carbonaraTotal Time: 30 minutes or less

Spaghetti carbonara is a typical dish of the Rome region, Lazio. One popular theory of the origin of the recipe is that it’s named after the carbonari, the charcoal makers who used to spend long periods in the woods making charcoal. Their job was very important once, as charcoal was widely used mostly as fossil fuel and even for cooking.

I had a cook in a famous restaurant in Rome telling me that the name of the recipe derives from the coarse grains of black pepper, a must in the dish, that can make you think of bits of charcoal.

Spaghetti alla carbonara is a very simple recipe, a little tricky in the conclusion. But is has so many variations and interpretations from the original.  In New York, I’ve seen adding onions to the bacon.

Then there are the ones who prefer tossing the cooked spaghetti in the pan with the guanciale to flavor them a bit before tossing in the bowl with the eggs.

Originally whole eggs were added to the damp drained pasta and mixed quickly. Now most accept the fact that beating them lightly before is a better solution.

It can be that because of the success spaghetti carbonara enjoys, many have tried to adjust it to their liking or even just wanting to make their own version.

Spaghetti alla carbonara recipe may appear creamy because of its luscious velvety appearance. So the addition of cream is a favorite way of recreating that effect. But there is no cream in the  carbonara


Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 6 ounces guanciale or bacon
  • 2 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks
  • Fresh coarse ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup pecorino romano
  • salt



Cut guanciale in thick cubes or short strips and cook on moderate heat in a pan (no oil necessary) until releasing its own fat translucent, but not dry, about 2-3 minutes.

In a bowl or container large enough for mixing pasta later, beat eggs lightly adding black pepper and pecorino.

Add the hot drained spaghetti a little damp to the eggs mixture and mix quickly. Last stir in the guanciale with its fat. Mix again and serve immediately.


Note: you could also pour guanciale cooled in the bowl with the eggs adding pecorino and pepper, mixing everything before adding the spaghetti.

Ingredients are as in the original recipe except I have some yolks instead of whole eggs.  Eggs are raw, so find the best freshest eggs. Save some water from the spaghetti when draining, so you can add to the mix if too dry. Do be careful with salt as .guanciale and pecorino are salty.

More Roman pasta recipes

Return Home