Mucho Gusto

Ode to Authentic Carbonara

If you are ever in Rome, run to Tonnarello in Trastevere and order their carbonara. Your life will never be the same. Carbonara is an entirely different dish in the United States and Italy. While Americans like to add cream and garlic to their carbonara, Italians stick to the basics: eggs, cheese, pasta, and guanciale. 

However, do not expect carbonara to taste the same throughout Italy. One of the worst meals I have suffered through was prepared at a restaurant in Venice. The carbonara can only be described as egg yolk soup topped with overcooked pasta. When I told my Italian friends about this mishap, they laughed and scolded me for ordering carbonara in Venice. “It is a little bit your fault,” they said, “if you order carbonara in Venice you are asking for it.”

If you cannot fly to Rome but still need to fulfill tonight’s carbonara craving, the recipe is surprisingly simple. This recipe is a gift from my dear Italian mother, Lucia, who taught me to make carbonara while I spent the summer as an au pair with her family. 


300 grams spaghetti

150 grams guanciale (or pancetta)

50 grams grated pecorino romano (or parmesan)

6 egg yolks

Black pepper

First set a pot of water to boil on the stove and salt. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente per the instructions on the box. The term al dente describes the ideal consistency of pasta, which is slightly firm or undercooked, when it is expected that your pasta will undergo further cooking or heat during the preparation process. As the pasta is cooking, cut the guanciale into little pieces and pan-fry over medium heat. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together with the cheese and black pepper. Drain the pasta, saving a cup over pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with the guanciale. Immediately pour the egg mixture on top and stir, adding pasta water as needed. Buona Cena!

Cover photo courtesy of Cooking for Keeps