Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a classic Roman pasta dish, that has become a standard on menus in Italian restaurants around the world. As with any dish that becomes this ubiquitous, many variations tend to crop up, with people adding different ingredients along the way. One addition that pops up frequently is cream. While I am not typically a staunch traditionalist, and our recipe even demonstrates this with ingredients that some may argue with, I do believe strongly, as all Romans would agree, that cream has no place in a real carbonara sauce.

The ingredients that most agree are contained in a traditional carbonara sauce are guanciale(cured pork jowel), eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, and freshly ground black pepper. Since, guanciale is an ingredient that is not that easy to get your hands on, pancetta is often substituted. This recipe is how my father served carbonara in his restaurant for years, and it includes shallots and white wine. Those ingredients may not be considered traditional, but they really do work in this dish because they enhance the dish by subtly complementing rather than taking away from the main ingredients.

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Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Recipe

  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, chopped fine
  • 4 ounces guanciale or pancetta, chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large sautè pan over medium-high heat. Add the guanciale or pancetta and cook until the fat starts to render about 3 minutes. Then add the shallots and continue to cook until the shallots are translucent and the guanciale is browned and crispy, 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat while you cook the pasta.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Cook uncovered over high heat until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain and add the pasta to the sautè pan and place it back over medium heat.
  4. Add the egg yolks, Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper and reserved pasta water, and stir vigorously until pasta is well coated and creamy. Transfer to individual pasta dishes and serve with extra Pecorino Romano cheese on the side.
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins


26 Responses

  1. Carbonara is perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s one of those pastas that many haven’t tried, and those who have never miss the opportunity to indulge. Food is at the heart of Italian culture. Check out my blog for more Italian Life.

  2. It was extremely delicious! i just made it! i was looking for a carbonara recipe without half a litter of cream!! and there it was!!! thank you for your post!
    regards of switzerland!

  3. Unbelievable never even had this before but I have been making fresh pasta lately so I thought go a head and organize the ingredients and it was off the charts. Ever single bit was amazing. The only thing I would do differently is not salt the water and keep the pancetta amount to 1/2 lb. instead of the 5/8 lb

    I’m so please with this recipe it will be something I will make for the rest of life over and over again. I would also like to try and make it with guanciale but I found the online pricing to be a bit to high I’ll see about finding out if I can get the ingredient from a local butch the next time I’m in Aurther Ave., Bronx NY

  4. strange! you quibble about the cream (restaurants often add a tablespoon or so per serving to stabilize the emulsion during the inevitable minutes between kitchen and diner) but then you add wine (understandible, but not in the quantity the recipe calls for) and chicken broth (feh!!!) and shallots, no less. sounds like the original recipe got shanghai-ed in france en route to america.

    comment from chef jerry in laurel md

    1. I love any type of pasta and sauce as well. I’m trying to rticlpaee my MIL’s meatballs and sauce. It’s a work in progress. Too bad this one did’t turn out like you hoped but it’s still fun to try different recipes. You never know when you’ll find a new favorite.I love the e-newsletter as well

  5. I am sure your father’s recipe is delicious,the problem is that if someone had it for the first time,and your father called it CARBONARA,this person will be confused next time she goes to Rome and gets the real recipe.
    There is nothing wrong inventing new pastas,we do it all the time,come up with new names.If I am wrong I apologize

  6. I made this last night and it is amazing. I need more of these recipes. And to the people commenting on wether this is traditional italian or not…who cares. It is beautiful.

  7. I don’t want to be rude but this is not the Italian recipe at all (as many others in this site).
    As you said, shallots and chicken broth are not included in the real Italian recipe. Finally we use the entire egg, not only the yolk.
    I agree with gigino and I think it would be better to publish the real recipe and then add your father’s variation, otherwise foreign people get confused.

  8. agreed….this is not authentic. I assume this is a US receipe rather than Italian. Italians would never waste the egg white, so the whole egg is used….only the tuscans use onions and obviously authentic carbonara is from Lazio & most importantly there is no use for chicken broth – the salted pasta water & fat from the pancetta is used to keep the sauce moist. If a receipe is such a variation from the original then perhaps the word ‘authentic’ should not be used. Instead any of you wanting an authentic carbonara receipe – visit Lazio!

  9. Hayls, the word “authentic” is not used anywhere in my post. As a matter of fact I am very clear in my post in stating that the recipe does veer away from the traditional and some people may take exception to it. There is no false advertising going on here. I find it odd that people would respond to a post that says, “Those ingredients may not be considered traditional” by pointing out that those ingredients are not traditional.

    Chef Jerry does make a good point that my staunch stance against using cream is somewhat hypocritical. My stance on that was more of a reaction to variations I have seen where cream is the main ingredient.

    This web site started 10 years ago as a way for me to share my father’s recipes, and has grown to become more of a resource on Italian food in general. In cases such as this where I am presenting a recipe that does stray from what I know about the traditional recipe, I make that clear, like I did in this post.

    I stand by this recipe and I have no problem calling it Carbonara.

  10. I don’t care if it’s ‘authentic’ or what You call it – I call it deliciouso! My son made it for me last nite for my B’day – & I thought it was great!

  11. This was incredible. My only experience with Italian cooking has been a lasagna my grandfather taught me to cook, but he was French-Canadian. After making this for years, with varying results (sometimes, to my tastes, very good results), I decided on Sunday, on a whim, to begin learning how to cook real Italian food (my wife is 25% Italian, and I, like my grandfather, am 0% Italian). This wasn’t the easiest on my first try, but it turned out great. Thanks so much for the recipe! This is going be in regular rotation for my family.

  12. Unbelievable never even had this before but I have been making fresh pasta lately so I thought go a head and organize the ingredients and it was off the charts. Ever single bit was amazing. The only thing I would do differently is not salt the water and keep the pancetta amount to 1/2 lb. instead of the 5/8 lb

    Mama mia! Gracias!

  13. Another carbonara is pasta, peas, bacon,double cream and cream cheese. finish it off with parmesan cheese.

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  15. Just made it authentically for the first time (only just found where to get guanciale here in south-east Greater London) – just guanciale, egg yolks, pecorino romano, black pepper, a little of the pasta water to “loosen” the sauce a bit, and not forgetting the spaghetti. Secondo noi, perfetto!

    (I recently saw a video of a “celebrity chef” whose “carbonara” used bacon, parsley, cream, garlic, mushrooms… ok, might taste good but it ain’t carbonara, any more than Audrey Hepburn was Marylin Monroe or vice versa!!)

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