Spaghetti Carbonara is just super simple, easy cooking. When you’re in a no-fuss mood, this dish can get food on the table in under 30 minutes. It’s perfect for lunch or dinner and is a great mid-week meal. It’s so easy there’s almost no preparation required. Most of these ingredients are usually in the pantry and it’s a good recipe for using up leftover meat from something else.
I’m actually not a huge pasta eater, but the simplicity of carbonara is something that’s made this dish part of my regular rotation. I should mention right off the bat that there’s no cream in this recipe. A lot of people seem to add it in and I don’t understand why. Traditional Italian carbonara sauce is made using egg and cheese and is quite simple. Perhaps there’s an attraction to cream because it can make the sauce thicker. If you ask me it just makes the pasta gluey and the whole dish unnecessarily heavy.
A lot of flavour from a few ingredients
One of the dangers with a recipe that has so few ingredients is that there’s nowhere to hide. Everything is on show and tinkering with proportions can vastly change the outcome. There’s a careful balance of flavours in this recipe that allows everything to shine, while keeping it all super tasty.
There’s not much you can do with the egg and pasta, other than seasoning, so the trick to a yummy spaghetti carbonara is in the cheese and pork selections. Chunky bacon or lardons go really well in this recipe. I like to use a smoked bacon as it helps add an extra touch of flavour. Ham hock is also a great option if you want to go with something a bit fancy. If bacon isn’t your thing, you can make this dish using chicken. Sausage or chorizo also work really well.
The cheese should be something hard like a Pecorino or Parmesan. I usually choose the latter because it’s always in the fridge. Make sure the Parmesan is freshly grated as it will maximise its flavour and ensure a rich sauce. The pre-shredded varieties from the supermarket are always so dry and bland.
If you want a little more vegetables in your pasta, adding some peas is a good trick. I sometimes do this when I’m making carbonara for dinner as it makes the meal a touch more hearty.
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Making spaghetti carbonara
Making the carbonara is very easy. Fry the bacon, or whatever meat you’re using, to give it some colour and ensure it’s cooked through. While that’s going get a pot of salted water on the boil and add in the spaghetti. About 75-100g per person is a good amount but you can adjust to your preference. When the meat is cooked, transfer it to a board and dice it up. It’s also a good time to chop the spring onion and grate some Parmesan. Lightly whisk the egg with a handful of the grated cheese and season generously with pepper.
By now the pasta should be almost ready. When it’s cooked to your liking, strain the pot, reserving about a tablespoon of the cooking liquid. Place the pasta back in the pot. Stir in the bacon, spring onion and egg, along with the cooking liquid. Use a spoon to keep everything moving so the egg doesn’t fry. Once the sauce has thickened, transfer to serving plates. Garnish with some more spring onion, grated Parmesan and a few cracks of black pepper.
That’s all there is to it. A quick and easy meal without any fuss. If you’re keen for another easy pasta recipe, be sure to check out my Beef Cheek Ragu with Pappardelle. It’s simple slow cooking that only requires 15 minutes of preparation and tastes incredible!
A vegetarian option
This recipe can easily be converted into a vegetarian meal by removing the meat altogether. It goes great with broccolini or other green vegetables. For next-level broccolini flavour, lay some out on an oven tray in a single layer. Then drizzle with olive oil and crushed garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bake the broccolini in the oven at 180ºC for 30 minutes until it’s cooked through and the tops are starting to turn crispy. Chop into bite size chunks and add to the pasta with the egg and spring onions.
- 2 eggs
- 150 g spaghetti
- ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 4 rashers smoked short-cut bacon
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
- black pepper, to season
- sea salt, to season
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the freshly grated Parmesan, reserving about a tablespoon of the cheese for garnish. Season generously with pepper.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions until al dente, or to your liking.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon. Place the olive oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until browned and starting to turn crispy. Transfer to a cutting board and dice or slice into strips.
- When the pasta is cooked, reserve a small amount of the cooking liquid in a cup then drain the saucepan using a colander. Transfer the pasta back into the saucepan. Add a tablespoon of the reserved cooking liquid to the pasta then stir in the bacon, spring onion and egg mixture. Work quickly so the eggs don’t scramble in the pan but keep stirring until the sauce has thickened. If the sauce is a little dry, add another spoonful of cooking liquid. If it’s a little wet, put the pot back on a medium heat, stirring continuously until the egg thickens a little. It is ready when it's a creamy consistency.
- Serve immediately and garnish with grated Parmesan and a few generous cracks of black pepper.
- No bacon? This recipe also works great with chicken, sausage or chorizo in its place.
- More vegetables? Add some peas alongside the egg and spring onion.
- Make it vegetarian. Swap out the bacon for roasted broccolini. Lay the broccolini out on an oven tray in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and crushed garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 180ºC for 30 minutes until cooked through and the tops start to turn crispy. Chop into bite size chunks and add to the pasta with the egg and spring onions.
Have you tried this recipe?
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