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Spaghetti alla Carbonara


Serves 2

  • To learn more, read:
    Spaghetti alla Carbonara
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 92

If you’d like to make this pasta for four people, double the recipe, but transfer the pasta back into the pot used for cooking it and then toss it with the eggs and cheese.

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 oz. fatty pancetta or guanciale, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1-1/2 x 1/2-inch rectangles
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/2 lb. imported dried spaghetti (I like Setaro brand; avaiable online)
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

In a 10-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta or guanciale and 1/2 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. (If the meat is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium low.) Add the onion and continue to cook until it’s soft and golden and the meat is crisp, about 5 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully spoon off all but about 2 Tbs. of the fat. Add 1 Tbs. water to the pan and scrape any brown bits from the bottom.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl until smooth and set aside.

Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water according to package directions until it’s just shy of al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the spaghetti. Transfer the spaghetti to the skillet, set it over medium heat, and toss with tongs to coat the spaghetti with the fat and finish cooking to al dente, about 1 minute. If the pasta is too dry or starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add 1 or 2 tsp. of the pasta water. You want the bottom of the pan to be just barely wet. If the pan is too dry, the eggs will scramble when you add them.

Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the eggs over the pasta, tossing quickly and continuously until the eggs thicken and turn to the consistency of a thin custard, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Tossing constantly is important, as it prevents the eggs from scrambling.)

The sauce should be smooth and creamy, and it should cling to the pasta. Add a little more pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Stir in the Parmigiano and season to taste with salt and pepper (you may not need additional salt, as both guanciale and pancetta can be very salty). Serve immediately.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 810, Fat (kcal): 34, Fat Calories (g): 310, Saturated Fat (g): 10, Protein (g): 34, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15, Carbohydrates (mg): 89, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 4.5, Sodium (g): 1530, Cholesterol (g): 255, Fiber (g): 6,

Photo: Scott Phillips

Someone told me the secret to Spaghetti Carbonara is to just use the egg yolks, not the white- the egg solids that can form if you don't do it right are the whites, and they don't help the overall texture. So I used only egg yolks, and used bacon. In addition, I added a lot of black pepper. The instructions in the recipe are quite helpful. I doubled the recipe, and tossed everything in the large pot instead of a skillet, as recommended. The other secret is using the reserved pasta water. I think it's good to do with almost any pasta dish to kind of pull everything together, but here it's a necessity.

Sorry to disagree with all the other good reviews of this recipe, but I did not like it at all. It was lacking in flavor and I did not like the consistency of the sauce, even though I used fine quality ingredients, and followed the instructions as written. It was only slightly better after cooking the pasta with the sauce a little more so that the egg was cooked more. Have had great results with many other recipes from Fine Cooking, but not with this one.

very good explanation of how to toss pasta! But onions in carbonara is just NOT authentic, I'm afraid. And Pecorino cheese should be used instead of Parmigiano. Also, that's quite a lot of pasta for just two eggs, however large. For me it's 1 egg/person/80 grams pasta (1/2 lb as stated here amounts roughly to 225 grams). This ratio of pasta to eggs gives you a perfectly creamy sauce and you can also cut on the oil (pancetta/guanciale gives off enough fat already on its own). Just my two humble, but very Italian, cents :)

One of our favorite recipes - easy and delicious. We make it exactly as written.

This is excellent - I have made it at least two dozen times and it is a family favorite.

One of the favorites at our house. Sometimes we make it with prosciutto sliced thick, diced, and used in place of the pancetta.

I love this recipe! I subscribe to the magazine and the issue it first appeared in came just before my birthday. I considered it a gift at the time and have made it countless times. I had always wondered about the right way to make carbonara and I found this recipe really covered the details necessary to make it turn out right. I've used rolled pancetta, flat pancetta, spicy pancetta and smoked bacon, and it always turns out. I've been unable to find pork jowl, but the hunt continues. The onion is crucial to bring out the other flavours, and if you chop it fine enough it mostly disintegrates, so there's no big pieces of onion. To make sure the egg doesn't scramble, you can pour in just a tiny bit first and check if it starts to solidify. Even off the heat, the pasta still has enough energy in it to scramble the eggs, so I leave it a bit before adding the egg. Better to err on the side of less heat and fire up the burner a bit if it isn't getting creamy than risk a spaghetti omelette! I would never add garlic to this recipe. I really wanted to try a basic simple carbonara and this is it! Thanks Fine Cooking!

This was great! Really easy to make with ingredients that are mostly available in my pantry! Added some minced garlic with the onions and used most of the oil from the bacon. Yummy! Will never make carbonara with cream again. Using eggs is definitely better.

I tried it, for the sake of experience, even if I have been preparing the traditional recipe for a long time now. The taste is very good but: onions in the carbonara recipe ??? why not garlic or curry if you want to add taste ?? Or you could replace bacon with parma ham ?? and then, would you still call it a carbonara ?? Otherwise the method of adding pasta cooking water is excellent, too many carbonara recipes replace it with cream wich is even worse than adding onions. If you want to be almost sure to avoid the risk of egg's scrambling, wich is the only real difficulty of this recipe, the easiest way is to add a louche of pasta cooking water in small quantities directly in the eggs (while stirring), and then this creamy seasoning on the pasta. Finally, you should never add parsley on a carbonara, other than a full branch (that you can easily take away) for decoration and colour.

This was delicious, easy to make, and came together quickly from ingredients I usually have around. I used bacon, which added a tasty smoky note. This will definitely become a regular in our rotation.

Excellent! I cut my pancetta into smaller pieces, but that's the only change I made. FWIW, it's a 4 oz. portion of pasta, if the recipe serves two people... which is a large portion of such a rich dish.

Excellent dish, and easy to make!

just what I was craving.


Really, really, really good. Well written instructions about tossing the spaghetti. Quick to make. I used regular bacon because this is how my mom always made it. Personally I like more bacon than the recipe called for (maybe pancetta is saltier so the quantity in the recipe is better when followed to a t)

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