Pasta alla Carbonara

Creamy, cheesy, silky pasta punctuated by a little bacon. Utterly simple, a handful of ingredients, most which you probably have on hand and minutes to make? That’s Pasta Carbonara.

Pasta alla Carbonara

Carbonara is a dish that I think should be in every cook’s repertoire, and especially in the repertoire of every cook who’s looking for a quick, budget dish to get on the table.

In Italy, Carbonara has a long and somewhat shaded history, and there’s much debate as to what goes into a Carbonara. You’ll probably find Carbonara made with some type of lovely cured pork, Pancetta or Guanciale.

In the United States, unless you’re a gourmand, you’ll most likely see this made with bacon. As far as cheese, Pecorino, Romano or Parmesan are all lovely choices. It really depends on your budget and availability – I’ve used them all at one time or another & like my Carbonara with Romano; less expensive than Parmesan, more available than Pecorino.

Pair Pasta Carbonara with a green side, maybe asparagus or perhaps Oven Roasted Broccoli and you’ll have an amazing meal at a budget price.

Pasta alla Carbonara

Pasta alla Carbonara

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti (save a cup of pasta water in case it’s needed for the sauce.)
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces bacon, cut into small pieces, or Pancetta or
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorina, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, optional or a few thinly sliced green onions for garnish

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian “al dente.”) Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you need to add moisture.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large, deep pan, large enough to hold your pasta after you’ve cooked it, until fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon, drain any excess dripping, leaving about two tablespoons.  Add olive oil and toss in the garlic and saute to soften.

Turn off the heat and let the pan cool.  In a small bowl beat the two eggs and stir in the Romano or Parmesan.  Add to the cooled pan and whisk to combine.  Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss. Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency.

Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and bacon.  Pass more cheese around the table.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read Strategies for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Cooking & Kitchen Hack:

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Nutrition for the Carbonara: 

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 532 Calories; 22g Fat (37.3% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 106mg Cholesterol; 560mg Sodium. Exchanges: 4 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 3 Fat.

Put your own spin on it:

  • Maybe instead of broccoli, you’d like to throw frozen peas right into the pasta to heat through or saute fresh asparagus and add to the pasta or serve as a side.
  • Asparagus would be wonderful tossed with olive oil, sprinkled with that leftover ounce of cheese and roasted in the oven 400 degrees for a few minutes.

Pasta alla Carbonara – Made June 2010. for around 4 bucks.


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