Carbonara is a classic Roman pasta dish made with only 5 ingredients: eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese browned guanciale (cured pork cheek), black pepper, and spaghetti. Reluctantly, we're making substituting pancetta (cured pork belly) for guanciale given its price and slim availability. If you can find it at your local specialty butcher shop, please indulge. It's a bit stronger and naturally spicier than pancetta. There's not a substitute in the world for the creaminess of eggs and cheese and pasta water to make the sauce - there is no need to add cream!

The cooking challenge, if you can call it that, is combining the egg/cheese mixture with the already cooked spaghetti in one dish to create a creamy sauce and not an eggy mess. It's very simple if you follow our NYTimesCooking-inspired recipe. 

Once you get the hang of it and see what it's like to have your own DIY authentic Carbonara you can get creative by adding these ingredients to the finished sauce, cooking briefly:

  • Grilled or roasted chicken or seafood
  • Dried red chili flakes
  • Peas or spinach
  • Fresh herbs like parsley, basil or thyme 


100g panetta (or guanciale if available) cubed into small pieces
2 large eggs and 2 large yolks
1/3 cup packed finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese 
1/3 cup packed finely grated Parmesan cheese
Coarsely ground black pepper (lots of it)
1 tbsp EVOO

340g spaghetti (about 3/4 - 454g box)


Place a large pot of lightly salted water (no more than 1 tablespoon salt) over high heat, and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. While cooking pasta complete the following steps:

In a separate large bowl, fill it with hot water and set it aside. You will use it later when combining the pasta with the cheese/egg mixture.

In a medium bowl whisk eggs and cheese until completely combined. Add black pepper.

On medium heat, in a large skillet place oil, then add cured pork and saute until the fat renders, and the pancetta pieces are lightly crisped. Remove from heat and set aside. 

When pasta is done, reserve 1 cup of pasta water then drain the spaghetti. Add to the skillet and over low heat stir in the spaghetti and cook for a minute or two.

Empty the hot water from the large bowl you set aside earlier. Dry it well, then add the hot spaghetti and pancetta mixture. Pour in the cheese mixture with a bit of the pasta water if needed and stir well until creamy. Add more pasta water if necessary. This step, this way will prevent the eggs from ever becoming "scrambled".

Serve immediately with more finely grated cheese and more fresh coarsely ground black pepper as desired.