Authentic Spaghetti Carbonara

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Learn how to make an authentic spaghetti carbonara, the proper way! This classic pasta dish is rich, creamy and surprisingly easy to make.

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authentic spaghetti carbonara

If you want to learn how to make a really good, authentic spaghetti carbonara, then you’re in the right place!

We’re making this classic pasta dish the proper way! With Italian guanciale, egg yolks, al dente spaghetti & plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. It’s rich, creamy & surprisingly easy to make, what’s not to like!?

Looking for more dinner inspiration? Check out our ever growing collection of main course recipes!

What You’ll Need

If you want to make a proper, authentic spaghetti carbonara, you’ll need a few, specific ingredients. You’ll need…

  • Spaghetti – I like to use dried spaghetti, for convenience but feel free to uses fresh if you’d prefer. Make sure to cook it al dente for the best results!
  • Guanciale – This is a type of cured pork, made from the pig’s cheek/jowl. Guanciale is available to buy online & in some supermarkets. Alternatively, you can use pancetta or streaky bacon instead.
  • Egg Yolks – For the richest sauce, we’re going to be using only egg yolks. For a lighter sauce, use a whole egg in place of one of the yolks.
  • Cheese – For the perfect balance of flavour, we’re going to be using a 50/50 mix of Pecorino Romano & Parmigiano Reggiano. Both of these are available to buy in most supermarkets.
  • Black Pepper – The key to making a really good carbonara is to use freshly cracked black pepper. We’re adding this to taste, so make sure to try your sauce before serving!
italian guanciale

How To Make Authentic Spaghetti Carbonara

  1. Prep Ingredients
    Making carbonara is very time sensitive, so it’s important to have all of the ingredients prepped before the spaghetti is cooked. This means that we need to cut the guanciale into 1 cm pieces & place the egg yolks & grated cheese into a bowl, for the sauce.
  2. Cook Spaghetti
    Next, we cook the spaghetti in lightly salted (boiling) water until it is al dente. To do this, follow the instructions on your pasta’s packaging. The best way to check if your pasta is cooked is to taste a piece.
  3. Fry Guanciale
    Whilst the spaghetti is cooking, we place the guanciale into frying pan then fry over a medium-low heat until it is crisp & golden. Don’t worry about adding any oil to the pan as the fat will render out of the meat as it cooks. Once fried, season the guanciale with freshly cracked black pepper.
  4. Making The SauceStep 1
    Now to make the sauce. First, we transfer the cooked spaghetti & a good splash of pasta water into the pan of guanciale (still on the heat!) then toss, to emulisfy & coat the pasta in the pork fat.
  5. Making The Sauce – Step 2
    The spaghetti & guanciale then gets tipped into the bowl with the yolks, along with around 60ml of pasta water. Then we stir everything together with a wooden spoon (for a minute or so), until the sauce is thick, creamy and is coating the pasta. The consistency of the sauce should be similar to double cream. If it needs thinning out, add in another splash of pasta water.
  6. Check Seasoning
    Once our sauce is mixed, we taste it to check the seasoning, adding in salt & freshly cracked black pepper as needed.
  7. Serving
    As soon as the carbonara is ready, we transfer it into bowls, top with more black pepper & cheese (if desired) then serve immediately. Try not to let the spaghetti sit for too long, as the sauce won’t be as good!
egg yolks & cheese
mixing spaghetti carbonara in a bowl

Carbonara Tips & Tricks

  • Use Guanciale – For an authentic carbonara, you’ll want to use guanciale. This is a type of cured pork, which is made from the cheek & is a key ingredient in carbonara. Make sure to remove the skin/rind first, as this won’t cook down.
  • Cook The Pasta Al Dente – Make sure to cook the pasta al dente! The best way to do this is by following the instructions on the pasta’s packaging. Make sure to taste a piece of pasta, to check if it’s cooked enough.
  • Don’t Over Salt The Pasta Water – As the guanciale & cheeses are all fairly salty, the pasta should be cooked in lightly salted water, to avoid making the carbonara too salty.
  • Use Pecorino & Parmigiano Reggiano – Pecorino is the traditional choice of cheese for carbonara. This does have a fairly sharp flavour so I’d recommend using Parmigiano Reggiano as well, to balance out the flavour.
  • Have All Of Your Ingredients Ready To Go – Spaghetti carbonara is a very time sensitive dish so it’s important that you have all of your ingredients ready to go once the pasta is cooked. This means dicing & frying the guancile & having the yolks & grated cheese in a large mixing bowl.
  • Serve Immediately – Carbonara is best served straight away, whilst it’s still warm, silky & delicious!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can spaghetti carbonara be made in advance?

Unfortunately not. Carbonara is a type of pasta dish that is best served as soon as it has been made. If carbonara sits for too long the sauce will be cold, thick & claggy. You want to eat it whilst it’s still warm & creamy!

What is guanciale?

Guanciale is a type of cured pork, made from the pig’s cheek or jowl. Guanciale is super fatty & has an incredibly rich & savoury flavour. It also tends to be fairly salty so will season any sauce that you use it in. Guanciale isn’t usally available to buy in supermarkets, so you’ll need to buy it online. If you’re in the UK, souschef.co.uk sells guanciale.

What can I use instead of guanciale for spaghetti carbonara?

To make an authentic spaghetti carbonara, you’ll need to use guanciale. Unfortunately, this can be quite hard to source so some alternatives are available. I’d recommend using streaky bacon or pancetta.

Can I use a different type of pasta?

Absolutely! Instead of spaghetti, you’ll want to use a type of pasta that will catch all of that sauce! I’d recommend going for penne or rigatoni.

crispy fried guanciale

Equipment Used

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What’s For Dessert?

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Authentic Spaghetti Carbonara

Learn how to make an authentic spaghetti carbonara, the proper way! This classic pasta dish is rich, creamy and surprisingly easy to make.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 2 Portions
Author: Ben Racey

Equipment

  • Large Saucepan
  • Frying Pan
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Microplane
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Tongs

Ingredients

  • 100 g Guanciale See Notes
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  • 40 g Pecorino Romano Grated
  • 40 g Parmigiano Reggiano Grated
  • 200 g Spaghetti
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Instructions

  • First, cut the skin off the guanciale & discard. Chop the meat into 1 cm pieces then set to one side.
  • Add the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl & whisk to combine. Add in both of the grated cheeses, season with a generous amount of black pepper then set aside.
  • Next, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil, add in the spaghetti then cook to al dente.
    Follow the cooking instructions on your spaghetti's packaging. The best way to check if your pasta is cooked, is to taste a piece – it should still have some bite.
  • Whilst your spaghetti is cooking, place the guanciale into a large frying pan then set over a medium-low heat. Fry, stirring frequently until the meat is crisp & golden.
    Don't worry about adding in any oil, the fat will render out of the guanciale as it cooks.
  • Once the guanciale is cooked, season it with freshly cracked black pepper then use a pair of tongs to transfer the cooked spaghetti into the pan, along with a good splash of pasta water.
    Make sure to keep the remaining pasta water as we'll need this to make the sauce!
  • Toss the spaghetti well, to coat the pasta in guanciale fat & to emulsify then tip into the bowl of egg yolks, along with add a ladle full of pasta water (around 60ml).
  • Using a wooden spoon, stir the spaghetti for a minute or so, until the sauce has come together & is creamy, silky & smooth. The sauce should coat the pasta & be the consistency of double cream. If it needs thinning out, stir in another splash of pasta water.
  • Taste the carbonara, adding more salt & freshly cracked black pepper as needed then transfer into 2 bowls. Top with more black pepper & more grated cheese (if desired) then serve immediately.

Notes

1. Cooking On An Aga – Use the boiling plate to cook the spaghetti & use the simmering plate to cook the guanciale.
2. Guanciale – Guanciale is a cured pig cheek & is one of the key ingredients in a classic carbonara. This is available online but you could also use pancetta or streaky bacon instead.
3. Egg Yolks – You’ll need 3 large egg yolks for the sauce. If you’d prefer a slightly less rich sauce, replace one of the yolks for a whole egg.
4. Cheese – Traditionally, carbonara is made with Pecorino Romano. This cheese has quite a sharp flavour so we’re balancing it out by using parmesan as well. I’d recommend grating the cheese with a microplane as it will melt easier. But if you haven’t got one, use the smaller sized holes on a cheese grater.
5. Serving – For the best results, make sure to serve the carbonara straight away! 

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