cream. You really only need these four ingredients: spaghetti, eggs, bacon, and Parmesan cheese.
As with all simple recipes, quality ingredients mean you get a better meal.
And oh, what a meal this will be!
- Spaghetti. You can use any long pasta you like, really. Bucatini, linguini, fettuccini.
- Bacon. Traditional carbonara uses some type of cured pork jowl, like guanciale, pancetta, etc, diced in small cubes. If you have it, by all means, use it! But bacon works just as well to get dinner on the table.
- Garlic. A little garlic makes everything better.
- Eggs. The raw eggs become cooked and silky when tossed in the hot pasta.
- Parmesan cheese. Carbonara sauce usually uses an aged pecorino, a sheep milk cheese that tastes a tiny bit sharper than Parmesan. Use it if you got it, but again, Parmesan works nicely. Just make sure that you use fresh Parmesan, not the stuff in the green can. (Although that has its place, too!)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Parsley. Optional, for garnish.
- Peas. Shelled peas are really common in alla carbonara dishes. If you’re buying raw peas, blanch the peas for one minute in the pasta water. Then add them to the eggs when you add the pasta.
- Onions. Some cooks insist on onions, but it’s not traditional. If you like onions, cook them in the skillet until browned at the same time you cook the bacon.
How to make Carbonara:
Have your cheese grated, your eggs cracked, and your bacon chopped before you begin, because this recipe moves fast. And for exact recipe amounts, look down below at the recipe card; the photos just walk you through the steps.
- First, place a large serving bowl on the center rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 200 degrees. This will get the bowl ready for the eggs a little later on.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente in generously salted boiling water. When you drain the pasta, make sure you reserve about a cup of the pasta water, which gets added to the carbonara sauce and helps it emulsify.
- While the pasta cooks, cook the chopped bacon in a skillet over medium heat until brown and crispy. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, then remove the pan from the heat. (If you're using guanciale or pancetta, it will appear more translucent than crispy--that's what you want.)
- Next, take the hot bowl out of the oven and add the eggs, grated cheese, and some ground pepper. Beat everything together with a fork to combine.
- Then immediately add the pasta, bacon and garlic, and any rendered bacon fat to the bowl and toss everything well to combine.
- Finally, add a splash of the pasta water until the pasta turns creamy and glossy. Give it a final seasoning with salt and pepper. Then garnish with parsley and extra cheese, if desired. Serve immediately in the warm bowl.
Tips for making the best Carbonara:
- Use room temperature eggs. Leave your eggs out on the counter while you cook, or place them in a glass of warm water to warm up.
- Make sure the bowl is pre-heated. The residual heat of the pasta and the warmth of the bowl will work together to make that silky, glorious sauce.
- Keep the pasta moving. Toss and combine the pasta well so every strand gets coated.
- Enjoy immediately. This is a humble pasta dish that's made on the fly and meant to be eaten right away. No make ahead tips, here.
Pasta Carbonara: what have I been doing wrong?
Have you ever failed at the carbonara game? Nine times out of ten, people overcook the eggs. What they end up with is dry, crumbly-looking pasta sauce.
Every chef has their own method for the best carbonara. Some call for creating a double boiler on the stove to gently heat the eggs once they’re added to the pasta. It’s great, but requires a lot of extra set-up.
Others insist that you have to rapidly stir, stir, stir while holding the (really heavy) pan just barely above the flame on the stove. That can be really tricky, unless you have a third arm, or someone else holding the heavy skillet.
And finally, because everyone’s stove, pan, and kitchen is different, it can be difficult to know exactly what the problem is without extensive trial and error.
However, this recipe takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. Using a warm bowl keeps everything just heated enough so that the eggs can do their thing. Nothing overcooks, and you get creamy, fantastic pasta every time.
What about Spaghetti Carbonara with cream?
Some recipes add a generous amount of heavy cream to the recipe to ensure creaminess. Cream helps bring everything together easier on the stovetop, too.
Of course, it tastes good, as anything with heavy cream does, but you don’t really need it with this technique. You’ll still get the great texture with just eggs, bacon fat, and cheese.
Can I get sick from raw eggs in Pasta Carbonara?
While the eggs may not reach 160 degrees to fully cook them, they are not absolutely raw, either. This recipe should be fine for most people with healthy immune systems.
But most importantly, always practice caution with any raw or undercooked ingredients. Fortunately, you can purchase pasteurized eggs at most well-stocked grocery stores, which reduce the risk of salmonella or other food-borne illness.
If consuming undercooked eggs worries you, or you're preparing food for children, the elderly, or pregnant women, please make sure to research egg safety guidelines in your region before making the recipe.
Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 6 slices bacon chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- Minced fresh parsley for garnish, optional
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a large serving bowl on middle rack (large enough to accommodate a pound of cooked pasta).
- Bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain well.
- Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium heat, add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
- Carefully remove bowl from oven and add eggs, cheese, and pepper to taste (I like 1/2 teaspoon). Beat with a fork to combine. Immediately add pasta, bacon with garlic, and rendered fat and toss to combine.
- Add a splash of pasta water until desired consistency is reached (it should be creamy), then season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with more cheese and freshly parsley, if desired.