Classic Spaghetti alla Carbonara

When you only have five ingredients in a dish like this one, it’s best to use the best quality of each of the ingredients, as there is nothing to hide behind.

Recipes for this dish abound, but for the true classic Roman recipe, cream is never to be used. A true “Carbonara” is based on these five ingredients – pasta, egg, pecorino cheese, bacon and pepper – and a couple of tricks to prevent it from being too dry once the egg is added. I’ve also added a few “Optional” ingredients below that moves the recipe from being a “classic” recipe to a  more “contemporary” version that we enjoy. Buon appetito!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara


(Serves 4-5)

500g spaghetti
5 free-range eggs (59g each)
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino (Romano) cheese
200g bacon or pancetta, finely diced or in fine 2cm lengths (in Rome they use “guanciale” (pork jowl))
3 – 4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled & whole
Additional cheese, to serve

OPTIONAL INGREDIENTS (to move it to a “Contemporary” recipe)
1 large red chillies, sliced
zest from 1 lemon, finely chopped
2 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped

  1. Bring a large pot of water (at least 6L) to the boil for the pasta, then salt to taste.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine eggs, cheese, & pepper (include lemon zest and parsley if you’d like). Set aside.
  3. Add pasta to boiling, salted water and cook until “al dente”. Check the cooking time for the spaghetti that you have selected and check it at that time for “al dente”.
  4. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a heavy based saucepan or frypan. Add garlic cloves and flavour oil while garlic turns golden. Remove garlic cloves once golden.
  5. Add bacon (include chilli if you’d like) and sauté until bacon is well cooked, golden and starting to catch on the pan. Keep warm until pasta is cooked.
  6. Once pasta is cooked to your liking, remove about 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water and carefully stir this into the pan with the bacon, increasing the heat while loosening any bits on the bottom of the pan.
  7. Working quickly, so that the pasta remains hot, drain the pasta and return it to the pot you cooked the pasta in, off of the heat. Quickly stir the hot bacon/oil/water mixture through the pasta to coat.
  8. Stir in the egg/cheese/pepper mixture and continue to combine until the egg mixture coats the pasta*. Divide amongst serving bowls and serve with additional grated cheese and more cracked black pepper.

* Getting the heat of the combined pasta/egg mixture is the trick. The hotter the pot, the quicker the egg will cook and it may become too dry. Just keep trying until you get the texture you like, but the taste will still be fantastic!