Carbonara is one of the most famous sauces in Italian cuisine, and it also happens to be one of the quickest to cook! It’s a creamy combination of eggs and cured pork that coats the pasta with its perfectly silken texture. While it might sound heavy and rich, it somehow leaves you feeling light. The challenge in making it? Using the proper technique to create the sauce without accidentally scrambling the eggs.
Are the eggs cooked?
Here’s the deal: To prevent the eggs from scrambling (which would ruin the texture of the dish), you have to remove the pan from the stovetop. The residual heat of the pasta and bacon “cooks” the eggs, creating a rich and creamy sauce. That being said, your eggs may not reach 160° F (the temperature at which they’re considered safe to eat). To prevent food-borne illness, you can always use pasteurized eggs.
Should I use pancetta or bacon?
Pancetta is the ingredient of choice for an authentic Italian carbonara, but it can be a little hard to find. That’s why we call for bacon! If you can get your hands on pancetta, your carbonara will be all the better for it. Guanciale is an acceptable choice, too, although it will create a fattier, more unctuous sauce.
How to Make Carbonara Sauce
- 1 package (1 pound) spaghetti or linguine
- 6 bacon strips (or 6 ounces pancetta), chopped
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, optional
Yield: Makes 8 servings
Step 1: Cook the pasta.
The sauce comes together quickly, so you can cook the pasta first! In a large saucepan, cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions for al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving pasta water. Set the noodles aside, covering them with a plate or aluminum foil to keep them warm.
Step 2: Prepare the sauce.
This is a one-pot meal, so you can reuse same pot you used for cooking the pasta (no need to wash it twice, either). Cook the bacon over medium heat until it’s crispy, stirring occasionally. Once the bacon is cooked, add the peas and continue to cook until they’re just heated through.
Meanwhile, whisk the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
Pro Tip: Feel free to swap in seasonal vegetables for the peas, like roasted butternut squash in the winter, asparagus in the spring, cherry tomatoes in the summer, or wild mushrooms in the fall.
Step 3: Finish the sauce and serve.
At this point, you can remove the pot from the stovetop. The ambient heat will cook the sauce without scrambling the eggs. Add the pasta to the pot first, tossing it to combine it with the bacon grease.
Then, drizzle in the egg mixture, stirring the mixture vigorously as you go. Add enough reserved pasta water until the sauce reaches the desired consistency—tight enough to cling to the noodles but loose enough to create a palatable mouthfeel. Serve the pasta immediately, topping it with additional cheese if desired.
Don’t stop with pasta carbonara: Try all our or 100 favorite Italian recipes!