Italian Language Blog

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Posted by on Mar 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

There are several classic Italian pasta based dishes that have become well know throughout the world. One of these I described in my recent post la pasta all’Amatriciana. Another famous, but often misinterpreted, Italian pasta dish is gli spaghetti alla Carbonara.


There are many stories about the origins of this dish. The most credible one is that la pasta alla Carbonara was a traditional recipe made by i carbonari (the charcoal makers) who worked in the mountains near Roma. During the German Invasion of WWII, many citizens of Roma were evacuated to that area. Whilst there they learned this simple recipe, and once the war was over and they returned to Roma, they brought it back home with them. These days, it is considered a traditional Roman dish.

Un carbonaro al lavoro (Photo Public Domain)

Un carbonaro al lavoro (Photo Public Domain)

Let’s start by having a look at some of the common mistakes that people commit when trying to make this recipe: DO NOT use cream, fried onion, white wine or mushrooms in gli spaghetti alla Carbonara, avete capito?

In order to try and find the most authentic recipe, I searched through “Il Cucchiaio d’Argento Cucina Regionale”, which is the chef’s ‘Bible’ of traditional Italian regional dishes. Here’s the recipe that I found:

Ingredienti per 4 persone: Ingredients for 4 people:
400 gr di spaghetti, o altro formato lungo a piacere 400 grams of spaghetti, or other long shaped pasta, as you prefer
200 gr di guanciale 200 grams of guanciale*
4 uova 4 eggs
30 gr di pecorino grattugiato 30 grams of grated pecorino cheese
sale e pepe macinato fresco salt and freshly ground pepper


Fill a big saucepan with water, add a little salt (remember that both the guanciale and the pecorino cheese are quite salty), and bring it to boiling point ready to cook the spaghetti.
In the meantime, chop the guanciale into small cubes and fry it in a non-stick frying pan until it’s golden and crispy. If it produces too much fat, get rid of some of it.
In a big serving bowl beat the eggs and then mix in the fried guanciale, pecorino, and freshly ground pepper.
Cook the spaghetti, drain it, and mix it into the other ingredients in the serving bowl. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the sauce, which should become creamy, but not runny.
Serve immediately with grated pecorino cheese and pepper on the top, to taste.


*guanciale is a sort of bacon obtained from la guancia (the cheek) of the pork. It’s not to be confused with the more commonly available pancetta, which is obtained from la pancia (the belly) of the pork. Il guanciale has a much stronger flavour than la pancetta. However, if you can’t get hold of it, you can substitute it with pancetta tesa, but not with the rolled or smoked pancetta.

If you find the flavour of the pecorino too strong, you can use a mixture of pecorino and Parmigiano grated together.

If the sauce is too runny, put the serving bowl on the top of a saucepan containing hot water. Remember that the eggs should not cook, only thicken up. You can also reduce the quantity of the eggs by using 2 egg yokes and 2 whole eggs, instead of 4 whole eggs.

Buon Appetito!

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  1. Mark Arrington:

    NO! Putting the hot spaghetti directly into the bowl of eggs will scramble the eggs! Add the drained spaghetti to the pan with the guanciale and stir it for a minute, then take the pan off the heat. Mix a little of the hot pasta water to the beaten eggs in a bowl to temper them, then add them to the pan while tossing the pasta. Mix most of the cheese in while it’s in the pan. It will be very creamy with no egg lumps.

    • Serena:

      @Mark Arrington Salve Mark! Feel free to make your Carbonara as you like it. However, the recipe in the post is the official recipe, because, as I wrote, it’s taken from Il Cucchiaio d’Argento 🙂
      Saluti da Serena

  2. Colbie:

    This is the proper way to make this living in Italy for several years I would make this for many Italian friends. Many places in Italy do make it wrong either not cooking the eggs enough causing food poisoning yuck or using a cream base equally yuck it’s carbonara not Alfredo. Although I do enjoy it with the eggs slightly over cooked as did many 100% Italians I cooked it for this is one of my absolute favorite dishes. I’ve even had to sub bacon as well as turkey bacon because of where I worked there were dietary restrictions I’m glad this is an authentic recipe!!!

  3. Chris:

    There’s no equivalent substitution for il guanciale in my opinion!

    • Serena:

      @Chris Salve Chris, I agree with you, but I don’t know how easy it is to find il guanciale abroad, so I’m giving a possible alternative.
      Saluti da Serena

  4. Mike Schick:

    Grazie Serena.
    I used your recipe yesterday using pancetta. It was wonderful!

    • Serena:

      @Mike Schick Salve Mike, sono contenta che la carbonara sia venuta bene.
      Saluti da Serena

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