Pasta carbonara is often referred to as bacon and egg pasta because those two main ingredients serve as the basis sauce for the pasta. It is a deeply satisfying pasta dish with a creamy sauce and the smoky, salty crunch of bacon.
Basic Pasta Carbonara
While some may worry about the eggs appearing to be "uncooked" in the sauce, in fact the heat of the pasta cooks them just enough so they remain saucy without scrambling. If you are concerned about how little the eggs are cooked in this recipe, you can use pasteurized eggs. Otherwise, use the freshest eggs you can find. You can use any shape of pasta for this, although spaghetti or angel hair are the traditional shapes. This recipe serves 4.
- 8 ounces of dried or fresh pasta
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus extra for garnish
- 6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Dash red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Boil the pasta according to package directions. When done, drain in a colander and set aside.
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon on medium-high, stirring occasionally, until bacon is browned, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the bacon from the fat in the pan with a slotted spoon and set it aside to drain on paper towels.
- Add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the cooked and drained pasta and reserved bacon to the pan. Stir to heat through.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the egg and heavy cream mixture to the pan.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the egg and cream warms through, one to two minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the cheese. Serve immediately. If desired, finish each serving with an additional grind of freshly cracked black pepper.
Variation: Penne Carbonara With Peas
This variation makes two simple changes to the recipe above. It uses penne pasta and you add fresh peas when you add the shallots. This recipe serves 4. To make penne carbonara with peas, follow the recipe above but do the following:
- Cook 8 ounces of fresh or dried penne according to package directions and drain it.
- Add 1 cup of fresh shelled peas to the pan when you add the shallots (step 6) and continue with the recipe as written.
Variation: Spaghetti Carbonara With Broccoli and Mushrooms
This variation also uses the same recipe as above, but invites you to add 1 cup of fresh broccoli florets and 1 cup of sliced mushrooms to the basic recipe. It still serves 4. To make it, complete the recipe as above but do the following.
- Cook 8 ounces of fresh or dried spaghetti according to package instructions and drain it.
- When you add the shallots (in step 6), also add 1 cup of broccoli florets and 1 cup of sliced mushrooms. Proceed with the recipe as written.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
If you have leftovers, no problem. They'll keep, tightly sealed, in the fridge for up to three days. Reheat in the microwave on high for 60 to 90 seconds, depending on the power of your microwave.
A Full Pasta Meal
Make a full, family style meal by serving the carbonara with the classic sides of garlic bread and a salad of seasonal greens with balsamic vinaigrette. It's a fast, easy, affordable pasta dinner your entire family is sure to love.