For a dish that packs tons of flavors and textures, a carbonara recipe is a surprisingly easy one to make. Not for the vegetarians in the bunch, carbonara relies on pancetta, a smoky cut of pork, for a tremendous amount of the flavor. Carbonara is creamy, fatty, salty and has an eggy deliciousness that's sure to make it a weeknight staple when you're in a rush and want something simple but satisfying to eat.
About Pasta Carbonara
Spaghetti carbonara roughly translates to "the pasta made by the coal guy's wife." Essentially, this classic Italian dish can be made with any pasta you like, but traditionally it is made with long noodles like spaghetti, bucatini, fettuccine and linguine.
There are very few ingredients in this dish. Fortunately, like most of the best Italian cooking, a little goes a long way. The smoky, spicy, salty fattiness of the bacon adds a tremendous amount to the flavor of the otherwise creamy, peppery pasta.
Because of how complex and layered the dish is flavorwise, people tend to assume that it's also complicated to make. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Carbonara is flavorful, but it's also simple, something that comes as a surprise to many home cooks. The better the quality of your ingredients, the better the end result will be.
Easy Carbonara Recipe
A carbonara recipe relies on bacon, onion, garlic, cheese and egg. These flavors come together quickly, and the dish itself should be served immediately. The best way to make sure that you get the timing right is to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you begin cooking. Having ingredients at the ready cuts down on your cooking time and ensures that you don't have any last-minute scrambling that can ruin your dish.
Total Time: 20 minutes | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 4
- 1/2 pound dried spaghetti
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon or guanciale (about 4 ounces, cut into small cubes)
- 3/4 cup diced white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- Sea salt
- In a pot of heavily salted boiling water, begin by cooking the pasta.
- Set a timer and plan to drain the pasta two minutes earlier than the minimum cooking time on the pasta box. This is because the pasta will continue cooking in the pan, and you want it to be firm rather than overcooked and mushy.
- Saute the cubed bacon over medium-high heat.
- When the bacon has gotten crispy and brown, add the onion and garlic, lowering the heat to medium and stirring to keep the aromatics from burning.
- For a twist on the traditional flavor, drop in some of the parsley along with the onion and garlic and saute it along with them. This will add to the flavor depth of the dish without compromising the integrity of the dish.
- As the onions cook until translucent, whisk together the Parmesan, the eggs and the pepper in a separate bowl.
- Drain the pasta, reserving about a mug full of the starchy water in which it was cooked.
- Toss the pasta into the pan with the bacon and onions.
- Turn off the heat and add the egg mixture on top, stirring gently to make sure it coats every strand.
- In a separate pan, heat the breadcrumbs on medium heat, stirring gently until they start to smell toasty and a little like popcorn.
- Pour in the pasta water a little at a time until the sauce is thickened and creamy.
- Add the breadcrumbs, stirring to incorporate them throughout the dish. Top with raw parsley and a grind of fresh pepper. Add a dusting of sea salt on top. Serve immediately.
Preshredded Parmesan tends to be dry and of poorer quality than the cheese that you grate yourself from a block of Parmesan. If the quality of the cheese is higher, the dish will taste much better, which is something worth keeping in mind.