The REAL Carbonara Recipe

by A Roman

Carbonara, a beloved Italian pasta dish, has a history as rich and flavorful as its creamy sauce. While its precise origins are shrouded in mystery and debate, several theories offer insights into how this iconic culinary creation came to be.

One popular legend traces carbonara back to Rome during the mid-20th century, where it emerged as a simple yet satisfying meal for Italian charcoal workers, or carbonai. According to this narrative, these laborers concocted the dish using readily available ingredients such as eggs, cured pork, and pasta, resulting in a hearty and nourishing meal that could sustain them throughout their arduous workdays.

Another theory suggests that carbonara has its roots in the cucina povera, or "poor kitchen," of post-war Italy. In this narrative, resourceful cooks devised the recipe as a means of utilizing surplus rations from Allied forces, including powdered eggs and bacon, to create a flavorful and satisfying pasta dish that would nourish their families amid times of scarcity.

Despite its humble beginnings, carbonara eventually found its way into the culinary mainstream, gaining popularity both within Italy and beyond.

Despite the debates, there is the way a Roman makes Carbonara, which is the right way.

Then there is the way others make it by adding cream etc. If you make it this way you might enjoy the result but it is NOT carbonara.

Here's the traditional Roman Carbonara recipe:


400g pasta (spaghetti, bucatini)

280g guanciale

200g Pecorino Romano cheese

5 egg yolks (medium-sized)

Black peppercorns, freshly ground


1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, cut the guanciale into small cubes or thin strips.

2) In a large skillet, cook the guanciale over medium heat until it becomes crispy and releases its fat. Remove the crispy guanciale from the skillet and set it aside, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet.

3) In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and grated Pecorino Romano cheese until well combined.

4) Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the skillet with the rendered guanciale fat. Toss the pasta in the fat until well coated.

5) Remove the skillet from heat and quickly add the egg and cheese mixture to the hot pasta. Toss vigorously to combine, ensuring the eggs coat the pasta evenly and create a creamy sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen it up.

6) Add the cooked guanciale back to the skillet and toss it with the pasta.

Season the carbonara with freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Serve the carbonara immediately, garnished with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese if desired. Enjoy your delicious Roman-style Carbonara!

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