classic carbonara in a white bowl
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Classic Carbonara

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This Classic Carbonara recipe is a rich creamy pasta with salty bits of pancetta (or bacon if you can’t find pancetta.)

It was extremely hot the day we ventured to the Coliseum in Rome. My daughter’s cheeks were rosy as ever and by the time we entered the place we both had thrown our hair up in buns. But nothing, I mean nothing seemed to work to keep us cool.

We bought several bottles of cold water from the merchants standing right outside and I poured them down the back of our necks which offered some brief relief.

I had no idea that in Rome, the summer heat might say 84℉, and being a California girl, this seemed perfect. But not here, it’s a sweltering dry heat that bakes you.

We grabbed a cab and in the best broken Italian I  could muster I exclaimed “Ristorante il condizionatore d’aria!” It may have been our sweaty, red faces that helped him understand me but off we went in that speeding cab.

Mother and dauther standing at the Coliseum
Roman Coliseum 2019

Within blocks, we were there. We went inside a small cafe and sat in a downstairs basement-style room. Neither of us cared a bit about the tiny room as we sat there happy as could be enjoying the cool air. I ordered us two bowls of carbonara, a classic Roman dish.

Being a classic Roman dish, they serve it everywhere in Rome.

And of course, when in Rome, right?

You get the idea. Ordering this classic dish it might surprise you when it comes to carbonara. As basic as the recipe is. It is different each time you have it. Yet this one, in a small dark room near the coliseum was the one to have.

It was one of the best meals we had while there and surprisingly one of the easiest you could make. That’s the best part about food. Good quality ingredients thrown together can make some of the very best dishes you’d have eaten. It was this dish that saved the day for us. Otherwise, it might have been a total failure.

Only by trial and error, I have been able to recreate that taste here at home. Far away from the heat enjoying the flavors of a great city. 

What is a Carbonara?

Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish that is thought to be originally from Rome. This dish is made up of hard cheese, cracked black pepper, egg yolks, and spaghetti-style pasta. For this recipe, we will be using Pecorino Romano as our hard cheese. Although you can opt to use Parmigiano- Reggiano or a combination of the two.

What I Love About This Classic Carbonara

Not just a memorable dish for me. Although it certainly is that. This dish is somehow elegant, light but heavy, creamy, and packed with flavor. Its simplicity would suggest otherwise but the technique is what makes this dish come alive. Blending the yolks, and pasta water just right. The creaminess develops into a decadent pasta dish almost instantly. Once you get it right, it is a dish to be proud of. And one that can certainly turn a bad day around.

What You’ll Need To Make Classic Carbonara

1 lb spaghetti

2 cups of diced pancetta preferably but bacon is a great substitute

1 cup grated Pecorino Romano

4 egg yolks

sea salt

cracked black pepper

1 cup pasta water (saved from spaghetti pot)

Directions

Dice pancetta (or bacon) into small bite sized slices. Heat a skillet and fry until golden. Set aside.

Fill a large stock pot with water and salt it well. Place lid on and heat to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook as directed by package.

Separate egg yolks by cracking them over a bowl and transferring the yolk between shells until the whites separate into the bowl. Have another cup handy to drop the yolk in.

Save the egg whites for another use later.

While the pasta boils, take a ladle and save 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.

boiling noodles to make classic carbonara

When ready, drain the pasta. Then pour it back into the stock pot.

pasta being strained

Add about ⅓ cup of the pasta water to the top of the noodles, a bit of the grated cheese, and half the egg yolk. Stir it around until a light yellow creamy consistency then adds the remaining water and yolk. Stir again.

sauce being added to a pot of classic carbonara

Add the pancetta to the pot along with the remainder of the cheese.

classic carbonara with parmesan being added
stirring classic carbonara in a large pot

The sauce should be a creamy consistency and mixed thoroughly with the pancetta when serving. Add a few cranks of the freshly ground black pepper.

Garnish pasta with more Pecorino Romano if desired. Serve immediately.

classic carbonara in a white bowl

Cooking Tips For Classic Carbonara

  • Switch between the egg yolks and pasta water. Blending them in slowly creates a creamy texture to the noodles.
  • Salt the pasta water.
  • If you can’t find pancetta, use good quality bacon.
  • Make sure to use good quality eggs with the use of raw egg yolk.
  • You can save the egg whites in the freezer to use for baking or an omelet later.

Serving Suggestions For Classic Carbonara

This pasta is certainly filling on its own. However these suggestions pair well if you are wanting to add a little something extra to your dinner table.

  • Pair with a lightly dressed green salad.
  • Garlic bread is always a good side dish to any pasta especially if you are trying to feed a crowd.
  • Tomato Basil and Mozzarella salad is a fresh addition to this heavier pasta dish.
  • A great dish to serve a light wine with.

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Linen Apron

White Serving Bowls Set of 4

Wooden Measuring Spoons

Pasta Pot


If you try this recipe and love it, I would appreciate you coming back to give it 5 stars!

classic carbonara in a white bowl

Classic Carbonara

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

A classic Roman pasta with salty pancetta and a creamy sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2 cups of diced pancetta preferably but bacon works fine too
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 4 egg yolks
  • sea salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup pasta water
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Dice pancetta (or bacon) into small bite-sized slices.
  2. Heat a skillet and fry until golden. Set aside.
  3. Fill a large stock pot with water and salt it well. Place lid on and heat to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook as directed by the package.
  4. Separate egg yolks by cracking them over a bowl and transferring the yolk between shells until the whites separate into the bowl. Have another cup handy to drop the yolk in. Save the egg whites for another use later.
  5. While the pasta boils, take a ladle and save 1 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
  6. When the pasta is ready drain and then add it back into the stock pot.
  7. Add about ⅓ cup of pasta water to the top of the noodles, a bit of the grated cheese, and half the egg yolk.
  8. Stir it around until a light yellow creamy consistency then add the remaining water and yolk. Stir again.
  9. Add the pancetta to the pot along with the remainder of the cheese. The sauce should be a creamy consistency and mixed thoroughly with the pancetta when serving.
  10. Add a few cranks of fresh ground cracked black pepper.
  11. Garnish pasta with more Pecorino Romano if desired.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 402Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 133mgSodium: 309mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 13g

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