Every home cook needs a classic Italian Carbonara recipe in their toolkit. This Italian pasta dish has been beloved for generations and is a very simple yet elegant recipe that consists of pasta, eggs, cheese, and pork. The origins of carbonara are somewhat shrouded in mystery, but (depending on who you believe!) it is thought to have originated in the Lazio region of Italy, specifically in the city of Rome. The dish is said to have been created by coal miners, who would bring eggs, cheese, and bacon with them to work as a convenient meal.
The combination of creamy eggs, salty bacon or pancetta and the sharpness of Pecorino Romano cheese, creates a delicious and rich taste that is hard to resist. The use of pasta cooking water to create a creamy sauce for the pasta is an essential trick to make this dish so flavorful. This recipe is a great way to make a classic dish that is sure to be a hit with your family and friends. It is an easy recipe to make and can be enjoyed any time of the year. Follow our step-by-step recipe and you’ll have a delicious, authentic Italian carbonara dish that you will come back to time and time again.
Cream or No Cream?
Traditionally, a classic Italian carbonara recipe does not include cream. The sauce for the pasta is made by combining the pasta cooking water with the egg yolks, cheese, and bacon or pancetta. The starch from the pasta cooking water along with the egg yolks creates a creamy and rich sauce that coats the pasta perfectly.
The use of cream in carbonara is a modern interpretation of the recipe, but it is not authentic. That being said, if you love to add cream please do (who are we to judge!), just omit the pasta water.
The traditional recipe is also a healthier version of the dish, as it is not loaded with heavy cream and butter but uses the pasta water for the silky, creamy texture.
Classic Italian Carbonara Recipe
- 1 pound (450g) spaghetti or linguine pasta
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 1/2 cups (150g) grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup (120ml) pasta cooking water
- 1/2 pound (225g) pancetta or bacon, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley (optional)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a pan over medium heat. Add the diced pancetta or bacon and cook until crispy. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- In the same pan, add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water, and then drain the pasta.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cheese.
- Add the pasta to the bowl with the egg yolk mixture and toss to combine. Add the reserved pasta cooking water, a little at a time, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
- Add the cooked pancetta or bacon and garlic to the pasta, and toss to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately, garnished with fresh parsley, as desired. Enjoy!