Bring a little Italy to your kitchen with spaghetti carbonara. The pasta dish is enriched with prosciutto and finished with freshly grated parmesan.
Traditional carbonara has five simple ingredients: spaghetti, guanciale, eggs, black pepper, and Pecorino Romano. This version of spaghetti carbonara doesn’t stray far from the original and captures the essence of the tasty classic. Every forkful is rich, toothsome, tangy, salty, and has this savory pork taste present throughout. Instead of imparting an eggy flavor, eggs take a backseat to form a velvety sauce that clings to the pasta.
Why You’ll Love Spaghetti Carbonara
A look at pasta carbonara is enough to sell most, but if you need a little nudge to get cooking, consider the following:
- The dish celebrates simplicity – Instead of trying to create bold, complex flavors, quality ingredients are the focus, and those quality ingredients come together to create one cohesive plate of food.
- It requires less than 30 minutes – Yes, it’s true. This elegant Roman pasta takes less than half an hour to make.
- The sauce is creamy yet light – The egg-based sauce is creamy and rich but never heavy. In fact, it’s almost delicate. I guess that’s the magic of Italian cuisine!
- Prosciutto – Rendering its flavorful fat is a large part of what makes this pasta carbonara so tasty.
Spaghetti Carbonara Ingredients Notes
- Spaghetti: I used thick spaghetti for this pasta carbonara. Look for spaghetti labeled No.8 at the store. Bucatini is another option. It is thicker and has a hollow center that runs through it.
- Eggs: Eggs are what create a creamy (but creamless) sauce. The whites meld with the starch from the pasta to add viscosity.
- Prosciutto: Authentic carbonara is made with cured pork cheek, also called guanciale. However, this pork product is hard to find unless you live near a specialty/ gourmet grocer or place an order online. Prosciutto is just as delicious and more readily available! The thinly sliced cured pork is delicately sweet and salty, plus it crisps up nicely. Those crispy bits of pork are largely responsible for making spaghetti carbonara so satisfying.
- Black Pepper: Freshly cracked is far fresher and spicier than ground black pepper, so if you have peppercorns on hand, use them!
- Parmesan Cheese: Parmesan cheese is a crucial carbonara ingredient. It helps bring the sauce together and adds a tangy, nutty, and sharp flavor. Every good plate of pasta carbonara also deserves a shower of parmesan cheese right before serving.
Find the full ingredients list with amounts in the recipe card below!
How to Make Spaghetti Carbonara
To make spaghetti carbonara:
- Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of water to a boil, generously salt the water once boiling, and cook the pasta until al dente. It’s important to generously salt the water since the pasta water is used to make the sauce—generously salted water results in perfectly salted pasta carbonara.
- Time for prosciutto: Add roughly chopped prosciutto to a pan and render the fat over medium-low heat. As the fat renders, the meat will crisp up.
- Make the carbonara sauce: Olive oil and garlic go into the pan with the prosciutto, and the pasta follows. Then the eggs and parmesan join the party to form a sauce, and pasta water helps tie everything together.
- Toss, toss, toss: Give the pasta a final toss to ensure the spaghetti is coated, top with parsley, and more cheese, then serve.
Variations, Substitutions & Cooking Tips
- Use any pasta you like – This is a spaghetti carbonara recipe; however, a small pasta will work just as well. Penne is an excellent choice, as is rigatoni.
- Go with guanciale – If you can find it, use it. Look for the triangular cured meat at specialty stores and delis. Pancetta and smoked bacon are acceptable substitutes in a pinch.
- Swap parmesan for Pecorino Romano – Pecorino Romano’s base flavor and texture are very similar to parmesan. The most notable difference is that pecorino is made with sheep’s milk. Furthermore, parmesan is much saltier.
- Keep it moving – Continuously stir once you add the eggs to prevent them from curdling. Curdled carbonara isn’t very appetizing.
What Is Prosciutto?
Prosciutto is cured ham. It is made solely from the hind legs of pigs and aged with a dry curing process. The process entails coating the meat in salt and letting it sit before removing the salt, seasoning the pork, and leaving it to dry age at a controlled temperature for an extended period.
What to Serve with Spaghetti Carbonara
With spaghetti carbonara comes a long list of possibilities. If you don’t wish to serve it as is, pick your favorite from this list:
- Garlic bread – This elevated version of crusty bread is great for sopping up any extra sauce.
- Prawns/shrimp – Add extra protein to the plate with prawns/shrimp sautéed in butter and garlic.
- Steamed greens – Something light, bright, and vegetal is a pleasant contrast.
- ½ a package of 16oz extra thick spaghetti noodles
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 3-4 pieces prosciutto, cubed (I used a salted parmesan variety)
- ½ cup parmesan (grated)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbs parsley
- salt and pepper
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil (should be enough water to almost cover your pasta when completely dry)
- Add about 1 tbs. of salt to the water.
- Once boiling, add in the pasta and cook according to package instructions.
- In the meantime, add the cubed prosciutto to a medium-sized pan and begin to render the meat over a medium-low temp.
- Add in the olive oil and garlic and cook for about 1 minute, or until the garlic becomes fragrant.
- Once the pasta is done, reserve about ½ cup of the cooking liquid then drain the pasta and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the eggs and parmesan and mix together until combined. Set aside.
- Add the noodles to the pot with the prosciutto and garlic and turn the temp down to low.
- With a wooden spoon, slowly add-in the egg mixture while continuously stirring (do this for about 3 minutes) and once the mixture has thickened, remove from the stovetop.
- Top with fresh parsley and grated parmesan and serve!
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