Spaghetti Carbonara is one of those dishes that I could eat twice, maybe three times a week without ever getting tired of it. It is just always that good.
If you have never had it before, spaghetti carbonara is a dish made with pasta, cured pork, cheese, and eggs. The raw eggs and cheese are combined with a bit of pasta water to create a silky smooth and absolutely delicious sauce.
Like many Italian dishes, the origin of spaghetti carbonara is a little bit fuzzy. While the name means, essentially, coal miner’s spaghetti, it is likely named for a restaurant in Rome rather than any affiliation with actual coal mining. It has also been speculated that the name originated from the the flecks of pepper on the dish, though this is also most likely incorrect.
Interestingly, spaghetti carbonara is not mentioned before World War II. It is thought to have first come about after the American Military ousted Axis forces in Italy, and were supplying the people of Rome with rations containing a great deal of bacon and powdered eggs. Italians do not typically indulge in large breakfasts, so these ingredients naturally found their way into pasta, creating spaghetti carbonara.
It is important to note that while this dish may have come about post-WWII, there are similar dishes, like pasta alla gricia, which were recorded well before that. The big difference between those two is the addition of eggs in pasta carbonara.
1 lb. spaghetti
3 oz. Parmesan cheese
4 oz. bacon
4 egg yolks
Salt + Pepper
Begin by cooking your pasta in well-salted water. The pasta water is an important part of this dish, so seasoning here is important. Don’t over salt, but also don’t be afraid to toss a fair amount in. Salt preference is a fickle thing, so I try not to give too much instruction on its quantities, but around 1-2 tablespoons per pound of pasta (~4 quarts of water) is reasonable. I have been told that the water should taste like the sea.
In another pot, fry your bacon pieces until nicely crispy. Remove the bacon pieces to a plate to drain, and remove the pan from heat.
Beat 4 eggs and add the cup of grated parmesan as well as ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper. Set aside for now.
Turn off the heat on the pasta once it is cooked al dente and remove the pasta from the pot, while reserving the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan used to cook the bacon and cook over medium heat until the water is mostly cooked off. Remove from heat.
Whisk ¼ cup of the pasta water into your egg and cheese mixture. Pour this over the pasta slowly, in batches, while stirring. It should make a beautiful creamy sauce.
If the egg in the sauce cooks, your pasta is too hot, allow it to cool more before adding the sauce. If your sauce is too thick, you can further thin it with the reserved pasta water.
Return the bacon pieces to the pot of pasta and mix in.
Garnish with the additional parmesan cheese, black pepper, finely chopped parsley, and additional salt, if desired.