Spaghetti in a rich, creamy sauce made from beaten eggs, freshly grated cheese, and chopped bacon. It’s a simple, quick, easy-to-make meal, but luscious and sophisticated all at the same time.
In downtown Salt Lake City there’s a restaurant, The Copper Onion, that makes the best Pasta Carbonara I’ve ever eaten. Since I don’t make it downtown for dinner very often, I decided to make it at home. Traditionally, carbonara is made with pancetta, but I prefer it with bacon, and used a thick slice peppered bacon.
While researching recipes for pasta carbonara, I stumbled on David Leite’s charming Spaghetti alla Carbonara post where he recounts his quest for finding the best carbonara in Italy. He explains the origins of this popular dish:
Alla carbonara,” the menu said, means “in the manner of the coal miners.” (Carbonara and carbone, the Italian word for coal, both derive from the Latin word carbo.) According to this legend, the dish was popular with miners because the few ingredients could easily be carried or, in the case of eggs, pocketed from henhouses on the way to work. When appetites knocked, a simple campfire in the woods was all that was needed to make an elegant meal. The liberal use of pepper is considered a modern-day metaphor for the specks of coal that would inevitably drop from the miners’ clothing onto the plates of pasta. Others say the name comes from the carbon that rose from cooking the dish over a charcoal fire.
I’ve never made pasta carbonara over a campfire, but it sounds like a fun idea. Maybe one day I’ll have to give it a try.
There was so much pasta in the skillet that it was difficult to mix, so I dumped the pasta in to the empty pot I cooked the pasta in to finish mixing the pasta and thin the sauce with the reserved pasta water. You’ll want to mix at least some of the spaghetti in the hot skillet first though, so you get all the flavorful bits from frying the bacon mixed in to the pasta sauce.
Costco sells a grated four cheese Italian blend that I usually keep in the fridge, and that’s what I used in this recipe. Don’t skip reserving the pasta water. I used the entire cup of reserved water to thin the sauce.
My pasta carbonara isn’t quite as rich as the carbonara at The Copper Onion, but I think I enjoyed it even more.
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 8 slices thick cut bacon diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced or pressed
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from the skillet and pour off all but two tablespoons of bacon grease.
- Add the garlic to the skillet and cook for one minute on low heat. Remove from heat.
- In a large serving bowl, mix together eggs and Parmesan. Set aside.
- When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain well.
- Add ¼ cup hot pasta water and drained pasta to the skillet with the bacon grease. Add bacon and gently toss to combine, and cook 1 minute over low heat. Add hot pasta to the egg/cheese mixture in the bowl and stir quickly to coat pasta. Stir in additional pasta water a little at a time until a creamy consistency is achieved. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and additional Parmesan, if desired.
is there a recipe for spaghetti carbonara without the eggs
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
We love this dish at home but I had no idea of its history and origins! That is so fascinating. Next time I serve it, I’ll serve it with a story! 😀 xxx
There are a lot of stories about the origins of carbonara, there is also one that I think could be very welcome in US. At the end of the Second World War in Rome there was not a lot of food; US Army K-Ration included bacon and egg in powder. With these two American ingredients, Roman cooks created carbonara. This is the story that I prefer! Thanks US Army!
Mmmm, carbs. If I wasn’t on Mission Bikini right now, I would eat a giant bowl of this! I’ll have to wait until February 😀
I need to make this now! So delicious!!
What a great recipe!! I’m so glad you didn’t add cream or peas, and that you made it more traditional. Guanciale is actually used traditionally, and pancetta is used in place of guanciale. My bf’s mom makes the best “carbonara’, but she uses prosciutto, which is acceptable because she is Italian haha. A non-Italian could never get away with that…at least not publicly ;).
Hi Memoria! I’m going to keep on the look out for Guanciale and see if I can even buy it in my area. When I was in Italy we ate carbonara in many different restaurants and it varied from place to place and sometimes it wasn’t all that great 🙂
I hear ya. When I went to Rome, I went to one of the most famous restaurants for Carbonara (according to TripAdvisor), and it was so bad that I left almost half of the dish on the plate. Ironically, though, I first “met” and fell in love with Carbonara after having tried it in the airport in Venice! THE AIRPORT! haha They were out of spaghetti bolognese, so I asked for this never-heard-of-by-me dish and instantly fell in love, but Pietro’s (my bf) mom makes the BEST carbonara IMO. She makes it for me every time I come by or on special occasions. Take care!
This is not the real carbonara receipt, but a very personal interpretation.
Bacon is good for an American breakfast, the real carbonara needs “guanciale” , I understand guanciale is not easy to find in US, but who use grappa in the martini cocktail instead of gin?
Garlic in carbonara ? Please do not use !!
Parsley in carbonara ? Bleah!
Cheese must be The original Parmigiano Reggiano better if 24 or 36 months old, no parmesan cheese , and, in carbonara you have to use 50% of Parmigiano Reggiano and 50% of Pecorino ( or 100% Pecorino).
Chopped onion is profane!
One of the best carbonara you can eat is in Rome at Maccheroni in Piazza delle Coppelle, 44 .
I’ll have to try the carbonara at Maccheroni some day. Until then, this is a delicious alternative made with ingredients I had on hand in my own kitchen, which is very much in keeping with the spirit of the dish.
one of the most delicious spaghetti dishes! I just love it 🙂
For sure this is a great comfort meal!
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
Pasta carbonara is such a comforting meal.
You can’t go wrong with spaghetti carbonara! Such a comforting dish and a true indulgence.
Rocky Mountain Woman
The Copper Onion rocks! I’ve never tried their Carbonara, but I will now.
I’m also making this recipe as soon as I get the opportunity, maybe tonight!!
Delicious and gorgeous as always! This looks amazing!
Delicious! I love carbonara.