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authentic carbonara pasta in a while bowl

Authentic Carbonara Recipe

An authentic carbonara is made with egg yolks, pecorino romano, guanciale, black pepper and pasta. This recipe is the traditional one you’ll find in any Roman restaurant.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 2 people
Calories 2011 kcal

Ingredients

  • 250 grams mezze maniche pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups guanciale - cut into 1 cm wide strips
  • 3/4 cups (30g) pecorino romano grated
  • 4 egg yolks
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. When it's boiling, add salt. Throw the pasta in and cook until it's just before al dente – this is important because the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce.

  2. When the water is about to boil, add the guanciale to a cold pan. Turn the heat up to medium and let the guanciale cook until it's crispy and the fat has rendered, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the guanciale from the pan, and leave the fat in. If pasta isn't ready by this time, remove the pan from the heat until pasta is done cooking.

  3. While guanciale is cooking, make the carbonara cream - in a small bowl, beat together egg yolks, pecorino romano, 2 spoons of guanciale fat, a little bit of pasta water and fresh ground black pepper. The consistency should be similar to pudding.

  4. Add the pasta to the pan, and add about half of a ladle of pasta water to the pan as well (still over medium heat). Be careful when adding the pasta to the pan because the guanciale fat will splatter.

  5. Let the pasta cook in the pan for a few minutes, until it's al dente. Add more pasta water if needed. You want there to be a bit of starchy liquid left at the bottom of the pan, and not have it be completely dry.

  6. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the carbonara egg cream and mix. Add the guanciale and mix again.

  7. Plate and top with additional ground black pepper and pecorino romano. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  • When cutting the guanciale into strips, one side will have a thin layer of skin on it. Cut off this layer of skin - it's not meant to be eaten.
  • When initially cut, 1.5 cups of guanciale may seem like a lot, but it reduces in size a fair bit when cooked in the pan.
  • Pecorino romano is the traditional cheese to use in a classic carbonara - it's from Rome and of course so is carbonara. You can use parmesan (from Parma, not Rome), but it would change the flavor of the dish. Pecorino has a sharper flavor than parmesan, and it's made with sheep's milk, as opposed to parmesan, which is made with cow's milk. 
  • Ensure to let the pasta cook in the pan for a few minutes. The pasta will release starch into the pan and make an even creamier sauce this way.
  • When pasta is done cooking in the pan, make sure that there is a bit of liquid left in the pan - this will help for a nice creamy consistency.
  • When you're making the carbonara cream, it should be the consistency of pudding once you've mixed together the egg yolks, pecorino, guanciale fat, pasta water, and pepper.
  • I used mezze maniche in this recipe, which is a short version of rigatoni, but you can also use rigatoni in this recipe, or spaghetti. Spaghetti is the most traditional shape to use in a carbonara, although the shorter shapes are very commonly used as well.
  • I prefer to remove the guanciale from the pan when the pasta is cooking, and add it back in later because I like to keep the guanciale crispy. But if you prefer, you can keep the guanciale in the pan while the pasta is cooking.
  • In Italy, to get the carbonara to be a beautiful golden yellow color, eggs with very yellow yolks are used called "pasta gialla." I used eggs that were labeled "golden yolk" to get the most golden yellow color possible.
  • Guanciale is traditional to use in this dish, and gives the dish a very specific flavor, but if you can't find any, you can use pancetta. Pancetta is not as fatty as guanciale, so you will have to add some olive oil to help the pancetta cook.
  • I used a microplane to grate the pecorino. I suggest weighing the pecorino instead of using the cups measurement if you can, because everyone grates cheese differently which can affect how it is measure in cups - weighing it is always more precise.
Nutrition Facts
Authentic Carbonara Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 2011 Calories from Fat 1413
% Daily Value*
Fat 157g242%
Saturated Fat 62g388%
Cholesterol 622mg207%
Sodium 2018mg88%
Potassium 350mg10%
Carbohydrates 96g32%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 53g106%
Vitamin A 675IU14%
Calcium 472mg47%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.