How to make spaghetti carbonara

One weekend in Rome left me with a serious carbonara addiction.  I had eaten carbonara before but nothing that tasted like this.  It was silky smooth, rich and utterly satisfying.  At home, attempting to replicate the classic dish I discovered the key was to cut out any extra ingredients, cream being the most obvious omission.  The beauty of a good carbonara is its simplicity.


300g fresh spaghetti (I actually used tagiatelle because that is what I had)
100g guanciale (pancetta), finely chopped
50g parmesan, finely grated
2 eggs
50 g butter
Salt and pepper to season

Grating the cheese

1.  Put a large saucepan of water on to boil.  Meanwhile beat the eggs in a bowl and add most of the parmesan and season with salt and pepper.

2.  Once the water has boiled add the pasta and cook until almost al dente.  This will take about 3 mins for fresh pasta and 10 mins for dried pasta.

3.  While the pasta is cooking heat the butter over a low heat in a fry pan then add the pancetta.  Cook on a medium heat for 5 mins while stirring until the pancetta is golden.

Cooking the pancetta

4.  When the pasta is ready lift it from the water with a pasta fork or tongs and put it in the frying pan with the pancetta. Make sure some of the pasta water drops in as well to add some moisture and don’t throw the rest of the pasta water away yet.

5.  Take the frying pan of spaghetti and pancetta off the heat. Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using the tongs mix the spaghetti with the egg mixture.  It is important the pan is off the heat otherwise you end up with scrambled eggs.

6.  Add some extra pasta cooking water if needed and divide onto plates to serve.

7.  Season with more salt and pepper and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Serves four (Actually – serves two if you want a really big bowl of it.  You probably do.  Thanks for the special comments).


  1. This looks perfect. I much prefer this rich, eggy version to a dish doused in cream – the flavours are cleaner and it provides the perfect foil against the salty, crispy guanciale (btw, you have a slight typo, the ‘i’ comes after the ‘c’…sorry, I work in publishing so horribly pedantic). Yum!

  2. 300g of pasta for four people? 🙁

  3. Hi all!!! This is the version we from Ferrara (north of Italy) usually make.
    The meat is pancetta (smoked or sweet, I prefer the latter) and not guanciale, because this is typical of Rome and Lazio. We have it too, but it’s a bit…expensive and you find it just at the butcher’s.
    300g of pasta (spaghetti or whatever dried pasta you like, actually…it has to be rough…how can i say it? The surface has to absorb the sauce… ) for 4 people is ok
    Have a great day and …a great carbonara 🙂


  4. looks fab! i too went to rome and discovered real carbonara. love not just the food and sights there, but the italians’ approach to food and life in general!

  5. Can’t beat a real Carbonara, none of that cream nonsense! I would have to opt for the guanciale over pancetta but so hard to get over here (well in Brighton anyway!)

  6. I’m always so disappointed when you order a carbonara and it comes with cream. This looks fab, though – and in my case I think it would serve one! 🙂

    Hannah @ Love to Dine

  7. Simple and oh so delicious. Don’t forget the garlic in your recipe – I spied it in your photos and I personally find some flat leaf parsley really helps.

  8. Oh no!!! No garlic and no parsley!!! And I forgot to say yesterday…no butter!!! Pancetta is fat enough to crisp in the pan alone.

    A little tip for you all: Add just a little of nutmeg….it’s really fab!!!

    Raffaella….directly from Italy

  9. The Little Loaf – Thanks for spotting – now amended!

    Lizzie – You are right: much better for two big bowls not four little ones.

    Anon – Thanks for the tips direct from Rome

    Shu Han – I agree the Italian approach to life and food is brilliant

    Graphic Foodie – Even hard to get in London which is why I suggested Pancetta as an alternative.

    Love to Dine – Yes one VERY hungry person

    Zedman – Well spotted – I do use bruised garlic as well. Parsley – interesting, will have to try.

    Anon – I do take your point but am also of the school that everything is better with butter. Will have to try the nutmeg out.

  10. I think Pecorino is more common in traditional Carbonara.

  11. Made this last night and it was truly scrumptious. The perfect winter Sunday night comfort food that will no doubt become a regular in our kitchen all round. Thank you.

  12. Hard to understand the resistance to garlic and parsley and even perhaps some fresh seedless chilly, agree with the fresh cream issue plus hard to get in most parts of Asia. But do not use the water.from your spaghetti or fetuccini, because if you use salt in the boiling process the sauce will be way to salty and you should use it for the benefit of the pasta. Use some stock instead and you will have a great meal.

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