Anchovy Carbonara

published Aug 5, 2023
Anchovy Carbonara Recipe

This ultra creamy (and weeknight-friendly!) pasta carbonara swaps guanciale for tinned anchovies.


Prep10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook15 minutes

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anchovy carbonara pasta dish in a skillet
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

I love noodles, and I really love tinned anchovies. As the name suggests, carbonara made with anchovies packed in oil delivers a weeknight pasta dish that’s equal parts eggy, cheesy, creamy, and so so savory. It’s the best gift given to me, by me – well that, and my custom-designed #DatChovyLife (translation: that anchovy life) shirt

While anchovies may be a polarizing ingredient in the eyes of some home cooks, its addition here makes sense. The traditional Roman pasta dish of spaghetti alla carbonara is made with guanciale or pancetta, but anchovy carbonara comes together at a fraction of the cost, plus it takes less effort to procure. 

This pescatarian recipe capitalizes on the gorgeous salty flavor that shines through when you tip the entire tin of anchovies, along with that divine infused oil, into a skillet and give it a sizzle. But, there’s even more to love. Right before you twirl your fork in, a shower of lemony herb breadcrumbs hits the top of the noodles and adds a bright relief against the richness that a hit of Pecorino Romano could never accomplish. 

If You’re Making Anchovy Carbonara, a Few Tips

  • Grate your own cheese. This ensures a silky smooth, clump-free pasta sauce.
  • Use your favorite long noodle. Any type works here, but my favorites are linguine and spaghetti. If angel hair or bucatini are what you’ve got, go ahead and use them. 
  • Make sure to use a tinned anchovy you would voluntarily eat on its own. The majority of the flavor comes from the anchovies. I’m partial to the anchovies from Cento and Agostino Recco.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Anchovy Carbonara Recipe

This ultra creamy (and weeknight-friendly!) pasta carbonara swaps guanciale for tinned anchovies.

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 3 tablespoons

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1 tablespoon

    dried parsley flakes, or 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

  • 1 ounce

    Pecorino Romano cheese (1/2 cup finely grated)

  • 5

    large egg yolks

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 cloves


  • 1 (2-ounce) can

    anchovy fillets (do not drain)

  • 1 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 pound

    dried long pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti


  1. Heave 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels.

  2. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon into the bowl (about 2 teaspoons); reserve the zested lemon for another use. Add 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes or finely chopped fresh parsley leaves, and stir to combine.

  3. Finely grate 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese into a medium bowl (1/2 cup lightly packed). Add 5 large egg yolks, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir with a spoon until combined.

  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, finely chop 4 garlic cloves. Add 1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets with its oil, and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the reserved skillet. Heat over medium heat until the oil shimmering. Cook, stirring frequently and using the side of a wooden spoon to press on the anchovy fillets to encourage them to break up and soften, until the anchovies dissolve into loose paste, 2 minutes. Add the garlic and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat.

  5. Add 1 pound dried long pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until al dente. Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the skillet. Place over medium heat and toss to combine. While tossing continuously, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

  6. Remove the skillet from the heat. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and toss vigorously to combine. Slowly drizzle in more pasta water a few tablespoons at a time until the pasta is evenly coated in a creamy sauce, about 1/2 cup more. Serve garnished with the breadcrumbs.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.