Traditional Spaghetti Carbonara 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.

Carbonara recipe is known all over the world. In the authentic Italian recipe the ingredients are very few and of excellent quality. The high quality of the ingredients is a necessary condition for the success of carbonara recipe.

In spite of many beliefs, the ingredients of the traditional recipe of spaghetti alla carbonara are only 5: guanciale, pecorino Romano, eggs, pepper and spaghetti. In the traditional recipe for spaghetti carbonara, you need no other ingredients so

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

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe

If you read this recipe thoroughly, you will see that there are many Pasta Carbonara variants, 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 that we are going to show you so keep reading!

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe

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Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe

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



spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe step 1

Step 1) – First, boil the water for the pasta while you prepare the carbonara sauce. Remember: 1 liter (4 cups) of water for every 100 g / 3.50 oz of pasta and 15 g (1 tablespoon) of coarse salt per liter (4 cups) of water.

Cut the guanciale into small pieces (cubes, slices … as you prefer) then simmer in a frying pan over medium heat for about 2 or 3 minutes. Stir occasionally so that it cooks evenly. The more the guanciale cooks, the more its fats melt and its meat becomes crunchy. The cooking level is up to you, according to your tastes. There are those who love well-cooked guanciale, while those who prefer it soft.

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 create a great greasy sauce to season spaghetti properly. When ready, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and set aside.

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe step 2

Step 2) – Now whisk the Pecorino Romano (which is a very salty and tasty Italian cheese so there’s no need to add salt) with the eggs.

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe step 3-min

Step 3) – Add a little bit of ground black pepper. Stir quickly with a fork – or a hand whisk until you get a creamy sauce.

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe step 4

Step 4) – This sauce made of eggs and pecorino must be quite thick. Set aside. The water should now boil and you can cook the spaghetti. If you have chosen a rather large pot, the spaghetti should fit comfortably without breaking them. Whole spaghetti, not broken. So that you can roll them more easily around the fork tines, without the help of a spoon #eatlikeanitalian. The best way to cook spaghetti without breaking them is to hold them in a bunch vertically and immerse.

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe step 5

Step 5) – Let go and they will fall out in all directions. As they soften, with the help of a fork let them sink, then stir. So cook the spaghetti al dente, following the cooking time found on the pasta packaging.

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe step 6

Step 6) – With the help of a spaghetti spoon, drain when they are ready. Then put them in the frying pan, OVER HIGH HEAT, to season them properly with the fat of the guanciale.

At this step, 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. So now you have to be quick, ready and ruthless.

Here’s how to do it:

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe step 7

Step 7) – 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 frying pan is warm but not hot so that the eggs will cook without lump.

Pay attention to the consistency, which must be creamy, but not fluid. If you notice that your spaghetti carbonara is too liquid, add some grated pecorino. On the other hand, if you see that they are too sticky and dense, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cooking water. If you used a spaghetti spoon to drain, the cooking water in the pot can come in handy at this step.

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe step 8

Step 6) – Authentic 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 authentic italian recipe step 9

Step 7) – Add guanciale (the one left in the pan), freshly grounded black pepper and grated pecorino Romano cheese to taste.

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Serve Spaghetti carbonara immeditely, hot and tasty as they are. We do not recommend storing carbonara leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer for the following days. Cook the carbonara and enjoy it as soon as it is made!

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe

Guanciale or Pancetta?

You should not use pancetta in carbonara pasta. 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.

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe guanciale

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 authentic 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. In each variantion you can have the addition or substitution of one or more ingredients. Let’s see some of them:

Spaghetti Carbonara with Cream

Many people like to make Spaghetti Carbonara with cream, made by replacing 1 egg with 1 dl of whipping cream. For them the dish is more creamy and it has a taste of egg less pronounced.

Well, you should not use the whipping cream 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.

On the other hand, it is true that if you prepare large quantities of pasta (e.g. for 10 people), a dash of cream can help make the seasoning more fluid. But it must remain a secret. And it’s a makeshift solution. Cooking tricks, but only for desperate moments.

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). Allowed.

Carbonara with Pancetta

Guanciale, which comes from the cheek of the pork, can be replaced with pancetta, which instead comes from the fatty part of the belly pork. Pancetta is 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 simmer 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…

spaghetti carbonara authentic italian recipe

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!

Carbonara Recipe – web story!

30 thoughts on “Traditional Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe”

  1. I always hated the carbonara that you get in restaurants. I now realise its because of the cream. When I realised that carbonara isn’t supposed to have cream in it I was kean to make my own. I’ve tried several recipes and this is by far the best. Admittedly I’ve had to use pancetta as I’ve struggled to get guanciale where I live, but have now sourced some. Can’t wait to try this recipe with the guanciale as it’s delicious even with pancetta!

  2. As for origin, according to the wonderful Antonio Carluccio it was brought to Lazio from Umbria by coal men (carbonari), who came to sell charcoal to the Romans. Since then it has been adopted by the Romans and is famous worldwide

  3. Hi…my religion forbid me from eating pork…what is the best substitute for guanciale? Btw i have tried it with beef streak…and my kids just love it.

  4. Followed the recipe as written. Perfecto. Guanciale from Tails & Trotters in PDX. $20. Fresh local pasta. Really, this is sublime. No embellishments needed. Really.

  5. I made this exactly as directed! No cream or milk and no garlic! This is the authentic way to make it. It is delicious!

  6. This was a very good recipe and well received by the family. I’ve made this a couple of different ways – the guanciale didn’t cost $35/lb. but definitely added a different dimension as opposed to the bacon or pancetta. One deviation I made was to temper the egg/cheese mixture with pasta water. I’ve always done this and with the pan at low heat, I’ve never had an issue of the ‘sauce’ scrambling. You don’t need much – just a ladle full if that – it comes together just as nice. I did add a little garlic – just a hint. When the guanciale renders – and it WILL render if you’re patient – it creates and incredible flavor that disperses and blends into the sauce.

  7. Absolutely loved this recipe. It was easy, quick, and super tasty. The sauce is very cheesy, but I liked that since I really enjoy this particular cheese. The only thing I did differently was using bacon instead of guanciale since that was a little expensive. It cost me 10$ and fed me and my girlfriend for 2 nights 🙂 Would absolutely recommend!

  8. I followed these proportions but used thick cut bacon and Parmesan (because they were more accessible). I put the bacon and some of the fat in a separate mixing bowl and added the pasta and egg mixture to that bowl. It turned out perfectly creamy without being over cooked as it usually ends up when I toss in the pan. I learned that trick when visiting Italy and having a friend cook carbonara for me.

  9. I’ve seen a carbonara recipe where the egg whites are mixed in first then yolks added just before serving. I always add a little half n half cream. Helps reheating leftovers with no separation.

  10. Hi – I have found that the eggs will become grainy, omelette like or scrambled, if the pan is too hot.

    The idea is to coat all the pasta in the egg/cheese and then allow the gentle heat of the pan to almost pasteurise the eggs rather than hitting them with heat to cook them independently of the pasta.

    Leaving the rendered fat from the Guanciale in the pan help to emulsify when you add the cooked pasta. Keeping a cup or so of the pasta water (high in starch) helps amazingly well when doing this. I throw in the pasta, swirl through the pork fat to coat, add a little pasta water swirl again, then add the eggs. swirl and toss. Add the Guanciale, and a little more water. Toss, toss, toss. Keep in mind, this is also the reason to cook the pasta about 2 minutes short of packet instructions, it will keep cooking during this emulsification. If you’ve made fresh pasta, then about 1 minute in boiling water is all that is needed. Rosioli in Rome is the best Carbonara I’ve ever had, and my Carbonara is massively influenced by theirs.

    Have fun!

  11. 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.

    • It really depends on where you live. Do you live in a rural area far from any importers? Or do you live in a city like New York where its easy to find high quality Italian meats? I can guarantee it won’t be as expensive as you say if you live in an area with access to lots of imports.


  13. 1st “authentic” carbonara recipe I’ve seen that doesn’t utilize pasta water. Some chefs don’t want to give up everything.

  14. 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?

    • 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

    • 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

  17. 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.

    • 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

  18. 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!

    • 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

    • 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

  19. 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 🙂

    • 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!


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