Carbonara has been the subject of some severe bastardization here in the states, where we regularly eschew Italian tradition in favor of garlic, bacon, and green peas for some reason. Today we're doing both the old-school and illegitimate versions of the hotly-contested dish, both of which deserve their place in your grandmother's handwritten recipe cards.

Shopping List

For the traditional carbonara:

  • 1/2 pound guanciale (can substitute with pancetta)

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 4 ounces of cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano)

  • Ground black pepper

  • Kosher salt

  • 16 ounces spaghetti noodles

  • ¼ cup starchy pasta water (optional)

For the modern carbonara:

  • 1/2 pound thick cut bacon

  • 4 ounces Parmesan or Romano cheese

  • 3 large eggs 

  • 1 egg yolk

  • Ground black pepper

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • ⅓ cup starchy pasta water

  • 16 ounces bucatini noodles


Traditional Carbonara

  1. Start by dicing ½ pound guanciale or pancetta. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl or measuring cup, combine 3 large eggs and 1 egg yolk.

  3. Grate and measure out 4 ounces of cheese - I recommend Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano or a blend of the two.

  4. Combine grated cheese and eggs and beat together with a fork until homogenous. 

  5. Season the egg and cheese mixture with fresh black pepper. Do not add salt yet, because the guanciale brings a lot of salt to the dish. Beat until well incorporated.

  6. Add the diced guanciale to a cold pan and then turn the heat to medium. This will allow the fat to render out slowly. Once it is fully cooked but not too crispy, turn off the heat.

  7. Add your noodles to a large pot of heavily salted water. Cook until they are to your desired texture.

  8. Add the cooked noodles to the pan with the guanciale. Toss to coat the noodles in the guanciale fat. 

  9. Work quickly to add the egg and cheese mixture to the pan and mix rigorously. This will help to emulsify the sauce and make it creamy. If it’s as smooth as you’d like, you can add a little bit of pasta water (about ¼ cup). Season with salt if it needs it.

  10. Plate up and enjoy!

Modern Carbonara

  1. Combine your eggs and egg yolk in a bowl.

  2. Next, add 4 ounces of grated cheese. Stir with a fork to combine. Season with fresh black pepper.

  3. Slice ½ pound of thick cut bacon into large chunks.

  4. Add the sliced bacon to a cold nonstick pan and then turn the heat to medium. 

  5. Once the bacon is fully cooked and the fat has rendered out, strain out the grease, keeping only 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan.

  6. Return the pan to medium low heat and add minced garlic. Saute for one minute and then turn off the heat.

  7. Add bucatini noodles to a pot of heavily salted water and cook to desired done-ness.

  8. Add the cooked noodles to the pan with the bacon along with ⅓ cup of pasta water.

  9. Add the egg and cheese mixture to the pan. Toss rigorously and keep it moving. 

  10. Taste for seasoning and assess for thickening. If it needs to be thicker, add more cheese (1 ounce at a time) and mix rigorously.

  11. Serve and enjoy!

Emilija Saxe