Pasta Carbonara

This is the dish that can make chefs scream at each other. The original recipe has come a long way and has gone through many adaptations in different regions in Italy and since crossing the Atlantic, gracing the menus of Italian restaurants and trattorias in America. I can hear some of the purists already glaring at me on account of ham and bacon. Ahem, just try finding Guanciale.


1 lb. of pasta (use a long pasta that needs to be twirled)

½ – 1 cup of grated parmigiana cheese (the amount of cheese depends on your taste)

4 eggs (room temperature)

½ onion, finely chopped (most recipes don’t call for onion, but I love it)

1 tablespoon of garlic

¼ pound of ham* (optional)

10 slices of thick-cut bacon**

A handful of frozen peas (optional)

3 tablespoons of heavy cream or half-and-half (optional)


*I buy a quarter pound of ham at the deli counter and ask for it as one thick slice.

** Guanciale, pancetta, or bacon? Use whatever pleases you or what is available. If you’re using bacon from the supermarket, make sure it’s plain bacon. Don’t use anything like Apple Hickory smoked or other flavorings.

Step 1: Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta and salt as per the box directions.

Step 2: While the water is waiting to boil, cook your bacon and drain on a paper towel. Retain 3 tablespoons of the drippings.  Dice the bacon.

Step 3: Cook the onions in the bacon drippings. Add the ham, garlic, bacon and peas to the pan after the onions are cooked.

Step 4: Beat the eggs and add the cheese and cream. You can also temper the eggs with 4 tablespoons of the pasta water.

Step 5: Drain pasta. Add it to the skillet and toss for a minute. Remove from heat, add the egg mixture a little at a time, and keep tossing the pasta.

Removing the pan from the heat is critical. You don’t want the egg to scramble. This can also happen if you add all of the egg mixture at once.

Step 6: There is no step 6. Bring that pasta to the table and eat it while it’s hot. Enjoy!

12 thoughts on “Pasta Carbonara

  1. I came across a simple version of this recipe in my college bookstore – m-a-n-y years ago – in an actually wonderful resource called The Starving Artist’s Cookbook (or something similar – it didn’t make it through one of my many moves).

    It was basically bacon and eggs over spaghetti, and it took 2 people to make: one to gently toss the spaghetti and one to pour 2 streams (egg & bacon grease) slowly over it. The hot pasta cooks the sauce onto the strands.

    I ate it (and served it) so often during my college, grad school, and early NYC years that I took it out of rotation and sort of forgot about it. Your recipe has made me crave it again – your way. I’m fairly certain that Tinkyada spaghetti will be just fine in this case (vs. my question about GF with your Alfredo recipe.) Thanks again!

    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”


  2. JUST polished off a bastardized version of this recipe with the ingredients I had on hand, and it was fabulous (despite substituting condensed milk for the cream, regular bacon for thick cut, LeSueur Peas for frozen, dehydrated onions, garlic powder and no Ham!) I also threw in some sliced mushrooms I needed to use.

    SO yummie – I can only imagine my delight when I get to the store so I can follow it exactly. QUICK too!


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