Recipe Review

Rachael Ray’s Most Beloved Italian Pasta Is Irresistibly Creamy — Without a Drop of Cream

published Apr 14, 2024
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Rachael Ray carbonara recipe.
Credit: Samantha Schwab

When it comes to pasta, I have my tried-and-true recipes for almost all of the classics: slow-cooked bolognese sauce, creamy fettuccine alfredo, penne alla vodka, classic pesto, you name it. But missing from my repertoire? Pasta carbonara, a simple but flavor-packed pasta with a creamy egg-based sauce. Traditionally, spaghetti carbonara is tossed with egg, guanciale (or pancetta), Pecorino Romano, and black pepper. The egg is what gives it a unique creaminess, without butter or cream.

In search of a carbonara recipe to add to my repertoire, I turned to the one and only, Rachael Ray. Her pasta carbonara (aka Rach’s Carbonara) is a favorite late-night dinner in her household, but will it be a hit in ours? Let’s find out. 

Get the recipe: Rach’s Carbonara 

How to Make Rachael Ray’s Pasta Carbonara

Bring a large pot of water to boil. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Once shimmering, add the pancetta or guanciale and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until brown and crispy. Add the chopped garlic, a few grinds of fresh black pepper, and cook for another 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with white wine and reduce the heat to low. Meanwhile, in a medium-size bowl, whisk the egg yolks and season with salt and pepper.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Using a measuring cup or ladle, remove a cup of the starchy pasta water from the pot. While constantly whisking, slowly stream the hot water into the egg yolks to temper them. 

Before draining the pasta, reserve an extra half of a cup of the starchy water in case the sauce is too thick. Drain the pasta into a large colander over the sink and then add to the skillet with the pancetta and garlic. Remove the pan from heat and pour in the egg yolks, grated cheese, and parsley. Toss until well combined. Season with additional salt and pepper and add pasta water, if needed.

My Honest Opinion of Rachael Ray’s Pasta Carbonara

Rachael Ray’s pasta carbonara recipe was simple to follow and delicious. It only required a handful of ingredients and came together in under 15 minutes, making it perfect for an easy, fuss-free weeknight dinner. The sauce was luscious and creamy, but it didn’t feel heavy. I also appreciated that her recipe was authentic to traditional carbonara and didn’t “cheat” by adding in cream, as many recipes often do. 

I did notice, however, that Rachael had a couple of tweaks that really made this dish really stand out. Most notably, she uses white wine to deglaze the pan after cooking the guanciale and garlic. The acidity from the wine balanced out the dish and, after following this method, I don’t think I’d make it any other way. The other difference was the parsley, which Rachael used with abundance. Most carbonara recipes don’t have parsley or use it only as garnish, but I really enjoyed the added herbiness. 

Overall, it was a really delicious recipe that was a hit in my household. The only thing I would adjust in the future is the pork. I couldn’t find guanciale in my local market, so I used pancetta, but I was longing for more of it. Rachael’s recipe called for 1/3 pound of pork, but I would probably go for a half pound next time! 

Credit: Samantha Schwab

3 Tips for Making the Pasta Carbonara

  • Reserve more pasta water. I had only reserved 1/2 cup of the pasta water per the recipe’s instructions, but I found I could have used another 1/2 cup.
  • Freshly grate the cheese. I prefer a fresh block of cheese to pre-grated, which typically has anticaking agents and tends to dry out. Given how few ingredients there are in this dish, you really want to buy the highest quality your budget allows for. Parmesan works wonderfully here as well and is typically more affordable than Pecorino Romano.
  • Serve the carbonara immediately. Keep in mind that the sauce thickens as it cools. For maximum creaminess, enjoy it as soon as it’s done.

Get the recipe: Rach’s Carbonara