How to Make Carbonara Sauce

By Francis Keaveney

Start to Finish: 25 minutes
Servings: 3 Difficulty Level: Beginner

Spaghetti carbonara in a white dish
credit: al62/iStock/Getty Images
Serve the carbonara sauce while it's hot.

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Carbonara is a creamy Italian pasta dish that can be made in a few steps. The traditional sauce doesn't contain any cream; it gets its creamy texture from the eggs and cheese in the recipe. Variations exist with added vegetables and different meats used to replace the traditional pancetta. Although the sauce goes with just about any pasta, spaghetti is the most commonly used.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 2 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Parsley to taste (optional)


Pour olive oil and garlic into a saucepan and place it over medium-high heat. Allow the olive oil to heat up.

Cook the pancetta for 4 minutes or until it begins to brown.

Remove the garlic with a tablespoon and set aside; reduce the heat on the pancetta to very low.

Whisk grated Parmesan and egg in a bowl and pour it into the pancetta.

Add the cooked spaghetti to the Parmesan, pancetta and egg before the egg sets. Toss the spaghetti vigorously until it is well coated and remove from the heat. Pour in the spaghetti cooking water as needed while tossing the carbonara until you get a moist consistency. Sprinkle dried parsley, grated Parmesan and black pepper to taste; serve hot.


Cook the spaghetti as directed on the packaging. When you transfer the spaghetti into the carbonara, make sure it's still wet in some of the water used to boil it. Transfer the spaghetti from the colander into the sauce before it completely drains.

Use butter or heavy cream to moisten the sauce if it gets too dry.

If you don't have pancetta, use unsmoked bacon, cut into cubes, as a replacement.

Replace 3/4 ounce of the Parmesan with Pecorino romano, which has a salty sharp taste. While Pecorino can be overbearing on its own, it adds flavor to the carborana when it makes one-third of the cheese mixture.


Replace the pancetta with prawns for a seafood variation.

Add peas and mushrooms for a North American variation of the sauce.