Top Tips for Perfect Carbonara. Four ingredients, 20 minutes and five helpful tips are all you need to master this iconic pasta dish. Quick, easy and deliciously satisfying every time!
Hi folks! Olivia back here again. Today I’m showing you one of my favourite easy pasta dinners: an easy but classic, perfect carbonara.
Whenever I don’t know what to make for dinner, I usually end up making carbonara. Why? Carbonara is basically just bacon-egg-and-cheese in pasta form, and I almost always have those three things in the fridge.
It’s great any time of the day. Have it with a glass of wine. We should probably just normalize carbonara for breakfast.
There’s a lot of discourse around carbonara (and Italian food in general) so let me be the first to say: I don’t claim this recipe to be truly authentic. However, I’ve made it many, many times and have picked up some helpful tricks that make a really great bowl of pasta.
A great carbonara is simple: al dente pasta, perfectly coated in a glossy parmesan sauce, with crispy bacon or pancetta bits. It does not include cream, although you may see that at some restaurants. If done well, you won’t need to rely on any additional dairy.
Read on to hear my top tips for a truly classic pasta dish. It’s an essential addition to anyone’s cooking repertoire. Enjoy!
Using high quality ingredients.
When you’re making a recipe with only 4 ingredients, the best outcome will come from using good quality ingredients. I usually tend to buy local eggs or free-range.
Parmigiano Reggiano is the cheese you want, which is the real deal (the older the better, in my opinion!)
If you can find guanciale or pancetta that’s great, but I usually just use a decent bacon which you’ll see in this recipe, as it is more accessible. Plus, I like the smokiness of regular bacon too. The pasta shape is really up to you!
Adequately salting the pasta water.
You need properly salted water for the pasta to be seasoned. This will probably look like a few tablespoons of salt in a medium to large sized pot. I once heard someone say you should salt pasta water as if you’re seasoning a nice salty broth, which may be a helpful gauge. This is also the only additional salt you’ll add to this dish. The bacon and parm take care of the rest.
Egg yolks only.
The sauce of this recipe is really just egg yolks and parm. In some recipes you’ll see whole eggs used, but I think it yields a richer, creamier sauce with a deeper colour when using egg yolks only. It also lessens your chance of accidentally scrambling the eggs. I use 3 yolks for two servings.
Avoid scrambling by tempering the eggs.
Assemble the sauce by simply whisking together the grated cheese and egg yolks in a bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of pasta water to the bowl to start bringing the sauce together. This will emulsify the mixture, by beginning to melt the cheese and tempering the eggs. Doing this will avoid a pile of scrambled eggs when you add the mixture to your pan.
Save some pasta water!
Every good cook knows this and will tell you to do it, for pretty much any pasta dish. Just before I strain my pasta, I use a mug to carefully pull out a cup or so of water. As you stir together the pasta and sauce, add splashes of the water as necessary to loosen the sauce. It should look glossy and coat the pasta nicely.
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- 200 g pasta (dealer’s choice)
- 4 strips good-quality bacon (or about 4 ounces of chopped guanciale or pancetta)
- 50 g grated parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)
- 3 egg yolks
- Black pepper, to taste
- Reserved pasta water, as necessary
- Begin by dicing the bacon. Cook it over medium-high heat in a large saucepan until you have crispy bits. Remove the bacon bits from the pan and set them aside on some paper towel. Take the pan off the heat, leaving about two tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan for later.
- While the bacon is cooking, boil a medium to large pot of water and season it with a few tablespoons of salt. Cook the pasta until it’s al dente — about 7-8 minutes, depending on the shape. Reserve a small mug-full of pasta water towards the end of cooking.
- While the pasta boils, mix together the egg yolks and grated parmesan. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water to the mixture and stir together until saucy.
- Strain the pasta and add it back to the saucepan you cooked the bacon in. Turn the pan on low heat.
- Stirring constantly, add the egg mixture to the pasta and bacon fat. Add a few splashes of reserved pasta water as necessary to loosen the sauce until it is glossy and coats the pasta. This process should only take about two minutes.
- Add the bacon bits as the last step. This will keep them nice and crispy in the dish.
Amount Per Serving Calories 554Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 9gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 321mgSodium 857mgCarbohydrates 56gFiber 3gSugar 1gProtein 28g
The nutritional information provided is automatically calculated by third party software and is meant as a guideline only. Exact accuracy is not guaranteed. For recipes where all ingredients may not be used entirely, such as those with coatings on meats, or with sauces or dressings for example, calorie & nutritional values per serving will likely be somewhat lower than indicated.