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Classic Italian Carbonara is one of the most simplistic and delicious recipes in the world. It is also, however, one of the easiest to mess up and a recipe that many people have taken liberties with over the years, creating a number of dishes that are nothing like the real thing. This recipe goes back to basics and gives you step by step instructions for making classic Italian Carbonara.
What are the classic ingredients for pasta carbonara?
In its purest and most traditional form, classic carbonara contains pasta, eggs, cheese, and cured pork and black pepper. Just 5 simple ingredients. No cream, no milk, no garlic, and certainly no peas.
What meat is used in Carbonara?
Authentic carbonara is made with guanciale. Bacon is not a traditional ingredient in Italian carbonara, nor is pancetta or prosciutto, although they have become popular in Americanized versions of the dish.
What is Guanciale?
Guanciale is derived from the Italian word guancia, meaning cheek. This classic Italian cured pork is made from the fatty pork jowl, and is the authentic meat to use in classic Carbonara pasta.
What cheese is used in Carbonara?
Traditional carbonara recipes use pecorino Romano cheese. Other cheeses like parmesan are not authentic but are common in American versions.
What is the best pasta to use for Classic Carbonara?
Our favorite pasta for making carbonara is Bucatini. This straw like pasta is slightly larger than spaghetti and does a great job of holding onto all of the sauce. Other great pastas to use for homemade carbonara include spaghetti and linguini, but almost any pasta would be acceptable.
How to Make Classic Pasta Carbonara
To make the Carbonara dice your guanciale. Although far from authentic, we will sometimes cold smoke the guanciale in order to make a smoky Carbonara. For the smoked Carbonara, cold smoke the guanciale for about 2 hours then proceed with the rest of the recipe as follows.
Prepare the pecorino Romano-egg mixture
Add the eggs and pecorino Romano cheese in a medium sized bowl. You want to use both the yolk and whites for this dish. Add the fresh black pepper to the bowl.
Next, add the pecorino Romano and beat well to combine. No need to add any salt as the pecorino Romano is plenty salty for this dish. Set the cheese-egg mixture aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Cook the guanciale
Heat a large pan over, medium high heat. Add the diced pork jowl and cook until crispy and browned, then turn off the heat.
Cook the pasta for the classic carbonara
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta to al dente according to the instructions with your pasta.
Finishing the Italian Carbonara with Guanciale
Once the pasta has finished cooking, drain the pasta well and add the pasta to the pan with the guanciale. Turn on the stove to medium heat, and mix the pasta well to combine in the fat from the cured pork. Once the pan begins to sizzle, turn off the heat.
Add the pecorino Romano-egg mixture and stir to combine. You may wish to test the heat level with a small amount of the mixture first. If the pan is too hot, you will end up with scrambled eggs, which you do not want. Typically waiting about 1 minute after removing the pan from the heat is adequate, but if you are using a heavy pan that retains heat well, like cast iron, you may need to wait longer before adding the egg mixture.
Once the pasta has been coated in the pecorino-egg mixture, serve the pasta while warm. If desired top with additional pecorino Romano.
Enjoy your Italian Carbonara with a fine glass of Italian wine or perhaps a glass of Blackberry Red Sangria.
Be sure to try some of our other favorite Italian, and Italian inspired recipes:
- Grilled Italian Sausage Pasta with Arrabbiata Sauce
- Italian Style Parmesan Wings
- Smoked Meatballs with Burrata
- Florentine Style Salmon Lasagna
- Smoked Lasagna
- Sous Vide Florentine Style Porterhouse
- Quattro Formaggi Crusted Steak
- Grilled Chicken Spiedini
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Classic Carbonara with Guanciale
- 12 Ounces Pasta
- 4 Eggs
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 8 Ounces Guanciale
- 4 Ounces Pecorino Romano Plus additional for topping
- Shred the cheese, and dice the guanciale. If you are making the smoky carbonara, you will can to cold smoke the guanciale for a couple hours prior to dicing.
- In a medium sized bowl, beat together the eggs, shredded pecorino Romano, and black pepper.
- Heat a large pan over, medium high heat. Add the diced pork jowl and cook until crispy and browned, then turn off the heat.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the noodles, per package instructions, until a dente.
- Drain the pasta well and add the pasta to the pan with the guanciale. Turn on the stove to medium heat, and mix the pasta well to combine in the fat from the cured pork. Once the pan begins to sizzle, turn off the heat.
- Wait a couple minutes (or up to 5 if you are using a heavy bottomed pan like cast iron) then stir in the egg-cheese mixture. Mix well to combine.
- Serve the pasta warm and top with additional pecorino Romano and black pepper, if desired.