19 Nov Spaghetti alla Carbonara


Spaghetti alla Carbonara

19 November 2020

PREP. TIME: 10 MIN - Cook Time: 10 Min -   Serves: 4 - 6

This is a wonderful dish to master because it is so quick and flavoursome.  Students often ask to cover it in class because they find it tricky.  Even though the dish is relatively straight forward to prepare - it's success is borne in the last 3 minutes and there is not a lot of room for error!  

The main goal is to create a creamy sauce - without adding any cream.  One of the biggest difficulties is to do this without scrambling the eggs.  I think we overcome this risk using the method below - where the pasta is added to the egg and cheese mixture in a bowl rather than in the hot pan.

Once you are confident enough to do so , you can make the sauce while the pasta cooks.  For the first few times - do all of your prep while you boil the water.  Delay adding the pasta to the water until you have the guanciale chopped, the cheese grated and the eggs beaten. Cook the guanciale while the pasta cooks and you are set to go!

Recipe Template

As for any dish with so few ingredients - the best quality ingredients are paramount. Make the effort to find Guanciale and Pecorino Romano cheese - it will make a big difference. Be sure to use a top grade dried spaghetti - just like the Romans do.  Brands such as Di Martino or de Cecco are very good.

Guanciale is salt cured pork jowl.  It is an important ingredient in this dish for its special flavour and the quality of the fat.  It is normally available from Italian delicatessens and butchers. If you cannot get guanciale - you can substitute for pancetta which is salt cured pork belly - that is the Italian version of streaky bacon - I do not recommend streaky bacon though.

Pecorino Romano is a delicious, salty cheese made from sheeps milk.  You can use it for cooking or as a table cheese.  It is delicious to eat with olives and have with a glass of wine for a snack before dinner.  For this dish, be sure to grate the cheese on the finest edge of your grater - so that the cheese melts easily and works to add to the creaminess of the egg yolks.

As a general rule for smaller quantities - allow 100g of spaghetti per person and 1 egg yolk per person - The addition of a whole egg will create a creamier, saucier sauce.

ingredients for  4

500 g dry spaghetti (di Martino or de Cecco brands are recommended)

2 tablespoons olive oil

100 g guanciale

2 handfuls of finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

4 Egg Yolks and 1 whole Egg at room temperature


Freshly ground Black Pepper


Chopping board 

Sharp kitchen knife 

Measuring spoons

Large size saucepan with a lid 6 - 8 litres

Medium to large size fry pan

Metal Tongs

A small jug for reserved pasta water


Large mixing bowl

Warm serving bowl


Step 1 Heat the pasta water and Prepare the ingredients

Fill a large pot with water, and bring the water to the boil

Chop the guanciale into 5cm dice

Finely grate the cheese

Separate 4 egg yolks and beat them with the whole egg in a large mixing bowl.

Add 1 handful of cheese to the egg mixture and season well with a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Step 2 Cook the Guanciale

Do this while the pasta is cooking if you can.

Heat the pan over moderate heat and add the olive oil and the guanciale.

Cook until the fat runs and the pork is just beginning to crispen. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Cook the Pasta

Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water and when the water returns to the boil add the pasta - a third at a time.  Do not break the spaghetti - it will soften as soon as you put it in the boiling water - push it down gently with tongs to submerge it.  Toss it to separate the strands of pasta.  Continue like this until you have added all of the pasta. Toss the pasta well with tongs in the water, ensuring that all of the strands have separated.

Cook in accordance of packet instructions then check for doneness. When it is just cooked and still al dente - reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and set aside.

Drain the pasta.

Step 3 Assemble the dish

Add the cooked pasta to the warm pan with the guanciale - about 1/3 at a time - using your tongs, toss it well with the fat and the guanciale. Continue this way until all of the pasta is well coated with the fat and the pork.

Add the dressed pasta - about 1/3 at a time to the egg and cheese mixture in the bowl - Coating each strand of pasta with the sauce. Continue this way with all of the pasta. Add a little water to lubricate the pasta if you need to - this will give you a creamier consistency.

Taste and season with salt if necessary and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 4  To serve

Transfer the dressed pasta to the warm serving bowl and serve at the table onto hot plates.

Serve with the extra cheese.


Recipe by Elizabeth Peddey.

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