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Carbonara - cream or no cream?

Have never made carbonara at home before...and really never order it out.

But I have some leftover salmon and all the makings for carbonara so I thought I'd try making a salmon version tonight.

Looking around on line I see lots of recipes...with or without cream? Is one or the other better? I thought the traditional version did not include cream?

Also for a half pound of spaghetti...how many eggs(or egg yolks and eggs)?


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  1. No cream. I'd say 2 egg yolks.

    1. I agree, 2 eggs. But isn't everything better with cream? I'd definitely go for cream.

      1 Reply
      1. 2 whole eggs or 2 egg yolks? Or a combinatino of whole and yolks?

        2 Replies
          1. re: ziggylu

            It depends how rich/thick you want it. If you want it super rich use just the yolks.

          2. Salmon in Carbonara? Blasphemy. Your only ingredients should be pasta, eggs, pancetta, minced parsley, black pepper, salt, parmigiano (or grana padano) and pecorino. No cream. Some would even argue that there shouldn't be parmigiano or parsley. Grill the salmon as a secondo.

            17 Replies
            1. re: mangiatore

              I agree about the salmon, but have also been known to commit blasphemy myself - I'm sure it would be tasty.

              1. re: MMRuth

                The flavors might be ok together, but it sounds like a big mess to me.

                Also, eggs, cheese, and salmon...good lord that's a heavy dish.

                1. re: mangiatore

                  good thing I didn't invite you for dinner then?

                  The salmon is leftover...already grilled. Just looking for soemthing different to do with it.

                  Thanks for the tips on the method.

                  1. re: ziggylu

                    Hmm, in that case (if it were me), I'd make a salmon pasta. Ingredients that might go well with your salmon include cream, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, parsley, garlic and olive oil. :)

                    1. re: mangiatore

                      Actually I have a couple salmon and pea pasta recipes I make a lot...one iwth cream and lemon and another with leeks, white wine and orange zest. Both are quite nice...

                      Just looking for something a little different...didn't think this would explode like this...I never had any intention of using cheese for what it's worth...i have some peas and bacon on hand and thought maybe trying something along the lines of carbonara might be interesting...haven't used the technique and was just trying to get my question across regarding cream - which I didnt' think was traditional or necessary - and the proporiton of egg to pasta in the easiest way ...obviously I should have called it something else.

                      1. re: ziggylu

                        No worries. You use the wrong word and everyone goes crazy. Btw, the flavor combinations in those salmon recipes sound legit.

                        1. re: mangiatore

                          They are quite tasty...and I will humbly submit better than what I made tonight. It wasn't bad at all but probably not something I'd go out of my way to make again. My husband though has never had true carbonara and is now dying to try it...so now that I have the technique in hand I"ll have to whip some up for him next week.

                          As for the bacon and salmon together...a few have mentioned that not being good. I will say if you haven't tried Molly Steven's Pinot Noir Braised Salmon from the All About Braising book to give it a try. This a favorite recipe in our house, both for ourselves and guests...and uses a fair amount of bacon both in the braise and as garnish.

                        2. re: ziggylu

                          By any chance, ziggylu, might you be able to post your leek-white wine-orange zest-salmon pasta recipe? It sounds like just the lighter salmon pasta recipe I've been looking for!

                      2. re: ziggylu

                        Interesting, I was sure it was smoked salmon. One of my daughter's faves is pasta with smoked salmon and sour cream. Grownups would probably like a little fresh dill, too.
                        The smoked-salmon-and-pasta could be renamed "kosher carbonara."
                        For me, spaghetti alla carbonara has eggs, cream, and grated parmesan, and you cook the eggs slowly, stirring, to thicken the sauce. Then I guess you crumble your pancetta (I use lardons fumés).

                  2. re: mangiatore

                    At the risk of starting another argument, some would say authentic carbonara uses guanciale, not pancetta.


                    1. re: kandagawa

                      In this day and age no one really makes that argument, but it's true that the recipe began with guanciale. We're splitting hairs at that point though...

                      1. re: mangiatore

                        That's why I love chowhound! Where else can we split hairs about food?

                    2. re: mangiatore

                      Drop the pancetta, cheese and parsley, add some dill, salmon and cream and you have a nice (but heavy) meal. It isn't carbonara, but it is darn tasty.

                      I've never used cream in carbonara, and never seen a recipe from a chef I'd trust that did. Nothing against cream sauces, I like them too, but they are a whole different thing.

                      1. re: mangiatore

                        I concur whole heartedly. No parm or parsley but pecorino. Coarsely freshly grated black pepper.

                        1. re: mangiatore

                          Some would say that parmigiano is blasphemy - its a Lazio recipe, thus romano is the only cheese used.

                          1. re: mangiatore

                            Go ahead and make the dish.
                            But, if there's salmon in it and/or cream, it's not carbonara.
                            Call it something else.
                            Call it "leftovers".
                            It ain't carbonara.

                            1. re: eljacko

                              Carbonara is one of those dishes where, unfortunately, the best way to really know what the dish should taste like is to eat it in Rome.

                              It is pretty easy to get the correct ingredients, follow an authentic recipe as closely as possible, and end up with something that isn't at all like it's meant to be. It might still be good, just something different.

                          2. This is a version of (IIRC) Jill St John's version, appeared in a magazine in the late 70s/early 80s, it has been modified from the magazine version.

                            ½ lb bacon
                            Olive Oil
                            ¼ lb sliced onion
                            1/3 lb sliced mushrooms
                            ¼ cup whipping cream
                            ¼ cup chopped parsley
                            2 eggs
                            1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
                            ½ lb spaghetti

                            cook bacon, drain, remove,
                            sauté onions until clear, remove,
                            Saute mushrooms in butter, add bacon and onions mix.
                            Mix parsley, pepper, eggs, cream and cheese.
                            Add spaghetti to large bowl, add bacon/mushroom/onion mixture on top,
                            Pour egg mixture over and toss.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Alan408

                              The above version might be good, but it is not Carbonara. I will rename it Pasta Complicata Eccessiva.

                              Oh, no cream, pasta water is all you need.

                              1. re: stevuchan

                                Thanks...I was suspecting a bit of pasta water would be a good thing to include.

                                  1. re: stevuchan

                                    And that is not even addressing the issue of the source! ;)

                                  2. re: Alan408

                                    okay, that's a HUGE mess then!

                                    i'd do the salmon as a fish course and a basic carbonera: pasta, pancetta (or okay, bacon), whole eggs, black pepper, sea salt, grating cheese. add too much stuff to the recipe and the technique's not going to work, and i think that tossing the salmon with pasta would just shred it and detract from the appearance of the dish.

                                    no cream, no butter, no evoo

                                    1. re: Alan408

                                      Half a pound of bacon??!!! This will throw off a LOT of bacon fat! Since this is a carbonara, where - by carbonara logic - the hot pork fat is the main thing cooking the raw eggs, this will be a cholesterol disaster. Especially with the OO, butter, and whipping cream boosting the fat content.

                                      1. re: Sharuf

                                        Very belatedly, but it's the cooked hot pasta that cooks the eggs, not the bacon/fat.

                                        If anyone else wants a salmon pasta recipe, ppl in comments have made this with fresh salmon as well: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                        1. re: lepidoptery

                                          It's neither the bacon fat, nor the pasta that cooks the egg.
                                          It's the heat.
                                          And, if it's done well, those eggs aren't cooked very much.

                                          1. re: eljacko

                                            Well yeah. The heat comes from the pasta, though.