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This easy spaghetti carbonara recipe is a simple dinner that comes together in about 20 minutes. The creamy pasta with bacon doesn’t even need cream, as the velvety texture comes from a quick sauce made with eggs, garlic and Parmesan. Serve a bowl of the best spaghetti carbonara with a Caesar salad and a side of garlic bread for the ultimate weeknight dinner!

Overhead image of a bowl of easy spaghetti carbonara

Authentic Spaghetti Carbonara

This easy spaghetti carbonara was originally inspired by Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who I watched make an authentic carbonara recipe on his television show, The Kitchen. Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish from Rome, traditionally made with egg, hard cheese, cured pork and black pepper. The word carbonara comes from carbonaro (the Italian word for “charcoal burner”). Some believe the dish was created as a tribute to Italian coal miners; others believe the pasta was a way for families who could not afford meat to add protein to their pasta while using whatever meats (usually guanciale or pancetta) and cheeses (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano) they had on hand. These very simple ingredients come together in a magical way, as the mixture of raw eggs and grated cheese is combined with hot starchy pasta water to form a rich, silky sauce that perfectly coats every noodle.

Instead of the fancier, hard-to-find ingredients that Chef Zakarian uses, I tweaked the classic dish by substituting spaghetti for bucatini, bacon for pancetta, and Parmesan cheese for Parmigiano-Reggiano. With the authentic preparation method, the end result is a simple spaghetti carbonara recipe that’s just as delicious as its Roman counterparts — and it’s ready in just 20 minutes!

Should carbonara have cream?

No, a traditional carbonara should not include cream. Instead, the sauce gets its creamy texture from the raw egg and the addition of some of the reserved starchy cooking water.

Do you put a whole egg in carbonara?

Yes, you’ll need two whole eggs plus an additional egg yolk for this recipe. I recommend using the best quality local farm-fresh eggs, if available, because the beautiful bright yellow-orange yolks will give the sauce a stunning gold color.

Close up shot of a bowl of creamy spaghetti carbonara

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for an easy spaghetti carbonara recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions can be found in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Spaghetti: the most traditional choice, but you can substitute with other pasta such as bucatini, fettuccine, linguine or rigatoni.
  • Olive oil: for the sauce and to fry the bacon.
  • Thick-cut bacon: adds a smoky flavor and rendered fat to the sauce.
  • Garlic: for more savory flavor.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
  • Eggs: you’ll need two whole eggs and one egg yolk for the sauce.
  • Parmesan: freshly-grated from a wedge will melt smoothest into the sauce.
Overhead shot of spaghetti carbonara ingredients

How to Make Easy Spaghetti Carbonara

This quick weeknight dinner requires just a handful of basic kitchen staples, so you can whip it up any night of the week — especially on those crazy evenings when you have nothing else planned. Who can argue with bacon, pasta and cheese?! It’s always a crowd-pleaser!

  1. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water. Reserve the hot cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a large skillet or Dutch oven.
  3. Add the garlic to the skillet with the bacon and cook for about 30 more seconds.
  4. Stir in a ladle of hot pasta water and simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk and Parmesan.
  6. Temper the egg mixture by gradually adding a ladle of hot pasta water.
  7. Transfer the pasta from the cooking water to the skillet with the bacon. Remove from the heat and season with plenty of black pepper.
  8. Stir the tempered egg mixture into the hot pasta and toss gently to coat.
  9. Garnish with Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, or chopped fresh herbs. Enjoy!
Crisp bacon in a skillet
Whisking eggs and parmesan in a bowl
Process shot showing how to make spaghetti carbonara
Square image of a bowl of simple spaghetti carbonara on a wooden table

How to Avoid Scrambled Eggs in Carbonara

A well-done carbonara should have a smooth, silky, creamy texture (without any actual cream). The whites of the egg combine with the starch in the pasta water to add viscosity to the sauce, while the yolk adds richness and flavor. Because egg yolks are a powerful emulsifier, they also help bind the fat from the pork to the sauce, creating a smooth, velvety texture without any separation.

The carbonara preparation method is the key to avoiding scrambled eggs in your sauce. You need enough heat to melt the cheese and thicken the egg, but not so much that you scramble the egg (which will start to happen at 145°F). That’s why you’ll “temper” the egg by gradually whisking a small amount of the hot pasta water into the egg-Parmesan mixture. This brings the egg up to temperature so that when you toss it with the hot pasta off of the heat, the egg doesn’t instantly curdle or scramble.

Serving Suggestions

The rich pasta goes well with a crisp Caesar salad, a simple bowl of greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette, or a pan of sauteed spinach. Soak up any extra sauce with a loaf of garlic bread, a crusty baguette, or some homemade focaccia bread.

What wine goes with Spaghetti Carbonara?

According to this article of 10 Wines to Pair with Spaghetti alla Carbonara, your best bet is a wine with a fair amount of acidity, good intensity, and a certain degree of softness and alcohol content. While simple in preparation, carbonara has a complex blend of flavors, thanks to the slightly sweet pasta and egg, the fatty bacon, and the pungent and bold cheese and pepper.

Sparkling wines work well, and a white wine is always a great option with this dish. Try a white wine from the center of Italy to reflect the origin of the carbonara. Rosé wines can also pair well, especially those from Abruzzo and Lake Garda, but be careful to avoid reds or anything that is too tannic.

Side shot of a bowl of spaghetti carbonara

Storage

This dish is best enjoyed immediately, warm from the skillet. If you have leftovers, the pasta carbonara will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. The pasta may become a little bit dry, though, and the bacon won’t be as crispy.

Can you freeze carbonara?

Yes, you can freeze carbonara in an airtight container for up to 3 months; however, the quality of the pasta and sauce will not be nearly as good when thawed. Pasta tends to have a mushy texture, and the sauce may not be as smooth and creamy. Thaw frozen spaghetti carbonara in the refrigerator overnight.

How to Reheat Spaghetti Carbonara

To reheat the dish, place the spaghetti carbonara in a warm skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, just until heated through. If the pasta seems too dry, just add a little bit of olive oil (about a teaspoon at a time) until it reaches the desired consistency.

Horizontal shot of two bowls of authentic spaghetti carbonara on a table

Recipe Variations

  • Swap out the spaghetti and toss the carbonara sauce with another pasta such as bucatini, fettuccine, rigatoni or linguine.
  • Instead of bacon, use pancetta or guanciale. These Italian cured meats will not render as much fat in the pan as the bacon, so you’ll need to start with about ¼ cup of olive oil in the skillet.
  • If you’re using regular bacon instead of thick-cut bacon, you’ll need to increase the total amount to about 5 or 6 slices.
  • Add frozen peas at the end for a pop of color and sweetness.
  • Toss the hot pasta with fresh baby spinach for some tender greens in your dish.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs such as fresh basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or rosemary.

Tips for the Best Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe

  • Salt the pasta water once it starts to boil. This is your opportunity to season the pasta itself, and you’ll also want the water to have a little bit of salt in it when you use it for the sauce later.
  • Do not discard the pasta cooking water. You’ll need this starchy liquid to thin the sauce, so it’s important that you don’t strain the pasta and dump the water down the drain!
  • Eggs are the star of the show here, so I recommend using the highest quality local, farm-fresh eggs when available. These orange yolks will give the sauce its beautiful golden color.
  • Use freshly-grated Parmesan (not the canned pre-grated stuff), and make sure that it’s shredded to a very fine consistency on a microplane, food processor, or the smallest side of a box grater. This will ensure that the Parmesan melts smoothly into the sauce.
  • Make sure that you slowly temper the egg (bring it up to temperature) by gradually whisking in some of the hot pasta water. Then remove the pan from the heat and toss the tempered egg mixture with the hot pasta. This is the key to avoiding scrambled eggs in your sauce!
Overhead shot of a bowl of simple spaghetti carbonara

More Easy Pasta Recipes to Try

Overhead image of a bowl of easy spaghetti carbonara

Easy Spaghetti Carbonara

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 504 kcal
This easy spaghetti carbonara recipe is a simple dinner that comes together in about 20 minutes!

Ingredients
  

  • 8 ounces dry spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large whole eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • Optional garnish: additional Parmesan cheese, olive oil, fresh herbs

Instructions

  • Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve the hot cooking water, because you will need it for the sauce later.
  • Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add a ladle of pasta water and simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk in a large bowl. Add the Parmesan and whisk to combine. While whisking, very gradually add a ladle of the pasta water to temper the eggs. Set aside.
  • When the pasta is al dente, add the pasta straight from the water to the bacon in the skillet (reserving the pasta cooking water in the pot). Remove from the heat; season with black pepper, to taste.
  • Stir the egg mixture into the pasta and toss gently to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add a little bit more pasta water. Garnish with extra Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, or chopped fresh herbs.

Notes

  • Salt the pasta water once it starts to boil. This is your opportunity to season the pasta itself, and you’ll also want the water to have a little bit of salt in it when you use it for the sauce later.
  • Do not discard the pasta cooking water. You’ll need this starchy liquid to thin the sauce, so it’s important that you don’t strain the pasta and dump the water down the drain!
  • Eggs are the star of the show here, so I recommend using the highest quality local, farm-fresh eggs when available. These orange yolks will give the sauce its beautiful golden color.
  • Use freshly-grated Parmesan (not the canned pre-grated stuff), and make sure that it’s shredded to a very fine consistency on a microplane, food processor, or the smallest side of a box grater. This will ensure that the Parmesan melts smoothly into the sauce.
  • Make sure that you slowly temper the egg (bring it up to temperature) by gradually whisking in some of the hot pasta water. Then remove the pan from the heat and toss the tempered egg mixture with the hot pasta. This is the key to avoiding scrambled eggs in your sauce!
  • Swap out the spaghetti and toss the carbonara sauce with another pasta such as bucatini, fettuccine, rigatoni or linguine.
  • Instead of bacon, use pancetta or guanciale. These Italian cured meats will not render as much fat in the pan as the bacon, so you’ll need to start with about ¼ cup of olive oil in the skillet.
  • If you’re using regular bacon instead of thick-cut bacon, you’ll need to increase the total amount to about 5 or 6 slices.
  • Add frozen peas at the end for a pop of color and sweetness.
  • Toss the hot pasta with fresh baby spinach for some tender greens in your dish.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the recipeCalories: 504kcalCarbohydrates: 44gProtein: 24gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 177mgSodium: 621mgPotassium: 248mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 405IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 332mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: easy, pasta carbonara, spaghetti alla carbonara, spaghetti carbonara
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Sooooo easy and sooooo good! I used back bacon as that’s what I had and increased the garlic cuz that’s how I roll! Will try maybe mushrooms too next time and some shallots or onion. Definitely nothing to be scared of here LOL easy peasy