published Dec 9, 2023
Carbonara Recipe

A rich and creamy Italian pasta with just four ingredients and 30 minutes? Yes, please.


Prep10 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

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Overhead shot of carbonara in a bowl with a fork resting in the bottom right of the bowl.
Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

Restaurant-worthy carbonara is easier to make at home than you think. A little patience and a handful of ingredients are all you need to make rich and creamy carbonara. There are innumerable versions of this dish (as well as opinions about what can or cannot be added), but this classic recipe sticks to just the essentials: pasta, eggs, Pecorino Romano, guanciale (cured pork jowl), black pepper, and a little salt. Here’s how you can pull it off in just 30 minutes. 

What Is Carbonara?

Carbonara is one of several classic Roman pasta dishes that calls for minimal but overlapping ingredients, including Pecorino Romano, black pepper, and cured pork. Unlike pasta alla gricia, amatriciana, or cacio e pepe, carbonara uses eggs to create a rich, silky pasta that’s as perfect at midnight as it is at noon.

Credit: Photo: Ryan Liebe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

Ingredients in Carbonara

Because this recipe has only a few ingredients, each one is critical. 

  • Guanciale: This can be harder to find than pancetta or bacon, but it’s worth it! It renders more fat and has more flavor than the other options. Every brand will be cured differently and can vary in how salty or peppery it is, so be prepared to adjust at the end to allow for that range. 
  • Pecorino Romano: Look for a block and skip the pre-grated containers, as they will not melt and emulsify the same as fresh, finely grated cheese.
  • Eggs: Four whole eggs as well as two yolks contribute to a rich and silky pasta. 

How to Make Carbonara

One of the biggest fears in tackling this recipe at home is that you will end up with a jumble of scrambled eggs and noodles. There is no need to let that fear take over. To set yourself up for success, start by tempering the eggs with some hot guanciale drippings and pasta water. When the spaghetti is ready, slowly start pouring the egg mixture into the skillet, pouring into the center over the pasta and not around the edges. Applying a little bit of low heat after the eggs are added, along with vigorous tossing, takes you to creamy carbonara perfection in just a few minutes.

Carbonara is best enjoyed hot and fresh out of the skillet. If you’re cooking for a smaller group, this recipe halves very easily. The cooking times will all be the same; just use a medium skillet (about 10 inches in size) instead of a large skillet.

3 Tips for Making Carbonara

  • Use room-temperature eggs. Pull your eggs out of the refrigerator before starting the recipe so they can warm slightly. The eggs still get tempered with hot guanciale drippings and pasta water so they mix seamlessly with the hot pasta, but giving them a chance to start warming at room temperature is a bonus. 
  • Grate the cheese with a Microplane. The very fine, fluffy strands will melt faster and easier. Do not use a tub of dried pre-grated cheese here, as it will not melt as desired. 
  • Don’t be afraid to move your skillet on and off the heat when cooking the egg mixture. This is a quick-cooking recipe, so keep an eye on the eggs. If you feel like it’s getting too hot, too fast, move the skillet to an empty burner to slow the cooking. 

Carbonara Recipe

A rich and creamy Italian pasta with just four ingredients and 30 minutes? Yes, please.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1 ounce

    Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

  • 1

    (8-ounce) piece guanciale or pancetta

  • 1 pound

    dry spaghetti

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 2

    large egg yolks

  • 1 teaspoon

    coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, finely grate 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese on a Microplane (2/3 to 1 scant cup). Cut 1 (8-ounce) piece guanciale into 1/2-inch-wide by 3/4- to 1-inch-long pieces (about 1 1/2 cups).

  2. Place the guanciale in a large skillet, preferably nonstick. Cook over medium heat until it starts sizzling, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the guanciale is browned and crisp, 6 to 10 minutes more.

  3. Meanwhile, add 1 pound dry spaghetti and 2 teaspoons kosher salt to the boiling water. Cook according to package directions until the pasta is just al dente, 8 to 12 minutes. Place 4 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Add the Pecorino and a pinch of kosher salt, and whisk until combined.

  4. When the guanciale is ready, transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper to the skillet, turn off the heat, and stir to combine. Let cool for 1 minute.

  5. While whisking constantly, slowly stream in 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet into the egg mixture, then slowly stream in 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.

  6. When the spaghetti is ready, turn off the heat, then transfer it directly to the skillet with tongs. It’s OK if some water clings to the pasta. Add 1/4 cup pasta water to the skillet and toss until the pasta is well-coated and most of the water and fat in the pan have been absorbed.

  7. While tossing the pasta constantly, slowly start pouring the egg mixture into the skillet, pouring into the center over the pasta and not around the edges.

  8. Return the guanciale to the pan. Turn the heat on to the lowest setting and cook, tossing constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken and coats the pasta, 1 to 2 minutes. Make sure to move the skillet around so any hot spots on the burner don’t scramble the eggs. Remove the pan from the heat.

  9. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Transfer to a large bowl or individual serving bowls and serve immediately with more grated Pecorino and a few grinds of pepper on top if desired.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: Guanciale really makes this dish special, as the flavor and fat content of the meat add a lot to the recipe. Pancetta is the best substitute. Look for a piece that you can cut yourself, as the pre-cut pieces are smaller than ideal, but also OK. If neither are available, choose thick-cut bacon that is not heavily smoked, and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces.

Storage: This recipe is best eaten fresh, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat gently with a splash of water.