Break out the spaghetti but ditch the tomato sauce—this quick and easy pasta carbonara recipe is fresh, smoky and delicious!
There are varying accounts about what the name carbonara actually means. Many people believe that the name carbonara refers to the prevalent black pepper in the dish, resembling coal or carbon. The truth is we don’t care what you call it, as long as it tastes amazing!
This is a great weeknight dinner because the instructions are simple and the dish is prepared quickly. The key to making this recipe efficient is having all of your ingredients prepped in advance—cook the bacon, grate the cheese and mince the garlic. This way, your dish will come together in lightening speed.
The secret to the sauce is this—the eggs are cooked from the residual heat from your boiled pasta noodles. Ahem, this is how we’ll cook the frozen peas too! Therefore, it’s important to drain the noodles then quickly return them to the pot to stir in the remaining ingredients.
After you add the eggs, it’s imperative that you stir quickly and constantly for 30 seconds until the emulsion (mixture of liquids) has formed and you’re not in danger of scrambling the eggs. It sounds slightly complex, but rest assured, it’s not difficult at all. The process creates an amazing cream-like sauce without using a drop of actual cream!
The original version of this recipe contains the Italian version of bacon, called pancetta. We favored the smoky taste that American bacon lent to this dish so we went with our taste buds. Besides, American bacon is less expensive and so much easier to find at the grocery store.
Pasta Carbonara Recipe
- 1 lb spaghetti, dry
- 8 - 10 slices bacon, cut into half inch pieces
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, or red onion, dice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp white wine, dry
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup peas, frozen
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions or however you like it.
- While you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil then for the spaghetti to cook, you will need to prepare the remaining ingredients. As soon as the pasta is finished cooking you must completely assemble the dish in mere seconds. If you prepare the ingredients before you cook the pasta then you can sip wine instead!
- Add the diced bacon to a large skillet and place it over a medium heat to begin to render the fat and crisp up the bacon. Be sure to give it a stir from time to time--this process will take about 8−10 minutes. When the bacon is crispy, transfer it to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Remove all but 3 tbsp of the bacon fat from the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and cook until tender and translucent, which will take 4−5 minutes. Once the onions are tender, add the white wine and cook for 1 additional minute. You will notice that most, if not all, of the wine will evaporate during this time, which is exactly what you want. After 1 minute, remove the pan from the heat, add the crispy bacon back into the skillet and set it aside.
- Next, in a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs and Parmesan cheese until completely combined. Move all of the recipe components into the area where you will assemble the final dish. You’ll want them all within arm’s reach when it comes time to put it all together.
- When the pasta is nearly cooked, place the frozen peas in the bottom of the colander that you will be draining the noodles into. When the pasta is perfect, drain it into the colander containing the frozen peas.
- Now, work quickly because the residual heat from the pasta will cook the eggs in this dish. As soon as the noodles are drained, transfer the pasta and peas back into the hot pot. Add the contents of the skillet (bacon, onion, garlic, wine and oil) to the pasta. Pour the egg and Parmesan mixture over the pasta and immediately begin to stir all of the ingredients together. If you don’t work fast enough, or if you stop stirring too soon, you will end up with scrambled eggs and pasta, which may be delicious, but it is certainly not pasta carbonara.
- When all of the ingredients have been combined properly, your noodles should be completely coated in a glossy creamy sauce, but there won’t be any extra pooling in the bottom of the pot.
- Taste a noodle or two and season to taste with salt. We have not included amounts for salt because bacon and parmesan both contain highly varying amounts of salt. It may be possible that you do not need to add any additional salt at all. You will, however, need to add black pepper, as much as you would like.
- Transfer everything to a serving dish, sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and prepare to be amazed that a sauce so wonderful could be so fast and easy!
We minced our own garlic for this recipe, but it’s even easier to buy minced garlic at the grocery store. It’s inexpensive and you won’t get the smell on your hands!