Cook Spaghetti Carbonara Like a Roman

Spaghetti carbonara is one of the pinnacles of Italian cuisine.  Its cheesy, savory, meaty cream sauce is ideal for a main course.  There are many variations of this dish, but for the truly Roman way of cooking, try the following recipe.

And don't forget, it's also great with a little tomato bruschetta on the side.


Spaghetti Carbonara

Ingredients (for a large single serving)

  • Spaghetti (uncooked - gather a bundle about a quarter's diameter across)
  • Bacon (3-4 uncooked slices or some salt pork)
  • Garlic (2 or 3 cloves), chopped or crushed
  • Parmesan cheese (a real block, NOT the green bottle kind)
  • 1 large egg
  • Lots of pepper


  1. Boil a medium sized pot of water.  It doesn't need to be a huge stockpot- just big enough to hold your decent serving of uncooked spaghetti.  Add a bit of salt.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, beat the egg in a bowl. Then, using a cheese grater, grate the block of parmesan cheese directly into the raw egg. (Don't worry- the egg will cook later.)  Grate enough cheese so the mixture becomes thick, not as solid as frosting, but similar to a thick molasses.  Use a fine-sized grater if you can, since bigger shavings don't mix as easily.
  3. Add lots of black pepper into your egg mix, at least a half teaspoon.  
  4. When the water boils, place your spaghetti in the water.  Fold the spaghetti under the surface if the strands stick outside of the pot. Stir every few minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, as the pasta boils, fry the bacon in a nonstick frying pan. It should get crispy, but not over dry. Crumble up the bacon into small bits on the side, but KEEP some bacon grease in the pan, about a tablespoon or more if you like.
  6. While the bacon grease is still hot, drop in the chopped garlic (or crush it with a garlic press). Lightly brown the garlic and turn off the heat.
  7. It's almost time to make the magic happen.  When the spaghetti is al dente (if a strand will stick to the wall and stay there), take it off the heat and strain it into the sink.  VERY IMPORTANT: do not rinse!  Get the spaghetti back into the cooking pot immediately, to keep it as hot as possible.  If it's still a little wet, that's no problem. A little water left will keep the noodles from sticking.  
  8. Dump the egg and cheese mix into the hot pasta. Give it a good few stirs to coat the hot noodles with the raw egg, as this will cook the egg and melt the cheese.
  9. Now dump in the remaining bacon grease with the browned garlic.  Stir everything together until you have an even consistency of hot, creamy, cheesy bacon noodles.
  10. Serve hot!

A few added tips:

  • If your spaghetti gets too cool the egg mix will be runny.  Try heating the bottom of the pot on low heat as you stir to make up for the temperature loss.
  • Keep a small cup of the pasta cooking water on the side before draining. You can add a little bit to the final dish if the sauce is too dry.
  • For a bigger portion, increase the amounts of ingredients. Figure about 1 egg per person.
  • This is not an Alfredo cream sauce.  Even though the dish doesn't have butter and milk, it will still knock your socks off!