Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jan 29, 2007 03:09 PM

Spaghetti Carbonara recipe

Long long ago when I was a small boy, we spent our summers in Naples. My dad taught a summer seminar there. Perhaps my fire for delicious food was first kindled there. We had an Italian friend who was rich enough to eat at the fanciest places but he preferred to seek out cheap rustic places in tiny off-the-beaten-track villages. We once ate pizza in a hamlet whose streets were so narrow that our car got stuck between two houses. I loved the pizza but my favorite thing was spaghetti carbonara.

I never order it in the U.S. because I'm afraid it wouldn't be the same. A few years ago, an old man, then about eighty, emailed me a recipe he had got in Naples 25 years before. It used cream and American bacon and I figured it would be totally inauthentic. (The authentic kind, I believe, uses raw eggs which cook by the heat of the spaghetti after the burner has been turned off.) So I put it aside. One of my friends made it for me tonight and it was wonderful! Just like I remembered. So here's the recipe. (She is LDS [Mormon] so we omitted the wine)

1 pound bacon, diced (easiest while semi-frozen)
1 medium onion, minced
1 cup dry white wine (Rosé wine may be used)
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound spaghetti
4 (extra-large) eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy cream

DIRECTIONS: (Total preparation time, about 1 1/2 hours)

In a large heavy pot, sauté diced bacon over low heat until half done,
about 15 minutes, until semi-browned. Add minced onion, and sauté over
medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 15 more minutes. Remove from
heat, allow to cool slightly, and DRAIN OFF FAT. Add the 1 cup wine and
1 teaspoon pepper, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.
While bacon mix is simmering, in a large glass or porcelain bowl mix the
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese with the 1 cup of heavy cream; stir. Add the 4
eggs, and stir (with a whisk) to blend smoothly. Set aside.

Also while bacon mixture is simmering, cook 1 pound of capellini,
according to package directions, to the al dente stage. (Time cooking
of the pasta to coordinate with completion of simmering the bacon
mixture.) Drain the cooked capellini, and add the capellini to the pot
containing the bacon mixture; stir to coat capellini evenly. Then, while
continuing to stir capellini/bacon mix over VERY LOW HEAT, slowly pour
the egg/cheese/cream mixture over the capellini; mix quickly* but well,
lifting the pasta with forks until it is well-coated (this is most
easily done as a two-person operation, with one person pouring the egg
mixture, the other lifting and stirring the pasta). Remove to warm
serving bowl(s)*, and serve immediately.

This entrée is so very rich that it is best served with simple
accompaniments; a tossed salad, garlic bread, and white wine are

This had been served at the NATO Officers Club in Naples, Italy, some 25
years ago.[my friend wrote] I asked the chef for the recipe, and over the years I've
made it evolve. (In all modesty, I think it's better than the
original...with the minor exception that rather than use bacon, the
authentic formula calls for pancetta[actually, it worked just fine with bacon].)
* Note: mixing too slowly, and/or allowing pasta to stand in warm pot
may curdle the egg mixture.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I stumbled upon this recipe after searching using cream in carbonara. When I was a child my family lived in Naples. While there, my mother took Italian cooking classes from an Italian chef. She has since passed down those recipes to me.

    This!!! This is the same exact dish she learned and I have no doubt it's pretty darn authentic and carbonara will forever have cream in it to me! ;)

    1. I might give this a try, although it seems part of my constitution that I cannot eat much of such rich pasta without feeling a bit ill. Likewise alfredo.

      If you can find it, consider hunting up guanciale as an alternative to either bacon or pancetta.

      Also, for a lighter, Rome-centric dish, consider cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper). It epitomizes much of Italian cooking in appearing to be very simple but in fact requiring quite specific technique in assembly. Beware of a Mario Batali-related recipe that circulate widely on the internet, as it calls for way more black pepper than is appealing to most anyone. (I've tried it.)

      I have found the detailed treatment and actual recipe for cacio e pepe at this page to be helpful and the recipe excellent:

        1. I'm curious about the use of capellini for the pasta. Is that what's traditionally used with a carbonara sauce? I always thought capellini was okay with a fresh tomato sauce, but not much else, and that a cream sauce like the carbonara needs a more substantial pasta -- fettuccini or tagliatelle, for example.

            1. re: pegasis0066

              I'm pretty sure there are dozens of threads on Chow where people argue endlessly over what is proper carbonara. It's amazing how sensitive people are to this particular dish. I agree with your opinion, but as the OP (from 2007) admits, it's inauthentic (but probably pretty tasty).

              1. re: LorenzoGA

                The origination of carbonara and it's roots, as well as the stardard style of serving in Italy in the region it orginated is well documented.

                And I do and applaud riffs on it all day long.
                But you need a base line.

                The bigger challenge you get into if/when dining out or even being a guest diner at a friends home, is the fact that many fail to explain what is in "THEIR" version of carbonara.

                I find it a problem monthy if dining out at Italian restaurants in America.

                There IS a standard. If varying the recipe, Let your patrons know. If you order wine, does it matter to you if it's MD 20/20, Boones Farm, 2 buck chuck or a $1k bottle of bordeaux from France. Wine is wine, RIGHT?

                Just like pasta carbonara is pasta carbonara anywhere it is served in the USA, restaurants and homes alike. All the same, right?

                Words and descriptions have meaning. Otherwise an enchilada could be served as a taco with the same name in the culinary world, 'cause, you know, it's kinda the same shit that's in both dishes.
                Close enough for me. :-)

                1. re: jjjrfoodie

                  I'm not getting into this one. As I said, this theme--and specifically with regard to carbonara--has been discussed again and again.

                  1. re: LorenzoGA

                    LGA, I wasn't arguing with you, but mainly agreeing with you.

                    Tasty food is tasty food. I'm all for it no matter the riff.

                    But mis-lableing food or mis-describing food sets up failed expectations for those that LOVED what they ate only to find that they cannot find it again due to misinformation.

                    Home cooking allows more leeway to me, as I CAN go back and fuss with round 2.0, but dining out is more complicated.

                    I ordered Chiles Rellenos last week for the first time from a VERY reputable authentic restaurant only to find them filled with a hint of cheese but maily mashed potatoes.
                    They said that was the way they were taught to make them at home, thus it is now what they make at the restaurant.
                    No listng of potatoes on the menu in the dish description.

                    Again, not arguing. Words and dishes have variations. I'm all for it if tasty.
                    And in reality , chili definations get more hate/love than pasta carb. ever will.


                  2. re: jjjrfoodie

                    The authentic version calls for guanciale, but pancetta can be used if one doesn't have any guanciale.

                    Looks okay, but it's not carbonara.

                    At the end of the day, as long as the OP was happy, it doesn't matter what I think.