Spaghetti carbonara (or Spaghetti a la Carbonara) is a simple and classic Italian pasta that is quick and easy to make in just minutes. Freshly cooked spaghetti is tossed in a delicious creamy Parmesan sauce with pieces of flavourful pancetta (or bacon) throughout. It's a delicious and comforting pasta that is perfect for busy weeknights when you just don't know what to make.
Spaghetti carbonara is seriously one of the easiest and fastest pasta dishes I have ever made. It pretty much ties with these other quick favourites: avocado basil pesto spaghetti, stovetop mac and cheese with white cheddar, and shrimp fettuccine alfredo pasta bake. All take about 20 minutes or less to make.
Ingredients in Spaghetti Carbonara
To make easy spaghetti carbonara, you need the following simple ingredients:
- spaghetti noodles - spaghetti is traditionally used, but any long pasta will work. I often use linguine.
- pancetta - pancetta is traditionally used in carbonara, but you can also use bacon. Both add a delicious salty flavour to the pasta.
- garlic - adds flavour, but it is not typically included in traditional carbonara and can be left out.
- eggs - creates a rich creamy sauce which is cooked when tossed with the hot spaghetti.
- Parmesan cheese - you can also use Pecorino Romano (which is traditionally used).
- ground black pepper
- fresh parsley - for garnish.
You will also need a cooking pot and a shallow saucepan.
How to Make the Best Spaghetti Carbonara
- Cook the spaghetti. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium high heat. Add spaghetti noodles and cook until al dente (fully cooked but still firm) or according to package directions, about 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set the pot aside.
- Prepare the sauce. While cooking the spaghetti, prepare the sauce mixture by whisking together eggs, Parmesan cheese and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Cook the pancetta. Sauté the pancetta or bacon (no cooking oil needed) in a shallow saucepan over medium high heat until crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another minute until fragrant.
- Toss in the spaghetti. Turn off heat and transfer the hot spaghetti into the garlicky bacon in the saucepan. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of hot pasta water and stir vigorously to combine. A vigorous whisking emulsifies fat from the bacon and pasta water, creating the classic creamy carbonara.
- Stir in the sauce. Stir in the egg-cheese mixture and toss to coat, about 1 minute. Egg yolk is also an emulsifier which further helps fat disperse throughout the liquid, making the sauce creamy.
- Serve. Serve immediately on a plate and garnish with parsley and extra parmesan on top, if desired.
- Do not drain or rinse the pasta. You want to keep all that starch on the pasta to help thicken the sauce and get the right consistency. Plus, you will need to use some of the pasta water in the sauce.
- Stir vigorously while mixing the hot noodles together with pasta water into the pancetta. This emulsifies liquid and fat, creating a creamy consistency.
- Turn off the heat when stirring in the egg-cheese sauce. The eggs are cooked when tossed in the hot pasta, but if the heat gets too high, the egg mixture will quickly solidify, turning into scrambled eggs.
- How to customize. You could add in other cooked meat or vegetables if you want to mix things up. Some suggestions are chicken, shrimp or mushrooms.
- How to store: Spaghetti carbonara is best served fresh. To store, transfer cooled spaghetti to an airtight container and store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stove over medium-low heat for a few minutes until warmed through. You may need to add a little water if the sauce has thickened up too much in the refrigerator.
How to Serve Spaghetti Carbonara
Serve spaghetti carbonara with a side of crusty garlicky bread such as pull apart garlic bread, rosemary garlic focaccia bread, or cheesy garlic dinner rolls. You can also pair it with a fresh salad on the side. Try an easy Greek salad, Mediterranean chickpea wedge salad, or tomato cucumber avocado salad.
More Pasta Recipes
- Spaghetti Bolognese
- Turkey Tetrazzini with Spinach
- Cheesy Tortellini and Sausage Bake
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo Pasta Bake
- Creamy White Chicken and Spinach Lasagna
- Spaghetti Alfredo with Spinach and Mushrooms
- Easy Meat Lasagna
Did you make this recipe? I would greatly appreciate a comment and rating below, letting me know what you thought of the recipe. You can also snap a picture and tag me on Instagram @aheadofthyme or share it on the Pinterest pin so that I can follow along.