Authentic 15-Minute Carbonara (VIDEO)

4.98 from 73 votes
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Carbonara is one of the four classic Roman pastas dish; the other three being Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana, and Pasta alla Gricia. My authentic recipe results in a silky, creamy, and decadent dish that uses zero cream — just a couple fool-proof tips and techniques will have you enjoying the creamiest, most delicious Carbonara that only takes 15 minutes to make!

Carbonara on a plate

Watch the Carbonara Recipe Video Below!

Carbonara mixed in a bowl

Ingredients for Carbonara

Authentic, traditional Carbonara calls for only a few ingredients – let’s break it down!

  • 8 oz spaghetti – You can use any long pasta but spaghetti is the most commonly used type. You can use either fresh or dried pasta; I like bronze die-cut pasta because the surface of the pasta has a rougher texture to allow for more sauce to cling to it.
  • Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano – I like to use a combination of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano.
    • While these two cheeses ARE similar, I strongly recommend you use BOTH (and not sub one for the other), as it adds a layer of complexity to the flavors. Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk and is saltier than Parmesan, so if you end up subbing one for the other, make sure to adjust the salt accordingly.
    • The most crucial part is that you must grate your own cheese – whatever you do, do not use the store bought pre-grated cheese. Pre-grated cheese contain preservatives to keep the cheese shreds from clumping and I find they don’t melt together as well. You can also taste the grainy texture from the additives. I like to keep a couple wedges of high quality cheese at home and my favorite place to buy them from is Costco! The quality and price is unbeatable.
    • 2.5 oz Pecorino Romano, finely grated
    • 1.5 oz Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
  • 1 whole egg + 3 egg yolks
    • The eggs vigorously mixed with the guanciale fat and pasta water is what creates the magical sauce! Notice there is NO cream in this Carbonara – you won’t need it! I like to use a ratio of 1 whole egg to 3 egg yolks because it balances the richness.
    • If you are looking to avoid using raw eggs, I would recommend making my Cacio e Pepe recipe – this is another one of the four classic Roman pastas but requires only three ingredients (cheese, pepper, and pasta).
    • You can also try my authentic Fettucine Alfredo recipe – this is another creamy cheese-based pasta that uses zero eggs!
  • 6 oz guanciale – Guanciale is a KEY ingredient in carbonara! It is a cured fatty pork jowl that is similar to bacon or pancetta. I love the flavor it adds to the dish.
    • Many people ask me where I find guanciale. I look for it at Italian delis (such as Bay Cities in Santa Monica or Eataly in Century City, if you are based in Los Angeles).
    • If you cannot find guanciale, you can substitute with bacon or pancetta. The main difference between guanciale and pancetta or bacon is that guanciale has a richer fat content that is needed for the authentic recipe.
  • 1-2 tbsp guanciale fat after cooking – Make sure to save the guanciale fat, as you will use this with the eggs and pasta water to make your creamy, luxurious Carbonara sauce!
  • 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorn – I highly recommend using whole black peppercorns that you can ground fresh. I find that pre-ground black pepper lacks the flavors of freshly ground. You can add more if desired.
  • Salt (for the pasta water) – Don’t forget to add salt to your pasta water! Because of the salt content in the cheese and guanciale, I recommend 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per quart of water.

Carbonara: Recipe Instructions

1. Preparing the Guanciale

The first step in this recipe is to prepare the guanciale, which is an Italian cured pork jowl. You can find this at any specialty Italian market or butcher, but if you can’t find it, you can easily sub for pancetta or bacon.

When buying guanciale, be sure to remove the hard, tough outer layer prior to cutting the meat into even thin strips. This outer layer of the guanciale is inedible. You want to cut the guanciale as even as possible so they cook in the pan and crisp up evenly.

Place the guanciale in a cold pan and turn the heat to medium high. Continue stirring until the fat has rendered and the guanciale are crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan to a paper towel to drain and set aside, keeping the fat in the pan.

2. Preparing the eggs, cheese, and pepper

When grating the cheese, be sure to use the finest side of the cheese grater. Trust me, this definitely makes a difference! You want the cheese to be almost snow-like, which will allow the cheese to more easily emulsify into the sauce.

I use about a 2:1 ratio of Pecorino Romano cheese to Parmesan cheese for this recipe, which in my opinion provides the most balance of saltiness to the final sauce.

If using freshly ground peppercorns, I will toast the peppercorns in a dry pan for about 1-2 minutes over medium heat or until fragrant before grinding them in a mortar and pestle. This extra step is NOT necessary but I find it adds a beautiful aroma and complexity to the dish.

Add the freshly ground pepper to a large mixing bowl with the below ingredients and mix well.

  • 1 large egg and 3 egg yolks
  • grated parmesan and pecorino cheese
  • the crispy guanciale
  • 2 tbsp of the guanciale fat that was rendered out from the guanciale

3. Add the pasta and form the Carbonara

In a pot of boiling salted water, add your pasta and follow the package instructions to achieve your desired doneness. I prefer my spaghetti “al dente” which has a satisfying bite and chew.

Add your al dente pasta directly into the sauce and stir vigorously to emulsify the sauce. The warm pasta will generate enough heat to create a rich sauce that will cling to the pasta. The sauce will continue to further thicken upon sitting.

If the sauce is too thick, add pasta water 1 tbsp at a time until the correct sauce consistency is achieved.

Watch the recipe video for reference!

KEY TIP

Runny Sauce?

If you have a runny sauce that is too loose at this point, place the metal bowl with the pasta and sauce over the pot of pasta water and bring the water to a low boil. Use the steam from the pasta water to gently thicken the egg and cheese sauce until you’ve achieved the creamy consistency show in the video.

4. Plate your carbonara and enjoy!

Carbonara is best eaten freshly made – so if cooking for someone else, don’t make it ahead of time. As the dish sits, the sauce will continue to thicken and congeal with the pasta (while still delicious in flavor, it won’t be nearly as good as enjoyed fresh).

Plating Tip

Serve the Pasta in Warm Bowls

Cheese and dairy based pastas have a tendency to clump up and congeal once they’ve sat out for a few minutes. Prevent this from happening by serving the pasta in a warm bowl! I fill a bowl with hot water then dump it out and dry it before plating the pasta. It will keep the pasta and sauce hot and creamy while enjoying it!

two bowls of carbonara on a table

Pro TipS

Expert Tips for Making the BEST Carbonara At Home!

  • Salt Your Pasta Water – this is a KEY tip for all pasta dishes but you must salt your pasta water! This first step will help ensure your dish is properly seasoned. The Italians believed in adding flavor at every step of the cooking process; salting your pasta water is seen as your ‘foundation’. Because this pasta has natural salt coming from the cheese and guanciale, I recommend only using 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water.
  • Cook Your Guanciale in a COLD Pan – I like to start the guanciale in a cold pan to render out the fat. If you cook it in a hot pan, it’ll result in the guanciale being seared. This rendered fat is a key component to how delicious this dish is, as you’ll be reserving some of this fat for your sauce.
  • Can’t Find Guanciale? Substitute with BACON or PANCETTA! Make sure it has enough fat, as you’ll need to render out the fat to thicken the sauce.
  • Pre-Warm your bowls with hot water (so it retains the heat when serving your delicious Carbonara). Carbonara is a dish best enjoyed freshly made, so try to avoid making it ahead for guests. The sauce will continue to thicken and congeal as it sits with the pasta.
  • Leftovers can keep in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I usually enjoy Carbonara as my main dish; but if you are planning a more decadent meal, it can be served alongside another main dish, such as my Braised Beef Short Ribs recipe. This is the PERFECT date night formula!

I absolutely love pasta, so if you are looking to try other pasta dishes, check out my Cacio e Pepe recipe – this is another one of the four classic Roman pastas and one that is even easier than Carbonara!

A crowd favorite is my Spicy Vodka Pasta – this is my go-to recipe for dinner parties and is always a hit! Lastly, a super easy weeknight dinner option is Cherry Tomato Pasta!

If you tried this Carbonara or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below!

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4.98 from 73 votes

Authentic 15-Minute Carbonara

Servings: 2
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Carbonara on a plate
This authentic Roman carbonara recipe is easy and delicious! My foolproof technique prevents scrambling and creates a perfect sauce!

Ingredients 

  • 8 oz spaghetti
  • 2.5 oz pecorino romano, finely grated
  • 1.5 oz parmigiano reggiano , finely grated
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 egg yolks only
  • 6 oz guanciale, sub bacon or pancetta
  • 1 tbsp guanciale fat , after cooking
  • 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorn

Instructions 

  • Finely grate your pecorino and parmesan cheese, and slice your guanciale into even 1" cubes and set aside.
  • Toast your whole black peppercorns for 1-2 min over medium high heat or until fragrant. Coarsely grind with a mortar and pestle or spice ginger.
  • In a large mixing bowl, crack 1 large egg and 3 egg yolks. Add your grated cheese and pepper and mix to form a paste.
  • In a cold pan, fry your guanciale for 4-5 minutes over medium high heat or until the fat has mostly rendered and the exterior is crispy but the inside is soft and slightly chewy (taste pieces as you cook to ensure the correct texture). Drain and add to your paste, along with 1-2 tbsp of guanciale fat.
  • In a pot of salted boiling water, cook your spaghetti until al dente then immediately add to your mixing bowl and stir vigorously until sauce is emulsified and creamy. If too thick, add pasta water 1 tbsp at a time until the correct consistency is achieved, as the sauce will thicken as it sits. Serve in a warmed plate or bowl and enjoy!

Notes

Key Tips:
Salt Your Pasta Water – This is essential for seasoning your pasta. Because this pasta has natural salt coming from the cheese and guanciale, I recommend only using 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water.
Cook Your Guanciale in a COLD Pan – I like to start the guanciale in a cold pan to render out the fat. If you cook it in a hot pan, it’ll result in the guanciale being seared. This rendered fat is a key component to how delicious this dish is, as you’ll be reserving some of this fat for your sauce.
Can’t Find Guanciale? Substitute with BACON or PANCETTA! Make sure it has enough fat, as you’ll need to render out the fat to thicken the sauce.
Pre-Warm your bowls with hot water (so it retains the heat when serving your delicious Carbonara). Carbonara is a dish best enjoyed freshly made, so try to avoid making it ahead for guests. The sauce will continue to thicken and congeal as it sits with the pasta.
Thick/Runny Sauce: If your sauce is too thick, add 1 tbsp of pasta water at a time until a creamy consistency is achieved. If you have a runny sauce that is too loose at this point, place the metal bowl with the pasta and sauce over the pot of pasta water and bring the water to a low boil. Use the steam from the pasta water to gently thicken the egg and cheese sauce until you’ve achieved the creamy consistency show in the video.

STORAGE

Leftovers can keep in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat by adding a few tablespoons of hot water to the pasta and microwaving until warmed through.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 1286kcalCarbohydrates: 88gProtein: 46gFat: 83gSaturated Fat: 35gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 224mgSodium: 1533mgPotassium: 367mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 446IUCalcium: 676mgIron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Tried this recipe?Mention @cj.eats_ or tag #cjeatsrecipes!

About CJ

I’m a third generation Chinese-American home cook who has always loved cooking & eating! Welcome to my food blog, where you can find trusted, tested, easy & approachable recipes for the everyday home cook that taste delicious! I am so glad you're here!

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Recipe Rating




59 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’m always hesitant making carbonara with the fear of scrambling the eggs but I DID ITTT and it was a straightforward recipe. This is one to try!

  2. 5 stars
    Such a quick meal and yummy! Hard to find the guanciale as mentioned, so subbed for pancetta, which was much easier to find. Please keep on showing recipes as I’m always excited to learn something new!

    1. Hi Katie – the recipe calls for 1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks. Can you please let me know where you’re seeing double the eggs so I can correct it? Thanks! CJ