Oh mamma mia…Spaghetti alla carbonara

No, this is not healthy. Nope, not really low fat either. But after eating plant-ish things and nuts and seeds (I think I’m actually sprouting feathers)  for the past 48 hours to detox my body from this past weekend’s gorge-fest I felt it was time to do some damage again. Don’t judge.

I learned how to make this from my dad and after doing some research it seems that this is pretty much the classic, traditional way to make carbonara. Thanks, Dad!  Many recipes/restaurants seem to think that putting cream in the sauce is the way to go, but I say why?? If you make this correctly, the egg yolks emulsify to form a creamy, velvety sauce that clings to the spaghetti strands in just the right way. The tricky part is getting the sauce to form the correct texture so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. It’s not easy to execute and honestly, this took me a few times of making carbonara to get this right. If it doesn’t work the first time you make it don’t get discouraged. It’s not an easy feat and just think how happy you’ll be when you finally get it right! Pure satisfaction!

The crispy pancetta, fragrant garlic, and creamy texture of the sauce amalgamate to form a flavor that’s indescribable. It’s salty yet not in an overpowering way and the black pepper gives it a nice little bite, but not enough to have you gulping down water. You have a variety of textures from the crunchy pancetta cubes, the smooth, buttery texture of the sauce, to the al dente chewiness of the pasta.  FYI, I’m drooling at the moment–major food porn here!

Ok, Ok–let me stop describing how good it’s going to taste and tell you how you actually make it!

Here’s what you need:

1 box of spaghetti (try to use a good brand like Barilla or De Cecco–it really does make a difference)–I’m only using half a box for 2 people. If you’re measuring with a scale I usually use about 230 grams for 2 people.

2 egg yolks (just separate the whites from the yolks)

3 small cloves of garlic, chopped

1/2 lb. pancetta, cubed (I have the people in the deli at Publix slice for me three 1/2 inch slabs and then I cut it up at home)

1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Here’s what you do:

Place a large pot of salted water on to boil.

In the meantime, heat up a pan very hot and toss in your cubed pancetta. No need to put any oil in the pan because the pancetta already has enough fat. Cook over medium to high heat until the pancetta is browned and crispy. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon. Lower the heat!! And then throw in the garlic  and let it cook a few minutes. You don’t want to burn the garlic because then it has a bitter taste. Place aside. Try not to eat half of the pancetta while you’re cooking it like I always do. I can’t help it!


Cook your pasta according to the directions. You want it to be al dente. Very important–right before you drain the pasta get about a cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain pasta and return to the pot. Pour in the pancetta with the oil that it produced and mix pasta to coat it with the oil.

Now comes the tricky part. You want to combine the egg yolks and about a quarter to half a cup of the water at the same time and then mix it quickly to emulsify it. This is all done very quickly! Kitchen ninja style! Essentially what you’re doing is cooking the egg yolk with the reserved pasta water. If you don’t do it fast enough then you end up with flecks of cooked egg yolk and that’s really not what you want.

How did it turn out? If you succeeded, yay!! If you didn’t, who cares?? It’ll still taste great anyway and this gives you another excuse to make this dish again soon!

Now, add your parmesan cheese and lots and lots of black pepper. Taste a bit and see if you need salt. Usually the salted pasta water and the saltiness from the pancetta and cheese are enough but if you feel like you want it saltier then add away!

Che buono!!

Plate and serve immediately. Like, now! Go! 😉

Happy cooking!


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Pasta Sauces, Pasta/Italian, Recipes

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6 Comments on “Oh mamma mia…Spaghetti alla carbonara”

  1. March 5, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    I do it but instead of using garlic I use onions- not really much difference I guess- gin

  2. Michael MinKhin.
    April 29, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Although I eschew eating meat a vast majority of the time………oops, sorry Mel, forgot this wasn’t about ME!
    After scouring the Italian countryside for the best Cabonara with your dad, I realized he knew his Carbonara, and you got my mouth watering when I read your account.
    I just prepared your carbonara as directed and it turned out great. I did have Meredith help me add the egg yolk at the end while I poured and stirred in the pasta water. It indeed turned out creamy instead of scrambled. It was simple, fast and molto delizioso!
    I also used your chicken picata recipe a few weeks ago, although I subbed fish for chicken and it turned out great!

    • FoodieMel
      May 1, 2012 at 8:46 am #

      Alright! Yay! I’m glad that it came out good! Sometimes an extra hand is needed in the kitchen, good thing Meredith came to the rescue 😉
      It makes me so happy that you’re trying out the recipes 🙂 Grazie a te!!

  3. Elli
    April 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm #


    • FoodieMel
      May 1, 2012 at 8:46 am #

      It definitely was 🙂

  4. peter
    April 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Although I eschew eating meat a vast majority of the time, I just can’t resist the call of the carbonara…..well done!!!

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