International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Spaghetti Carbonara

A plate of spaghetti carbonara

(Italian pasta with bacon and eggs)

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This amazing pasta dish is said by some to have originated at the end of World War II, when American soldiers in Rome yearned for a meal of bacon and eggs. The Romans, of course, added pasta and Parmesan, and a classic was born. In many Roman restaurants these days, the softer flavor of pancetta or salted pork jowl (guanciale) is substituted for smoky bacon. The choice is yours. Also known as spaghetti alla carbonara.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • Bacon or pancetta, chopped -- 1/2 pound
  • Garlic, minced -- 4 cloves
  • Eggs -- 4
  • Parmesan cheese, grated -- 3/4 cup
  • Black pepper, freshly ground -- 2 teaspoons
  • Spaghetti, uncooked -- 1 (1-pound) box

Method

  1. Add the bacon to a skillet and place over medium heat. Sauté the bacon until it renders its fat and just starts to turn crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or so. Remove from heat and set aside. You want to keep the fat for flavor, but if there is too much for your liking, remove all but about 1/4 cup of it.
  2. Add the eggs to a large bowl and beat them well. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
  3. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and immediately add it to the bowl with the eggs and toss well. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and create a creamy sauce.
  4. Briefly reheat the bacon and garlic and stir it into the pasta. Serve immediately with a side salad.

Spaghetti Carbonara Variations

  • Add 1/2 cup of white wine to the bacon when it has just started to turn crisp. Cook down until the wine is almost all evaporated, then set aside while you complete the recipe
  • Try using a combination of grated Parmesan and Romano cheese.
  • Chopped parsley is often stirred into the pasta at the end for color. Some cooks add peas or chopped, cooked broccoli.
  • Spaghetti is the most common pasta used for carbonara, but you can try using bucatini, fettucine, tagliatelle, or rigatoni if you like.
  • Versions of this dish outside of Italy often contain cream. Stir about 1/2 cup heavy cream into the pasta in the last step.

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