spaghetti alla carbonara

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By Donna Graffagnino
from Bayou Country, LA

This is a slightly kicked up version of traditional Spaghetti Carbonara or Spaghetti with Bacon and creamy custard sauce. It's so simple yet so delicious - those Italians really knew what they were doing! Spaghetti alla Carbonara's creamy sauce is simply a thin egg and cheese custard, spiked with pork and black pepper. Try to find pancetta or guanciale (pork cheek cured like pancetta) for a really authentic taste!

serves 4
prep time 15 Min
cook time 25 Min
method Stove Top

Ingredients For spaghetti alla carbonara

  • 1 lb
    thin spaghetti, not angelhair
  • 6 oz
    pancetta or thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 tsp
    ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2
    onion, minced (not traditional in this dish but very good)
  • 2 lg
    cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 Tbsp
    olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp
    butter (if using pancetta)
  • 1 c
    reserved pasta water or chicken stock
  • splash of sherry (optional - again not traditional but delicious)
  • 4 lg
  • 1/3 c
    grated parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano cheese
  • 1 tsp
    ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/3 c
    finely grated mozzarella or parmigiano-reggiano
  • freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

How To Make spaghetti alla carbonara

  • 1
    In a small skillet oven over medium-low heat cook olive oil and smashed garlic, stirring frequently for about 5-10 minutes or until the garlic begins to turn golden. Remove garlic and discard. (I usually make garlic infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil by the gallon so I always have it on hand.)
  • 2
    Bring a large pot of LIGHTLY salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally until cooked through but firm to the bite, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • 3
    Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water then drain the rest and toss spaghetti 1 tsp of the garlic infused olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter.
  • 4
    In a Dutch oven over medium-low heat cook pancetta with remaining olive oil, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, and minced onion. If using bacon then leave out the olive oil. Cook until pancetta or bacon is crisp and set heat to lowest setting.
  • 5
    In a warmed mixing bowl whisk eggs and 3 Tbsp of the Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Set aside.
  • 6
    Pour reserved pasta water or stock, sherry, and drained spaghetti into the Dutch oven with the bacon-pepper mixture and stir to combine.
  • 7
    Slowly pour egg mixture into the pasta mixture; stirring constantly until the egg mixture forms a thick sauce, about 1 to 2 minutes and everything is heated through. Remove from heat.
  • 8
    Serve in pasta bowl with remaining cheese and fresh parsley sprinkled over the top.
  • 9
    *Options: Use as much or little Parmigiano Reggiano and Romano cheese as you like, or top dish with finely shredded Mozzarella or Colby Jack for a different flavor profile. Add diced chicken to dish and cook with the bacon or if using pre-cooked chicken, add to bacon just before it's done and heat through.