Spaghetti Carbonara Traditional Recipe | Italian Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara original recipe

Spaghetti Carbonara, one of the most famous Pasta Recipes of Roman Cuisine, made only with 5 simple ingredients: spaghetti seasoned with browned guanciale, black pepper, pecorino Romano and beaten eggs. In the traditional recipe for spaghetti carbonara, you need no other ingredients so

DO NOT USE garlic, parsley, onion, cream, milk, parmigiano, pancetta, bacon.

If you read this recipe thoroughly, you will see that there are many Pasta Carbonara variations, even here in Italy, but they are…variations of the authentic recipe. Which is very simple and fast to make. The only difficulty is to make sure that the eggs do not cook so much to look like scrambled eggs or too little to be raw and cold.

There are a few tricks to make a perfect carbonara and now we’ll let you know.

READ: How to Make the Best Amatriciana Sauce 

How to Make Spaghetti Carbonara Traditional Recipe

Prep Time: 20 Min
Cook Time: 10 Min
Yields : 4


  • ground black pepper


spaghetti carbonara step 1

Step 1) – Browning the guanciale. Cut the guanciale into small pieces (cubes, slices … the one you prefer) then simmer in a frying pan over medium heat. No need for oil: guanciale is already fat, greasy and fabulous of its own. If you want, you can add a tablespoon of cooking water and emulsify, in this way you will create a great fat sauce to season spaghetti properly. When ready, turn off the heat and set aside.

spaghetti carbonara step 2

Step 2) Making eggs-pecorino sauce. Whisk the Pecorino Romano (which is a very salty and tasty Italian cheese so there’s no need to add salt) with the eggs and a little bit of ground black pepper. Stir quickly with a fork – or a hand whisk  – until you get a creamy sauce. Set aside.

spaghetti carbonara step 3

Step 3)Cook the spaghetti al dente in boiling salted water (one liter of water for every 100 g / 3,50 oz of pasta and 15 g / 0,50 oz of coarse salt per liter of water), following the cooking time found on the pasta packaging. If  they don’t fit in the pan, the best way is to hold them in a bunch vertically and immerse. Let go and they will fall out in all directions and as they soften, with the help of a fork let them sink. Then stir and cook for the time required.

spaghetti carbonara step 4

Step 4) – Drain when they are ready then put them in the frying pan, over high heat, to season it properly with the fat of the guanciale.

At this point, we have reached the crucial moment of spaghetti carbonara; not to put tension on it, but this is the fleeting moment in which you can make an immortal dish or one that will be a real failure.

You will have to be quick, ready and ruthless. Here’s how to do it

spaghetti carbonara step 5

Step 5) – When the spaghetti and guanciale are sizzling in the pan, TURN OFF THE HEAT, otherwise the eggs cook too much and you’ll find yourself with scrambled eggs and spaghetti! Now quickly add the eggs and pecorino cream and stir. The pan is warm but not hot so that the eggs will cook without lump.

spaghetti carbonara step 6

Step 6) – Pay attention to the consistency, which must be creamy, but not fluid. If you notice that it’s too liquid, add some pecorino. Spaghetti carbonara is ready. Serve immediately. So with the help of a ladle and a fork, create a pasta nest and place it on a plate.spaghetti carbonara step 7

Step 7) – Add guanciale (the ones left in the pan), ground black pepper and grated pecorino cheese to taste.


Spaghetti carbonara should be served as soon as they are cooked and eaten immediately. No form of conservation is recommended.

Guanciale or Pancetta?

Pancetta in carbonara pasta should not be used. Guanciale is pure magic and if you remove its golden fat, carbonara becomes flat and dull. The reason is the intrinsic quality of the ingredients: guanciale has flavor and fat, pancetta is drier.

Guanciale is an Italian cured meat product made with pork jowl or cheeks. Its name comes from guancia, Italian for cheek, sometimes translated with pork cheek lard or jowl bacon. Salted and peppered, it’s left to mature for 3 months.

Today we propose the traditional Roman recipe of spaghetti carbonara, where the guanciale is the top ingredient, in fact, the taste, the fat, we could say the juice of the seasoning comes from this little jewel of Italian culinary art.

Many people use pancetta in carbonara pasta, sometimes because it’s easier to find it on the market, but more often they use it because guanciale is a rather fat meat and there is no doubt that it is a hyper caloric ingredient.

Spaghetti carbonara with pancetta is a variation of the traditional recipe.

Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano?

Spaghetti carbonara traditional recipe is an Italian recipe whose origins are in Lazio. The recipe wants pecorino romano because it’s a cheese born in Lazio, while Parmigiano reggiano belongs to another region: Emilia Romagna. So you can use parmigiano reggiano for sure in your carbonara recipe but be aware that is a variation of the more classic carbonara pasta.

As with all the dishes of traditional Italian cuisine, there are several variations to the Spaghetti Carbonara original recipe. Now we’ll show you some of these variations: what to add and what to remove from the traditional ingredients and why.

Carbonara Variations

Each traditional recipe has many variations, and this happens even for spaghetti carbonara Italian recipe, where variantions are characterized by the addition or substitution of ingredients.

  • Spaghetti  Carbonara with Cream: many people like to make Spaghetti Carbonara with cream (made by replacing 1 egg with 1 dl of cream) because the dish is more creamy and it has a taste of egg less pronounced. Well, the cream should not be used to make the dish more creamy, for the simple reason that the fat of the guanciale, the cheese and the eggs are already quite creamy and heavy by nature, so adding the cream would only make the dish heavier and cloying. But it is true that if you prepare large quantities of pasta, a dash of cream can help make the seasoning more fluid, but it must remain a secret and is a makeshift solution. Cooking tricks, but only for desperate cases.
  • Pasta carbonara with parmigiano: Even for what concerns the cheese there are those who use Parmigiano cheese instead of Pecorino Romano or half Parmigiano cheese and half Pecorino Romano. In this case the taste becomes less strong and flavorful (pecorino Romano is a very tasty cheese)
  • Carbonara with pancetta: Guanciale, which is obtained from the cheek of the pork, can be replaced by pancetta which instead is obtained from the fatty part of the belly pork . It’s drier and less fat. If you use pancetta (possibly not smoked), add a tablespoon of oil to fry it.
  • Spaghetti Carbonara with garlic or onion: many people like to cook the guanciale with a clove of garlic or a little onion. We don’t know…carbonara tastes a lot of onion and garlic…another recipe for another time.
  • Carbonara with parsley: do not put parsley everywhere…
  • And for those who don’t eat meat read this recipe: VEGETARIAN CARBONARA
  • Do you like fish? Try Smoked Salmon Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara: Origins

Pasta Carbonara is a Roman recipe but it surely is a recent one, since it has been heard of it only after the Second World War. Its origin is somewhat controversial, and there are at least three plausible theories.

  • Pasta dishes seasoned with products of pastoralism and agriculture (such as eggs and pancetta or lard) were common in the Abruzzo mountains. It seems that some displaced people have discovered them and brought to Rome at the end of the Second World War.
  • A second hypothesis says that in the Roman taverns the owners seasoned the pasta with Carbonara Sauce to feed the American soldiers because they knew that at breakfast they ate eggs and bacon. Given the success, the recipe has spread.
  • The third hypothesis says that Pasta Carbonara was prepared in the Roman taverns all along, but only after the Second World War the recipe became known to the general public, because it came into the printed cookbooks.

Now you know all the tricks to make a perfect carbonara recipe. So come on! Let’s start cooking!

Spaghetti Carbonara Original Recipe Ingredient Box

Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Yields: 4
  • 350 g (12 oz) of spaghetti
  • 200 g (7 oz) of guanciale
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 g (3,50 oz) of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ground black pepper


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19 Replies to "Spaghetti Carbonara Traditional Recipe | Italian Spaghetti alla Carbonara"

  • comment-avatar
    Makos (@thehungrybites) March 3, 2018 (5:58 pm)

    Hey Barbara!
    I’m really glad I’ve found this recipe! Nice info about the cheese used here!
    I personally like to add a little bit of milk (instead of cream), since I find that it prevents the eggs from becoming omelet 🙂

    • comment-avatar
      Barbara Lucchini March 4, 2018 (10:59 am)

      Hi Makos! Actually even here in Italy many people love to add milk or cream. I believe that in the end it depends on personal tastes. Try the recipe as it is, without adding any other ingredients. You’ll feel the difference! Cheers and kisses!

  • comment-avatar
    Rolf March 21, 2018 (3:28 pm)

    The instructions in 3 and 6 are clear. But then 9 will be not possible as there is no grated cheese available.

    • comment-avatar
      Barbara Lucchini March 21, 2018 (4:07 pm)

      Hi Rolf,
      Thanks for your comment. I know that not in all countries the Roman pecorino cheese is available. However do not worry, spaghetti carbonara can also be made with Parmesan cheese, in fact it is one of the variants of this recipe. If not even the Parmesan cheese is available (I hope not), you could do like this: whisk the eggs without any cheese, then, in a separate bowl, make a cream with a soft cheese, like philadephia, and add it at the end. It’s not the same thing, but, how do you say, extreme remedies for extreme evil …. Cheers ;-D

  • comment-avatar
    Traci June 4, 2018 (5:15 pm)

    I am so glad I found this recipe! I haven’t had good carbonara since I left Rome! Can’t wait to make this!! They have an Eataly here in Boston so I can stock up on ingredients!

    • comment-avatar
      Barbara Lucchini July 31, 2018 (3:01 pm)

      Great idea Traci! Here in Italy, Eataly sells high quality Italian products. I hope the same in Boston. If so, don’t worry, you will make the best carbonara of your life! Cheers ;-D

  • comment-avatar
    Shaun July 28, 2018 (1:16 am)

    One look at this recipe and I knew I had a winner. I like how you give a brief history behind spaghetti carbonara, and that you’re not afraid to tell us to drop the garlic! I agree. And you cover the variants behind this classic dish, too. Keep it up, I love the authenticity of your Italian recipes.

    • comment-avatar
      Barbara Lucchini July 31, 2018 (3:07 pm)

      Wow Shaun! I blushed as I read your comment! Thanks so much! Your words give me the strength to continue writing about italian recipes! Thank you, cheers and kisses

  • comment-avatar
    eve February 5, 2019 (9:54 pm)

    Do you drain the pan after cooking the bacon? There is no mention of draining… and I think not draining would make it greasy…

    • comment-avatar
      Barbara Lucchini February 5, 2019 (10:41 pm)

      Hello Eve,
      Usually we don’t drain the pan because the grease of the guanciale is part of the seasoning. Carbonara is a dish rich in calories, that’s for sure, but it will be not greasy. Try it and let me know

  • comment-avatar
    Nic Ashby May 12, 2019 (9:24 am)

    My girlfriend told me she has had this dish since she was in Rome so I got everything including Pork Cheek which surprisingly isn’t that easy to track down… I make it for her in a couple days wish me luck!

  • comment-avatar
    Good Bitee - Home Cooked Food June 7, 2019 (11:04 am)

    I’ve been making carbonara for years with my only deviations from this recipe being the (sometimes) use of bacon and addition of garlic. The secret truly is in the technique; it is incredibly easy to accidentally end up with scrambled eggs.

  • comment-avatar
    Kathy September 27, 2019 (3:41 am)

    I finally found a pasta carbonara recipe that we love. I do have a question, the recipe did not say to save and pancetta so I didn’t have any to put on top.#8 Did I miss something?

    • comment-avatar
      Barbara Lucchini September 27, 2019 (5:07 am)

      Hi Kathy! No, you don’t have to save any pancetta. Usually when you mix the ingredients, a little pancetta remains on the bottom of the pan. You can pick that one to put on top of spaghetti as a finishing touch. But it’s purely an aesthetic factor. Ciao!

  • comment-avatar
    Wes December 8, 2019 (6:55 pm)

    1st “authentic” carbonara recipe I’ve seen that doesn’t utilize pasta water. Some chefs don’t want to give up everything.

  • comment-avatar
    Leydav Estrada December 21, 2019 (12:04 pm)


    • comment-avatar
      Barbara Lucchini December 21, 2019 (1:55 pm)

      Thank you Leydav!

  • comment-avatar
    Tal December 22, 2019 (7:06 am)

    Interestingly, no one pointed out that using Guanciale will make this an incredibly expensive pasta dish. Guanciale, if you can find it, will likely cost over $35 per pound. (If the Guanciale is any cheaper the quality will likely be poor.). So, the 7 oz this recipe calls for will cost over $15. Is Carbonara good? Sure! Is it really worth what it costs to make it? Not really because you are not a professional chef that can make the recipe to exacting standards. And, for example, you won’t be using fresh, house made pasta which makes all the difference in the world. If you want really good Carbonara go out to eat at a very good restaurant that is known for the dish.

    • comment-avatar
      Barbara Lucchini December 22, 2019 (10:14 am)

      The purpose of this recipe, like all the others, is to be able to make a dish at home in the best way, keeping costs down. If 7oz of guanciale for 4 people cost $15 (and I agree with you that it is expensive), I dare not imagine how much a portion of carbonara can cost at the restaurant. I sincerely hope that in the future you will be able to find all the necessary ingredients in your country to make our recipes at home at a reasonable price.

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