How to Make Carbonara
To know carbonara is to love it. We sometimes find ourselves daydreaming of that moment when the garlic hits the pot of crispy, rendered pancetta — the brief sizzle, the wonderfully pungent and ham-y aroma. It’s humble stuff really, but it’s the heart and soul of carbonara. Well, that and a few eggs. Whisked up with pasta and Parm, they all combine to create the rich depth of flavor and velvet creaminess that elevate carbonara from a glossy riff on mac and cheese to something more glorious.
One of the things we love about the dish is that it’s best in the few minutes after it comes out of the pot, which means you have an excuse for wolfing it down. Not that we need one; apparently, we don’t even have to be hungry. In the test kitchen, we made carbonara at the very end of a busy day — cakes had been baked, sandwiches had been stacked, roasts had been roasted. And yet we polished off the carbonara with loud enthusiasm, our forks crashing against the bottom of the pot. It’s just that good.
Carbonara has a reputation for being fussy, but this recipe is quick and easy. That said, we do have two cool tricks from our test kitchen: The first is to make sure you start your pancetta in a cold pot. You want the ham to warm slowly, so that the fat renders all the way through it. On a similar note, make sure you toss the pancetta, garlic, eggs, Parm, and pasta together in the pot — and in a timely fashion. You’ll kill the heat under the pot, but it should stay just warm enough that, with a little help from the pasta, it gently cooks the eggs, so they’re not raw, but they’re also not scrambled.
This is a dish you can throw together in 15 minutes or so, but it feels luxe and special. Make it when your kids want mac and cheese and you want something a smidge more wine-worthy. Make it when your crush comes to dinner and you want to make something impressive but not precious. And make it when it’s been a long, hard week and you want to treat yourself — its abundant comfort pairs beautifully with Netflix.
1 lb dry spaghetti
3 large Gelson’s eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 oz pancetta, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the eggs and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and pancetta and cook until the ham is crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off half of the fat.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, or until the garlic is tender. Turn off the heat.
Reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta quickly or, using tongs, transfer it to the pot of pancetta and garlic. You want the pasta to be a little wet.
Toss the pasta, pancetta, and garlic to combine.
Quickly add the egg mixture to the warm pot and toss to coat the pasta. Note: Speed is of the essence here. You want the residual warmth of the pot and the pasta to gently cook the eggs and cheese.
Use the reserved pasta water to adjust the sauce, ¼ cup at a time, until it’s smooth and creamy.
Season with black pepper and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.