Recipe Review

Jennifer Aniston Just Taught Me Her Trick for Making Her Favorite Creamy Pasta — Without a Drop of Cream

published Mar 17, 2024
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Spaghetti noodles with bacon bits and shredded cheese in bowl with fork
Credit: Kiersten Hickman

As self-proclaimed food people, we have our celebrity chefs we love to follow for recipe inspiration: Ina Garten, Giada De Laurentiis, Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay … the usual suspects. And then there are the celebs who take you by surprise, like Jennifer Aniston. Jen’s favorite salad to eat on the set of Friends blew up on TikTok last year, so when we stumbled across her recipe for carbonara, we couldn’t help but give this hidden gem a try. Is her pasta recipe just as good? Is Jen a secret culinary star who has yet to truly be discovered and appreciated? Let’s find out.

Get the recipe: Jennifer Aniston’s Carbonara

Credit: Kiersten Hickman

How to Make Jennifer Anniston’s Carbonara

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While you wait, cook slices of turkey bacon and a small red onion (both diced small) in a large skillet. Cook until the bacon and onions are crispy and caramelized, about 10-15 minutes. Add in minced garlic cloves and stir, cooking until the garlic is fragrant — another 1 to 2 minutes.

While you cook, whisk together a large egg, low-fat milk, and grated Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.

When the water is boiling, cook 1 pound (16 ounces) of spaghetti. Boil according to the package instructions. Once cooked, reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water before draining.

Pour 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water slowly into the bowl with the egg mixture, whisking continuously so you don’t scramble the egg.

Toss the hot pasta in the skillet with the cooked bacon and onion. Pour in the egg mixture, then turn the heat on low and toss the pasta until the sauce has thickened. If it seems too dry, add in the other 1/4 cup of pasta water.

Season with salt, pepper, and extra grated Parmesan cheese.

Credit: Kiersten Hickman

My Honest Review

So is Jen a culinary star? For the average working adult who needs a quick, delicious pasta on a weeknight, I say yes. All in all, I did enjoy this recipe. Carbonara isn’t the easiest dish to make; it requires a careful hand and a lot of patience to get the sauce just right. Jen’s recipe turns a complicated dish into an easy weeknight meal, which I do appreciate.

However, it’s also clear from the ingredients that this recipe was meant to be a lighter version of the classic carbonara by using turkey bacon instead of guanciale, and lightening up the amount of egg yolk and cheese by adding in low-fat milk. While these swaps did work for this recipe, I knew instantly that this recipe was missing a key ingredient for the cooking process: olive oil.

Typically a fatty pork like guanciale, prosciutto, or bacon is used for a carbonara, so meat cooks in its own fat. However, turkey bacon doesn’t have as much fat to cook in, so cooking it by itself in the skillet without some kind of fat was not going to work. Plus, the onions need something to cook in, too! So I went ahead and added a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet when cooking the bacon and the onion, which helped immensely.

After that small tweak, cooking this recipe was an absolute breeze, and I absolutely plan on making it again for dinner soon. Maybe tonight!

3 Tips for Making Jennifer Aniston’s Carbonara

  1. Use half the amount of pasta — or double the meat. Personally, I think the ratio of meat to pasta does not work for this recipe. Instead, I used half the amount of spaghetti (1/2 pound, or 8 ounces) and proceeded with the recipe as-is. (As in, do not half the rest of the ingredients, follow the same portions listed.) I think the consistency of the pasta and the amount of meat with each bite works when halving the amount of spaghetti. If you need to cook more pasta for more people, then simply double everything else.
  2. Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I find that freshly grated Parmesan cheese makes for a creamier, consistent texture for a carbonara compared to the pre-grated stuff in the container. It’s an extra step that takes a little more time, but the payoff is absolutely worth it.
  3. Turn off the heat when mixing in the sauce. The cheesy egg mixture can quickly turn into scrambled eggs if you overcook the carbonara, so I highly recommend turning off the heat when it’s time to mix everything together. The pasta, the meat, and the skillet are still hot enough for the sauce to thicken without overcooking, and will give you that creamy carbonara texture without the unflattering chunks of cheesy egg.