Pasta Carbonara

Moving to the third pasta of Rome – Carbonara

Back in January we started on a tour of the four pastas of Rome. The first one, cacio e pepe, is the foundation of the four, so that’s where we started. Then we moved to pasta alla gricia.

This week we cover the last “white” sauce – as simple as the first two and similar, except for the addition of eggs.


What are the Four Pastas of Rome?

A little refresher, the four pastas of Rome are cacio e pepe, gricia, carbonara and amatriciana. They are all made using the same technique of vigorous mixing to form a sauce with the cheese and pasta water. It take practice.

My first try the cheese all clumped up and didn’t melt into the sauce. I thought perhaps I had the pasta and water too hot – and the cheese not grated down enough. So I tried again, letting everything cool a little and grinding the cheeses up in the food processor. The finely ground cheese just melted into the pasta and came out amazing!

Cacio e Pepe –

The foundation of the four is cacio e pepe – literally means cheese and pepper. Click here for the recipe and more information.

cacio gricia

Typically made with spaghetti or bucatini, the pasta is tossed, vigorously, with pecorino romano and parmesan reggiano cheeses, some fresh ground black pepper and a little pasta water. Sound easy? Well – success is in the technique.

Pasta alla Gricia –

The next pasta on the list – pasta alla gricia. This one is almost exactly like cacio e pepe, with the addition of guanciale. A cured pork jowl (or cheek), similar to bacon but saltier. It’s origins go back to ancient Roman times. Click here for more information and the recipe.


Pasta Carbonara –

Pasta Carbonara, probably the most well known of the four. This one uses guanciale, the cheeses and egg. It’s the egg that makes it. Although it is considered one of the four pastas of Rome, it’s roots are actually Neapolitan. It’s origins aren’t as easy to follow as the ancient two. There is speculation that it was inspired by a pasta from Naples – cacio e uova, meaning cheese and eggs.

There are several theories as to how it started, including one of an American soldier in 1944. He added powdered eggs, some bacon and voila! It’s also credited to Italian coal workers. The dish was prepared for the men in the coal mines.It’s name means coal miner’s wife. It’s also speculated that the “carbon” is from the chunks of cracked pepper corns in the dish.

Whatever you call it, it’s delicious and simple and classic!


Pasta alla Amatriciana

And the last of the four, Pasta alla Amatriciana. Just a few ingredients – pecorino romano cheese, tomatoes, guanciale, and some red chili flakes. This pasta is typically on rigatoni and has a rich, creamy, tomatoey sauce.


All of these pastas are really about the sauce. You can serve them using any pasta you have on hand or the pasta you like the best (I love orecchiette). Once you get the hang of the stirring up the sauce, you’ll make all of these again and again.

The Cheeses

The first three of these pastas uses both Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino romano. Pasta Amatriciana uses only the parm. But what is the difference?

Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, sharp cheese made from cows milk. The flavor is slightly sweet and nutty. 

Pecorino romano is a hard cheese made from sheep milk. It is less sharp than parmesan, but saltier. It has a slightly nutty taste. 

The Saucing Technique (Practice makes perfect)

This is the most important part of the pasta. If it isn’t done right, you’ll have clumps of melted cheese instead of a creamy sauce. Not quite as bad as clumps is tiny grated chunks that don’t melt. The goal is a cream sauce.

Cook the pasta in a large, tall pot. When it is slightly al dente (just slightly done), drain it, but be sure to save one cup of the pasta water. There is flavor and starch in it that will really help to create a creamy sauce.

Put the pasta back in the pot and let it cool slightly. Add 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water and stir briskly.

Add just a splash of cold water to finely grated (I ground it up in the food processor) romano and parmesan cheese with fresh cracked pepper.


The eggs are added to the cheese at this point.



After it’s added to the pasta, stir fast and hard for about 3 to 4 minutes. The harder and faster the better – almost like whisking with a spoon. Add a more pasta water, a little at a time, if the sauce is too thick.

When everything is well blended into a creamy sauce, serve it immediately!

Making the Pasta Carbonara

First thing you’ll do is render the fat from the guanciale or pancetta in a large skillet or pot. While it’s rendering, cook the pasta.


When the pasta is just al dente, drain, saving out 1 cup of the pasta water.

Put the pasta in the pot with the meat and rendered fat.

Toss it all together mixing it well.


Mix the eggs with the cheese!


Vigorously stir the egg and cheese mixture with the pasta. (See the technique info above)


Keep stirring until everything is melded together into a creamy sauce. Add a little more water if it’s too dry.

Serve hot with some fresh grated parmesan.


5 from 6 votes
Pasta Carbonara

A cheesy, creamy sauce made with salty pork, parmesan and romano cheeses and egg. Delicious and easy to make.

Course: Main Course, main dish, Pasta, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: bacon, egg, guanciale, pancetta, parmesan, pasta, romano
Servings: 4 servings
Author: HelenFern
  • 8 oz dried pasta (I used pappardelle)
  • 4 oz guanciale or pancetta (some people use bacon)
  • 1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 oz pecorino romano
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • more Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish
  1. First thing you'll do is render the fat from the guanciale or pancetta in a large skillet or pot. While it's rendering, cook the pasta.

  2. When the pasta is just al dente, drain, saving out 1 cup of the pasta water.

  3. Put the pasta in the pot with the meat and rendered fat.

  4. Toss it all together mixing it well.

  5. Mix the eggs with the cheese! 

  6. Vigorously stir the egg and cheese mixture with the pasta.Keep stirring for 3 -4 minutes - until everything is melded together into a creamy sauce. Add a little more water if it's too dry.

  7. Serve hot with some fresh grated parmesan.

Recipe Notes


© Copyright 2024 The Lazy Gastronome

© Copyright 2024 The Lazy Gastronome


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10 Responses to Pasta Carbonara

  1. Pingback: Pasta alla Gricia - The Lazy GastronomeThe Lazy Gastronome

  2. Jacqueline Debono says:

    5 stars
    Such a classic recipe. We make it a lot and it’s always so delicious!

  3. DK Park says:

    5 stars
    I tried to make this recipe for my guests and they loved it. It was really delicious!

  4. Natalie says:

    5 stars
    Delicious pasta carbona, perfect for family gatherings. The husband was impressed!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    5 stars
    So good and comforting! Loved these recipes!

  6. Pingback: Cacio e Pepe - The Most Well Known Pasta of Rome - The Lazy GastronomeThe Lazy Gastronome

  7. Stopping by again with congratulations! :) This post was one of the most-visited at the Will Blog for Comments #24 linkup. It will be in the spotlight all next week, starting today. You’re welcome to save the “This Post Was a Featured Favorite” image there to share with your readers here, if you like. Thanks for sharing this post at the linkup! Looking forward to seeing what you’ll share next week.

  8. Linda says:

    5 stars
    White sauce is my weakness, and this carbonara is delicious and comforting! It transports me to Rome in one plate

  9. Lathiya says:

    5 stars
    I love learning new recipes, this is one I want to try. Am sure it must taste awesome and my kids will love it.

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