Carbonara Original: How to Make the Authentic Italian Pasta Dish


Carbonara is one of the most popular and delicious pasta dishes in Italian cuisine. Carbonara is a delectable yet straightforward dish, featuring spaghetti mixed with crispy guanciale (cured pork cheek), eggs, cheese, and black pepper. Yet, there are numerous variations and common misconceptions about preparing authentic carbonara. In this article, we’ll guide you through making original carbonara, adhering to a recipe and tips from an Italian chef, who inherited this culinary art from his grandmother. Additionally, you’ll gain insights into carbonara’s history and origins, along with tips to sidestep frequent errors in its preparation.

What You Need to Make Carbonara Original

carbonara original recipes

To make carbonara original, you only need five ingredients: spaghetti, guanciale, eggs, pecorino romano cheese, and black pepper. That’s it. No cream, no garlic, no parsley, no onion, no bacon, no parmesan. These are all additions that are not part of the traditional recipe, and they can alter the taste and texture of the dish. Here are some details about each ingredient:


Spaghetti is the most common pasta shape used for carbonara, but you can also use other long and thin pasta, such as linguine or bucatini. Cook the pasta al dente, firm to the bite, not mushy or overcooked.


Guanciale is the key ingredient that gives carbonara its distinctive flavor and aroma. It’s a cured pork cheek that has a lot of fat and a slightly smoky taste. Guanciale, distinct from pancetta (cured pork belly) and bacon (smoked pork belly), may be elusive outside Italy. However, you can explore online options or specialty stores for it. Alternatively, if guanciale remains inaccessible, pancetta serves as a suitable substitute; conversely, avoid bacon due to its excessive saltiness and smokiness, which are not ideal for carbonara.


Eggs are the ingredient that creates the creamy sauce for carbonara, without adding any cream or milk. You need one egg per person, plus one extra egg yolk for the whole recipe. The eggs should be fresh and at room temperature. You can use either whole eggs or only egg yolks, depending on how rich and thick you want the sauce to be. Whole eggs will make the sauce lighter and more fluid, while egg yolks will make it richer and thicker.

Pecorino romano cheese:

Pecorino romano is a hard sheep’s milk cheese that has a salty and sharp flavor .It’s the traditional cheese used for carbonara, and it adds a lot of taste and texture to the dish. You need about 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of grated pecorino romano for four servings of carbonara. You can use a microplane or a cheese grater to grate the cheese finely. Don’t use parmesan cheese, as it has a different flavor and texture, and it can make the sauce too dry and clumpy.

Black pepper:

Black pepper is the final touch that adds some spice and contrast to the dish. You need about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper for four servings of carbonara. You can use a pepper mill or a mortar and pestle to grind the pepper coarsely. Don’t use pre-ground pepper, as it has less flavor and aroma.

How to Make Carbonara Original: Step by Step

Now that you have all the ingredients ready, let’s see how to make carbonara original, following the step by step instructions from the video 1:

Step 1:

how to make carbonara original

Cut the guanciale into small cubes or strips, about 1 cm (0.4 inch) thick. You don’t need to remove the rind, as it will melt and add flavor to the dish.

Step 2:

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti for about 10 minutes, or as per the package directions, until al dente. Remember to stir the pasta occasionally, ensuring it doesn’t stick together.. You don’t need to add any oil or butter, as the guanciale will release its own fat. If the skillet gets too dry, you can add a splash of water to prevent the guanciale from burning. When the guanciale is done, turn off the heat and set it aside, keeping the fat in the skillet.

Step 3:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti for about 10 minutes, or according to the package directions, until al dente. Stir the pasta occasionally to prevent it from sticking together. Reserve about a cup of the pasta cooking water, and drain the pasta well.

Step 4:

carbonara original italian

In a small bowl, first whisk the eggs with a fork until they’re well combined. Then, stir in about half of the grated pecorino romano cheese, whisking again until smooth.. Season with a pinch of salt and a generous amount of black pepper. The egg mixture should be creamy and slightly thick, not runny or watery.

Step 5:

taste carbonara cook
taste carbonara cook

Transfer the pasta to the skillet with the guanciale and the fat, and toss well to coat. Turn on the heat to low, and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the pasta is hot and glossy. If the skillet is too dry, you can add a little bit of the reserved pasta water to moisten the pasta.

Step 6:

finaly cook carbonara original

Turn off the heat, and quickly pour the egg mixture over the pasta, tossing well to combine. The residual heat of the pasta will cook the eggs and create a creamy sauce, without scrambling them. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little more of the reserved pasta water to thin it out. If the sauce is too thin, you can cook it for a few more seconds over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. The sauce should coat the pasta evenly, and have a smooth and velvety texture.

Step 7:

carbonara original recipe

Sprinkle the remaining pecorino romano cheese over the pasta, and toss again to mix. Adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve the carbonara hot, with more cheese and pepper if desired.

The History and Origin of Carbonara

Carbonara is a relatively modern dish, as it dates back to the mid-20th century. There are many theories and legends about its origin, but none of them is confirmed or verified. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Invented by the carbonari, the charcoal makers who worked in the Apennine mountains, and used guanciale and cheese to season their pasta.
  • Created by the American soldiers who occupied Rome after World War II, and mixed their bacon and eggs with the local pasta and cheese.
  • Carbonara was named after the carbonara, a secret society that fought for the unification of Italy in the 19th century, and used this dish as a symbol of their identity.
  • Inspired by the cacio e ova, a simple dish of pasta with cheese and eggs that was common in the Abruzzo region, and was enriched with guanciale and pepper by the Roman chefs.

Whatever the origin, carbonara is now one of the most famous and beloved pasta dishes in the world, and a staple of the Roman cuisine.

Read more about Easy Sponge Cake Baking Guide: Delicious Recipes & Tips

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Carbonara

Carbonara is a simple dish, but it requires some attention and skill to make it right. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when making carbonara:

    • Using cream, garlic, onion, parsley, or other ingredients that are not part of the original recipe. These ingredients can alter the flavor and texture of the dish, and make it too heavy and greasy.
    • Use bacon, pancetta, or ham instead of guanciale. These meats have a different taste and texture, and can make the dish too salty and smoky. Guanciale is the best choice for carbonara, as it has a unique flavor and aroma, and renders a lot of fat that creates the sauce.
    • Apply parmesan, grana padano, or other cheeses instead of pecorino romano. These cheeses have a different flavor and texture, and can make the sauce too dry and clumpy. Pecorino romano is the best cheese for carbonara, as it has a salty and sharp flavor, and melts well with the eggs.
    • Cooking the eggs over high heat, or adding them to the pasta when it’s too hot. This can cause the eggs to scramble, and ruin the sauce. The eggs should be cooked over low heat, or off the heat, and added to the pasta when it’s slightly cooled down. The eggs should create a creamy and smooth sauce, not a lumpy and dry one.
    • Overcooking or undercooking the pasta. Cook the pasta al dente, firm to the bite, and avoid overcooking. Ensure it’s well drained, preventing it from becoming too wet or sticky. Finally, evenly coat the pasta with sauce, aiming for a glossy and velvety texture.


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