Exploring vegan, vegetarian and sustainable cooking

Pasta alla carbonara

Source: Fine Cooking #121 (also at

A few months ago, I made Fine Cooking’s modern twist on pasta alla carbonara, a pasta carbonara frittata. However, at that point, I had never made the original dish. So here we go!

Pasta alla carbonara, or simply pasta carbonara, or even just carbonara, is a roman specialty. It’s very simple, in both ingredients and technique, but is very delicious. I usually have all the ingredients on hand, so it has actually become a regular meal in our household. It’s basically spaghetti with bacon in an egg-parmesan cheese sauce.

It’s traditionally made with guanciale, an Italian cured meat similar to pancetta or bacon. For simplicity, I generally use bacon.

While spaghetti or another pasta is boiling, you cook the bacon. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. When the pasta is cooked, reserve some of the pasta water, drain the pasta then toss it with the bacon. Add the egg-cheese mixture and combine well. Add a bit of the pasta water to thin the sauce.

Serve with some freshly-cracked black pepper. It’s said that this dish was popular with the coal workers in Rome and that’s where the name carbonara originates. The pepper is a reference to the coal dust that would fall off them.

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