Authentic Italian Pasta Carbonara Recipe

Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli
Italian Cuisine Expert and Food Blogger
Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert

This authentic Pasta Carbonara Recipe is absolutely delicious with perfectly cooked spaghetti tossed together with rendered savory guanciale (pork jowl), fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and a bit of egg for both taste and texture. It’s a simple 20-minute meal and only requires 7 ingredients.

authentic carbonara recipe

This incredible spaghetti carbonara is the perfect example of why Italian cuisine is known for taking just a handful of ingredients and turning them into iconic dishes that are layered in flavor and easy to make.

What is carbonara?

Carbonara is a simple pasta dish composed of eggs, hard cheese, cured pork, black pepper, and pasta that is thought to have been developed in the 1940s. So for an Italian classic, carbonara is fairly young.

Some people believe that its origin is related to coal workers because alla carbonara means “coal workers style” and the use of black pepper, like coal flakes. But others believe that its roots are related to WWII American soldiers in Italy and their rations of bacon and eggs.

But in truth, culinary historians don’t know for sure. Yet, we can all agree that regardless of its origins it’s delicious.

The pasta most often used to make pasta carbonara is spaghetti but any type of noodles work and rigatoni is often used too. And like with all Italian food, higher quality ingredients make the dish. However, what really makes the dish special is how it’s prepared.

When making classic pasta carbonara, instead of a sauce being made ahead of time, one is quickly created after the pasta is cooked and drained. This is done by adding a mixture of raw egg, hard cheese, and black pepper to the hot pasta along with a bit of pasta water. Then rendered cured pork is added with a bit more cheese (Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese). The result is a rich and creamy pasta full of flavor without the use of any additional cream. 


  • Large Pot – Used to cook the pasta.
  • Colander – Needed to drain the pasta.
  • Saute Pan – Used to cook the guanciale and finish the dish. The pan needs to be fairly large. You can also use a large skillet if you don’t have a saute pan. 
  • Whisk – Needed to whisk the yolks together with the black pepper and cheese.
  • Sharp Knife – A proper knife makes slicing the guanciale much easier.


  • Prep – 5 minutes
  • Cook – 15 minutes


carbonara recipe ingredients
  • Spaghetti – This simple dish is typically made using spaghetti, but rigatoni is another popular choice. However, you can use any type of pasta you like. Yet, always use dry pasta, not fresh.
  • Guanciale – It’s a type of Italian cured meat made from pork jowls or cheeks. If you are unable to find guanciale you can use pancetta or even thick-cut bacon or pork belly if that is all you have on hand.
  • Egg Yolks – Adds richness to the dish and makes the carbonara sauce creamy along with the cheese. For the best results use room-temperature eggs. 
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese – This is the ideal choice. However, you can use Parmesan cheese in its place if needed or a combination of the two. 
  • Pasta Cooking Water – After the spaghetti is cooked you need to reserve some of the water to both season the dish and make the sauce creamy.
  • Black Pepper – A key carbonara ingredient. Use freshly ground black pepper for the best taste. 
  • Salt – Kosher salt or Sea Salt. Used to season the water and the dish as needed.  

Step-by-step instructions

1. Cook the spaghetti

cook the spaghetti for carbonara

To begin, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Next, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook it according to the package directions. It should be cooked to al dente, but not more. Then when the pasta is done cooking, set aside 2 cups of the hot pasta water and then drain the noodles in a colander. 

2. Cook the guanciale

cook the guanciale for the carbonara recipe

While the pasta is cooking, add the guanciale to a large saute pan and cook it over medium heat for a few minutes. You just want it to become soft and begin releasing fat. You do not want the guanciale to become hard so keep an eye on it to prevent overcooking. 

3. Whisk the egg yolks

whisk the eggs with the pepper and the pecorino cheese for the carbonara

Next, whisk the egg yolks, freshly ground black pepper, and almost all of the grated cheese together in a medium bowl. Then add 1 tablespoon of the reserved pasta cooking water. When everything is fully combined the egg mixture should be smooth and creamy. This is the base of the carbonara sauce. 

4. Add the pasta

drain the spaghetti, toss them to a saute pan and add 1 cup of pasta water

When both the spaghetti and guanciale are done cooking, add the noodles to the large saute pan along with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the hot pasta water. Then toss the noodles together with the guanciale and continue cooking for 1 minute over medium-high heat. 

5. Add the egg yolk mixture

add the guanciale with the spaghetti and the egg creamy mixture

This is where the carbonara sauce magic begins to happen! First, turn off the heat and remove the saute pan from the stove. Then slowly pour the egg yolk mixture over the pasta while stirring continuously for 30 seconds with a wooden spoon. The residual heat of the pasta cooks the sauce as you stir.

6. Finish the dish

mix the spaghetti pasta with the egg mixture and add the rest of the cheese and the pasta cooking water

Once you’ve added the egg mixture, stir in the rest of the cheese along with 1 to 2 more tablespoons of the warm pasta cooking water to create a creamy consistency. Start with one tablespoon and then add more if needed. You want the pasta to be creamy, not watery. 

7. Season and serve

With the spaghetti carbonara complete, taste the finished dish. Then season with salt and pepper if necessary. Now, serve with your favorite wine and enjoy.

authentic carbonara recipe

Expert Tips

  • Generously salt the pasta cooking water to infuse the noodles with flavor. Also, some of the pasta water is reserved to make the sauce and acts as a way to both season it and thin it out.
  • It’s crucial that you don’t forget to reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water. It’s a necessary ingredient in this authentic recipe. 
  • You can begin rendering the guanciale and whisking the eggs while the spaghetti is cooking. It’s better for the pasta to be done around the time that it needs to be added to the saute pan.
  • Use room-temperature egg yolks for the best sauce consistency and to help prevent scrambled eggs. Just take the eggs out of the fridge about an hour before you begin the recipe.
  • For the most authentic and best tasting pasta, use high-quality guanciale, eggs, and Pecorino Romano. Quality matters more in dishes with fewer ingredients.
  • Do not add any salt until the very end and only if it’s needed. The salted pasta water, cured meat, and cheese are all already salty and will most likely season the dish perfectly. 

Try other pasta recipes:


How to store pasta carbonara?

Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge when stored in an airtight container. Then reheat on the stove over medium-low heat or in the microwave on medium power. If the pasta is dry you can add a bit of hot water to loosen it up a bit.

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

No, this dish is best eaten immediately after it’s made. Yes, leftovers the next day are fantastic, but it’s not really a make-ahead meal. 

Does real carbonara have cream?

Authentic carbonara doesn’t include any heavy cream. The creamy sauce is created by combining starchy pasta water, cheese, and eggs. So when people ask, is carbonara better with or without cream? The recipes with cream may be delicious, but they aren’t a true Italian dish.

Why is my carbonara dry?

If you’re asking yourself, why is my carbonara not creamy? The most common reason that carbonara turns out dry is that you either have too much pasta and not enough sauce or you didn’t add enough reserved pasta water at the end when finishing the dish. 

What is the difference between carbonara and alfredo?

The main difference between the two pasta dishes is how the creamy sauce is formed. Alfredo relies on butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese to make a creamy cheese sauce. Whereas, carbonara is thickened by using a combination of starchy water, egg, and cheese. There is no cream in carbonara. Also, carbonara always includes guanciale, pancetta, or even bacon. Alfredo doesn’t have any cured pork as part of its flavor profile.

authentic carbonara recipe

Italian Pasta Carbonara

Pasta alla carbonara is one of the most famous Italian recipes, not only in Italy but also all over the world. Many are the variations of this recipe, the traditional Italian recipe though doesn’t have lot of ingredients. Make this recipe and let us know how it turned out!
4.66 from 43 votes
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Course: Primo
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 617kcal


  • 160 grams spaghetti or rigatoni
  • 60 grams guanciale cut into thick squares
  • 2 to 3 egg yolks room temperature
  • 25 grams Pecorino Romano grated
  • Pasta cooking water
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Then add the spaghetti and cook it according to the package directions till al dente. When it’s done cooking, reserve 2 cups of the starchy cooking water and then drain the pasta.
  • Add the guanciale to a large saute pan and cook it over medium-low heat for a few minutes just until it becomes soft and starts releasing fat. While rendering, be careful not to overcook the guanciale as you don’t want it to become too hard.
  • Whisk the egg yolks together with the black pepper and almost all of the cheese in a small bowl. Then whisk in 1 tablespoon of the pasta cooking water. The mixture should be creamy and smooth.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the large saute pan with the guanciale along with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water. Then saute everything together for 1 minute over high heat.
  • Turn the heat off and remove the pan from the stove. Now, pour the egg yolk mixture over the spaghetti while stirring for about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the rest of the cheese along with 1 to 2 more tablespoons of the warm pasta water to make it creamy.
  • Taste and season with more black pepper and salt if desired.
Serving: 100g | Calories: 617kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 240mg | Sodium: 421mg | Potassium: 209mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 311IU | Calcium: 173mg | Iron: 2mg
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8 Responses to “Authentic Italian Pasta Carbonara Recipe”

  1. Terry says:

    My family made this for my birthday. It was fantastic. Yum.

  2. Nicole says:

    My Italian exchange student made this for my husband and I in 2020 twice. I am making for the first time today since he went home to Italy!

  3. KenC says:

    Absolutely delicious and easy to make. Thank you

  4. Lu Caro says:

    I have tried several times to Subscribe to Nonna Box! and it keeps saying signature invalid. I hope someone can help me.

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