Real Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara: Do As The Romans Do


Spaghetti alla Carbonara from Rome


The first time I had “real” spaghetti alla carbonara was when we went to Rome, the birthplace of the dish, a few years ago.  I never dreamed that it could be so very good!  In Rome the dish is made with “guanciale” (smoked pig’s cheek), which is very difficult to find anywhere else.  Luckily smoked pancetta or bacon makes an acceptable substitute.


The Forum, Rome, Italy


This post is a must for me: spaghetti alla carbonara is the absolute all-time favourite meal of my kids (at the moment at least), so I make it once a week. It’s a good Italian education for them as they get lots of practice at twirling the spaghetti on to their fork with the help of the side of their plate.  Actually, I think all occupational therapists should include teaching this skill in their repertoire: it’s great for learning coordination.  The kids are now beginning to eclipse me in their spaghetti-rolling ability although they’re only 5 and 7 years old and I’m… well, let’s just say, I’m much older than that!


Pancetta and eggs


This pasta is traditionally made ONLY with spaghetti, so don’t let any french restaurant (who insist on making it with tagliatelle and cream) tell you otherwise! If you want to make it the way it was invented, please don’t put cream in it.  Keep your cream for a more appropriate use, like with meringues or on top of pavlova, or for a midnight snack when nobody’s looking!




This pasta is very simple to make.  There is just one tricky bit when you add the pasta to the eggs so that you don’t end up getting dry, scrambled egg with spaghetti. Rather, you  should end up with a slightly runny sauce that gently coats the spaghetti.  So, without further ado, on to the recipe!

To find out how to cook pasta like an Italian does, check out my handy guide.

By Lisa Watson


Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings: 4 people


  • 400 g Spaghetti
  • 3 medium or 2 large Eggs
  • 150 g 5.3 oz – or smoked pancetta or bacon cut into small cubes Guanciale
  • 50 g 1.8 oz Parmesan cheese
  • to taste- optional but recommended! Pepper


  • Cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water.
  • Meanwhile saute the pancetta until it is cooked then take off the heat.
  • Whisk the eggs and grated parmesan cheese together until they are combined.
  • Now, this is the part where you have to act quickly! After you have drained the spaghetti, pour it into the egg mixture and tip the pancetta on top. IMMEDIATELY start stirring it to get the egg to coat the pasta. I use two spoons and toss it as though it’s a salad. Do this step OFF THE HEAT.
  • Serve straight away as it is best eaten while hot (and doesn’t reheat well at all). Sprinkle cracked pepper on top for an added kick.
  • Enjoy that twirling practice!