Since returning in March from our botched Italy trip (thanks, COVID-19), I have been on a kick of making carbonara at least once every two weeks.

Matt Sparx
Matt Sparx

The first time I’d ever had the dish was the day we arrived in Rome. After a trip to the Pantheon, we found this little hole-in-the-wall place with good reviews on Yelp, which led us to some legit Italian pasta. This was officially my first meal in a country other than the United States and it was amazing. I think about that place all the time when I am making my carbonara.

My recipe is a tad bit different, as I have yet to find Guanciale in the States. In its place, I have been using pancetta or, in a pinch, you can use bacon.

If you think carbonara is a difficult dish to make, as I did at first, you’re mistaken. There are only five ingredients that make the dish: Spaghetti, pancetta, egg yolk, Pecorino Romano, and black pepper.

  • Spaghetti
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1.5 cups of Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • Pancetta
  • Black pepper

Using these ingredients, this is how you can make carbonara at home.

Start by boiling the water for your pasta. While the water is boiling, crack your eggs and discard the white and shell. I prefer to use a block of Parmesan cheese and grate my own. You can use the cheese in a can if you prefer, but that is not the way of the Romans. Heat up your trusty frying pan to medium heat in preparation for the rendering of the pancetta. When the water starts to boil for your pasta, add a small amount of salt and your spaghetti. Then add your pancetta to the frying pan to render the fat in the meat. While the pasta and pancetta is cooking, mix your egg yolks, Parmesan, and black pepper to taste in a bowl. This will be your sauce for the pasta.

When the noodles are al dente, but still have a little bite left in the noodle, pull about a coffee cup's worth of the water out of the pot and set it aside. Drain your pasta and do not rinse. If there is too much grease for your liking from the cooking of the pancetta, you can drain a bit, but not all. Draining the pancetta is optional, but I like to do this because I don’t want too much grease in my dish, as I cook it on a regular basis.

Now that your pasta is drained and your pancetta is cooked, it’s time for the home stretch. Place the spaghetti back into your pot, add the pancetta, and now incorporate the yolk and cheese mixture. I prefer to use tongs to mix and toss the spaghetti in the forming sauce. Remember that cup of pasta water? This is where it comes into the recipe. You want to have your sauce at a creamy consistency, which you will probably not get right from the yolk and cheese mixture. Keep tossing your pasta while slowly adding the pasta water. When you get a creamy consistency that you are pleased with, it’s time to plate up your carbonara.

After you plate, or in my case, bowl, your carbonara, add the finishing touches by adding a bit more Parmesan, black pepper, and a bit of parsley. In my last carbonara dish, I decided to add a bit more color and flavor, too. The final additions were homegrown San Marzano dried tomatoes and grated salt-cured egg yolks.

Matt Sparx
Matt Sparx

There you have it. Just as a quick tip, if you feel your carbonara is too watery, simply keep tossing in the sauce. It will thicken up. On the flip side of that, I have recently had a tendency to make mine a tad bit too dry. So, keep that in mind when you are making your carbonara. The creamier, the better. Enjoy.

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