If you ask me what’s my absolute favourite pasta in the world, then it’s this one. Spaghetti alla Carbonara with crispy Guanciale.
This classic Roman dish is one of the most popular pasta recipes out there. And for a good reason. It is astonishingly simple, filling and incredibly addictive. Traditionally made with just eggs, pecorino (or sometimes parmesan), guanciale (Italian cured pork cheek), pasta water and freshly ground black pepper.
Some people will suggest using cream in carbonara – just know that every time someone makes it like that, somewhere in the depths of Italy, a nice Italian nonna gets a little heart attack. So for the sake of all Italian grandmothers out there – please don’t.
I suggest cooking the guanciale in butter together with whole, unpeeled garlic cloves for an extra punch of flavour. However, using garlic and butter is not traditional, so feel free to leave those out if you wish to try the more traditional recipe.
Time: 20 min
200 g Spaghetti (or your favourite pasta)
120 g iItalian Guanciale or Pancetta
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup Pecorino
1/2 cup Parmesan + more for serving
2 whole eggs (preferably fresh organic)
2 egg yolks (same)
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Start by boiling pasta water in a large pot. Salt the water – it should taste as salty as the sea! Once the water is boiling, add 120 g Spaghetti and cook until barely al dente – it will continue to cook a little more with the sauce.
Reserve about a cup of the pasta water for later.
While the pasta water is coming to a boil, chop 120 g Guanciale into 0.5 cm x 2 cm stripes and crush 2 garlic cloves with the back of the knife (you can leave the peel on for extra flavour).
Heat a large, non stick pan on medium heat. Melt 1 tbsp butter, add the garlic and fry for a minute until the butter soaks up the flavour. Add the guanciale to the pan and fry for 7 – 8 min, mixing once in while, until golden and crispy from all sides. Take off the heat. Remove the garlic from the pan. If there is too much fat in the pan you can pour some out, or simply soak it up with kitchen paper. I like to leave a couple of tablespoons in the pan for the flavour.
While the pasta and the guanciale are cooking, grate 1 cup Parmesan & 1/2 cup Pecorino into a medium bowl, add 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks and a generous grind of black pepper. Add about half a ladle of the reserved pasta water (or wait until the pasta is almost ready and then scoop out some water). Mix well. You want this to be liquid, like a very thick soup.
(Do not salt! The salt will come from the guanciale and the pasta water)
Return the pan with guanciale to the stove on a very low heat. Add the spaghetti to the pan directly from the cooking water. Before adding the egg mixture – make sure the pan in not too hot, or the eggs will start to scramble. Now add the egg & cheese mixture to the pan and cook for 2 – 3 min while constantly mixing. Add more pasta water to the pan if the sauce seems to thick. The eggs should cook but not scramble – you’ll notice that they are ready when the sauce thickens and you’ll start hearing a ‘squishy’ noise. When almost done, add more parmesan and mix.
Transfer into pasta bowls, grind more black pepper on top and serve with more parmesan on the side if desired. Enjoy 💛
of course you can use any kind of of pasta that you prefer. However, the suggestions above go the best with this sauce in my opinion.
you can use just parmesan if you don’t have pecorino, just make sure to use good quality, aged parmesan
you can also use pancetta if you can’t find guanciale. Guanciale is the more traditional one, it has more % of fat and it’s more intense in favour. I would not recommend using bacon. Berliners – I get mine at Boxhagener Market on Saturdays, there is a really nice Italian stand there in front of Tommi’s Burger Joint.
If you really don’t like garlic, feel free to leave it out. If you use it, then don’t forget to toss out the garlic from the pan! I’ve done this mistake a couple of times – biting into a whole fried garlic is not for everyone
Make sure that the pan is warm, but not hot, before adding the egg mixture. Or the eggs will scramble. We don’t want scrambled eggs.