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Classic Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe

Updated on August 4, 2012
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Note: This recipe contains raw eggs. While the odds of contracting salmonella from eating raw eggs is fairly slim - about 1 in 30,000 according to a 2002 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - there are risks, so be aware of them. To reduce those risks, make sure your eggs are fresh and come from a reputable supplier. You may also choose to buy pasteurized shell eggs, which further reduce the risk by pasteurization of the shell and therefore elimination of any salmonella bacteria on the outside of the shell.

The Original Spaghetti alla Carbonara: A Five Ingredient Recipe

There are a lot of different takes on how to make a real spaghetti alla carbonara, or pasta carbonara, but to understand the real spaghetti alla carbonara we need to go back to its roots in Abruzzo, a region in the hills east of Rome.

The dish is an evolution of the 'cacio e ova', or a sheep's milk cheese and egg "sandwich" carried by the carbonai, who were the coal merchants and transporters in the hills of Abruzzo in the days when most households burned coal for heat, cooking, and power. The sheep's milk cheese, or pecorino romano, was widely available, since sheep herding was prevalent in the area. Eggs were also a source of cheap protein. The two together, along with bread, made a satisfying meal that coal transporters could easily eat on-the-go.

Then, with time, the dish evolved into something that could be eaten at home. The bread was replaced by pasta, and the sheep's milk cheese, or pecorino romano, and egg were joined by a generous shower of cracked black pepper and guanciale, or cured pork cheek, which added a satisfying meaty flavor and brought the egg and cheese together into a silky, creamy sauce.

To make a traditional spaghetti alla carbonara, then, you need only five ingredients: spaghetti (or any other pasta you like); fresh eggs; guanciale or bacon; cracked black pepper; and pecorino romano cheese.

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Cook Time

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 12 min
Ready in: 22 min
Yields: 4 servings


  • 4 eggs
  • 4 oz bacon, sliced into thin strips
  • 3.5 oz grated pecorino romano
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz spaghetti
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Make sure the pot is large enough to hold the spaghetti and enough water to more than cover the pasta. Use no more than a tablespoon of coarse salt - the bacon will be salty, so you don't want to over salt your pasta.
  2. In the meantime, fry the guanciale or bacon in a small frying pan over medium-low heat until the bacon is crisp and browned and the fat is rendered.
  3. Drain the guanciale or bacon on a clean paper towel.
  4. Once the water has come to a full, roiling boil, add the pasta and set the timer according to the cooking instructions on the package.
  5. When the pasta is five minutes from being cooked, crack the eggs into a large serving bowl and whisk them vigorously with a hand whisk until smooth and foamy, about two minutes.
  6. Whisk 3 ounces of the grated pecorino romano into the egg mixture, keeping the other half ounce for later. Add the cooked and drained bacon and the cracked black pepper.
  7. When the pasta is cooked, immediately and thoroughly drain it, then toss it into the serving bowl and quickly! begin to mix with a wooden spoon or a spatula. DO NOT MIX ON THE HEAT! The eggs will cook and your sauce will no longer be smooth and creamy.
  8. Mix until the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce. If the sauce is a little thin, add some more cheese. This will thicken it. If the sauce is a little too thick, add some of the pasta cooking water to thin it out.
  9. Enjoy!
Nutrition Facts
Calories 562
Calories from Fat189
% Daily Value *
Fat 21 g32%
Saturated fat 7 g35%
Unsaturated fat 14 g
Carbohydrates 62 g21%
Sugar 2 g
Fiber 2 g8%
Protein 28 g56%
Cholesterol 268 mg89%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.


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