How to make next level spaghetti carbonara

One of the speediest and simplest pasta dishes you can make – spaghetti carbonara is a classic. Try our traditional version using egg yolks for the sauce.

10 tips for next level spaghetti carbonara title sign

Cooked with care, carbonara can be one of those magical dishes that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Made quickly from a handful of storecupboard staples, what you end up with is one of the most of comforting, silky-sauced pasta dishes there is.

Though it’s a simple dish, getting it right and not ending up with scrambled eggs takes a lot more skill than your average plate of pasta. Pay attention to the detail. With our next level spaghetti carbonara, we stay true to tradition – without the cheat's addition of cream – so what you end up with should be pasta coated in a thin, hollandaise-type sauce. Time waits for no man with this, so work quickly and don't take your eye off the ball, or you may end up with egg on your face...

10 tips for the perfect spaghetti carbonara

1. The cheek of it 
2. Hot pepper
3. You must be yolking
4. Stop the seize
5. Holy water
6. The heat is off
7. Emulsion perfection
8. The perfect pasta
9. The need for speed
10. A word of warming
 

1. The cheek of it

Sliced pancetta on a wooden board

Authentically, carbonara is made with guanciale, which is Italian cured pork jowl – also known as cheek bacon. It has a high fat-to-meat ratio giving ;the finished dish its richness. Guanciale is available from good Italian delis, or online, but fatty pancetta makes an equally good stand-in.


2. Hot pepper

Chopped red peppers in a frying pan

'Carbonara' means charcoal and the dish was so named apparently because of the visible black specks of pepper. It should be used as spice in this recipe more than background seasoning. Be generous enough that it adds heat to the finished dish and wake up the flavour by toasting it off in hot fat.


3. You must be yolking

Egg yolk on top of spaghetti carbonara

We’ve used just the yolks as they are the rich part of the eggs that thicken sauces, and whites can become streaky and slimy when under-cooked. For extra luxury, we’ve given the option of an extra yolk to be stirred in at the table. These could be swapped for duck or goose egg yolks if you have them.


4. Stop the seize

Parmesan on top of spaghetti carbonara

Don’t be tempted (as other not so ‘next level’ recipes suggest) to mix the yolks and parmesan together; they seize into a clump that’s then hard to incorporate into the pasta.


5. Holy water

Holding a pot of pasta water above spaghetti carbonara in a pan

Pasta water is perfect for loosening pasta dishes as it contains starch and flavour from the pasta, which adds to the silkiness of the finished sauce.


6. The heat is off

Stirring pasta with tongs in a pan

All the cooking of the eggs should be done in the residual heat from the pasta. Geek alert: Yolks will thicken at 65C and will start to scramble at about 70C, so the heat from the just-boiled water will be more than enough to thicken the yolks into a sauce that’s velvety and clings to the pasta.


7. Emulsion perfection

Mixing a pan of spaghetti carbonara

Ultimately you are trying to emulsify the yolks and pancetta fat together, which is the same principle as making a hollandaise sauce. You need to use your judgement and, if the sauce is too thick, add more water and if it’s too thin, heat it up briefly.


8. The perfect pasta

A pan of plain spaghetti

We’ve opted for the classic spaghetti but a flat pasta like egg fettucine or tagliatelle also work well. A slightly rough-faced pasta rather than a cheaper smooth type will help the sauce cling. Look for pasta that’s been through a bronze press.


9. The need for speed

Serving spaghetti into a dish from a pan

Carbonara is a last-minute recipe that needs to be served as soon as it’s ready. Have everything you need to hand before cooking and make sure the table is set.


10. A word of warming

Two bowls of spaghetti carbonara topped with egg yolks

The finished dish loses its heat very quickly and is horrid when tepid so warming your bowls or plates will help it stay hot for longer and will also help ‘cook’ the extra egg yolk if you’re using it.

See the full recipe for our next level spaghetti carbonara.

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Do you prefer spaghetti carbonara with or without cream? Leave a comment below...

Comments, questions and tips

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David Smith's picture
David Smith
16th Feb, 2018
I don't think you should ever put cream or peas in carbonara. I would skip the hop pepper and use black pepper as well.
sonia de rose's picture
sonia de rose
16th Feb, 2018
Hello everyone, my name is Sonia and I am Italian, so sorry for any possible mistake. I allow myself to give you some extra tips: - Yes the rule wants cheek bacon to be used, but I have to admit that the flavour is a bit strong, so you can opt for a smoked regular bacon as well; -cook the bacon with half a glass of a spirit like brandy as well as cognac (or wine if you do not have any at home), to make the taste of the meat even more delicate - I do not know what you mean for "yolking", but I usually create a cream mixing together yolks, parmesan and pepper (so no actual cream @boobymchooters, that is a culinary blasfemy to an italian, no offense ;)) - when pasta is drained I suggest to add to it (directly in the cooking pot but off the stove) bacon (which has cooled down meanwhile) and the egg cream. Let it rest with the lid closed for a couple of minutes and serve! The egg should stay raw and not turning scrambled, but that depends on anyone's taste. Hope to have been helpful, and enjoy Italian food!!! Take care, Sonia
boobymchooters
14th Feb, 2018
Cream???
misneac
16th Feb, 2018
No, not cream. Like Hollandaise, no cream. Just yolks, fat, and a little starch and acid to help it thicken. Creamy texture though.
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