This creamy and rich Spaghetti Carbonara recipe has crispy pancetta, baby bella mushrooms, and a Parmesan cheese egg yolk sauce for a delicious and easy meal that’s ready in just 25 minutes. This is one of the greatest Italian pasta dishes of all time, and fantastic for a quick dinner!
Say hello to yet another instance where the gloriousness of eggs shines through.
In this case, egg yolks give us the most lusciously delicious pasta sauce. This is easily one of my favorite dinners, which is funny because I remember having frozen meal carbonara when I was a kid and hating it.
But I’ve become a total convert since trying it freshly made. As usual, home cooking and making things fresh makes all the difference!
The most important thing I’ve discovered about spaghetti carbonara is that it must be enjoyed promptly. All pastas tend to dry out a bit after pulled from the water, but this is especially true of carbonara.
A little splash of pasta water helps to keep everything saucy at the end, but the creamy sauce will only last for so long before it starts to dry, so you will want to have everything ready to go at the end. I share more details in the step-by-step below.
There are quite a few versions of spaghetti carbonara out there, and some are so simple that it’s just egg and pancetta with the noodles.
For me, it’s not carbonara unless it also has baby bella mushrooms and sweet peas.
However, know that you can leave these ingredients out if you prefer, and you can follow the recipe just the same.
Tips for Best Results
Use pancetta or guanciale, not bacon – As much as I love bacon, it’s worth seeking out true diced pancetta or guanciale here. You’ll get meatier pieces and a different flavor that’s better suited to the dish. If you can find it, guanciale, made with tender pork cheeks, or pork jowl, is superior to pancetta in both taste and texture, but I can’t get it locally. Pancetta should be easy to find.
Time the noodles and sauce well – You’ll want the noodles to finish cooking right as you’re done making the sauce, so that everything comes together while hot and fresh. Spaghetti Carbonara can dry out quickly as it sits, so you want to serve it promptly after you combine everything.
Use real parmigiano reggiano cheese – I recommend using a true 24-month aged parmigiano reggiano here. Usually these are made with raw Italian milk, and have a wonderfully complex, nutty flavor. I use Mitica brand. Domestic parmesans are cheaper, but do not taste the same as real Italian parmigiano reggiano. If you need something less expensive, try Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano, which are similarly salty and sharp.
Step by Step Overview:
Cook diced pancetta or guanciale with olive oil or butter in a large skillet for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until crispy:
Remove the pancetta to a paper towel with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the bacon fat.
Then add sliced baby bella mushrooms and chopped yellow onion to the skillet, along with salt and black pepper:
Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft, and the mushrooms have cooked down:
Add peas to the skillet, and cook for 1 minute, just to warm them through:
Frozen, fresh, or canned peas all work fine here.
Transfer the mushroom mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the cooked pancetta:
Keep in mind that you want the bowl to be big enough that you can toss all the pasta in this bowl as well.
Boil a box of dried spaghetti in a large pot of salted water according to package directions, and in the meantime, combine an egg, two egg yolks, and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese in a small bowl:
When the spaghetti has finished cooking, immediately add the hot pasta to the mushroom bowl, and promptly add the egg yolk cheese mixture:
Quickly toss everything together while the cooked pasta is still hot, so the egg mixture can warm up and the cheese can melt into a silky sauce:
The noodles are likely to dry out a bit from the residual heat, so I usually add 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water to keep things saucy. Add the cooking water as needed to maintain the creamy pasta.
I also stir in a bit of chopped parsley for a fresh flavor, and add extra grated parmesan on top.
How to Serve
Serve the spaghetti carbonara promptly, with a sprinkle of extra parmesan cheese on top. To keep things at their peak, you may want to use a warm serving bowl.
Recipe Tips and FAQ
Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Yes, in an airtight container for up to 2 months. However, because the freshness factor is lost, it will not taste as good upon thawing. To thaw, leave in the fridge overnight.
You will need to be extremely careful to not reheat the pasta too fast. Microwave in 30-second intervals at 30% power until warmed through, or gently reheat in a skillet on the stove over medium low heat, for about 5 minutes, tossing frequently. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of water if you’re reheating on the stove. Or, let the pasta come to room temperature and eat.
Guanciale, made from pork cheeks, has a superior flavor and texture, and melts in the mouth a bit more. It is hard to find though. Pancetta is a great choice as well. You may also use a thick cut bacon, but know that it will add a smoky flavor to the dish that traditionally isn’t there.
True parmesan is unmatched, but a cheaper alternative is pecorino romano cheese. Pecorino cheese is made with sheep’s milk and is very tangy.
The heat of the pasta heats the eggs some, though it is hard to say how much. Source your whole eggs from somewhere you trust.
You do not have to use long pasta here. Any shape will work. Types that hold the rich creamy sauce, like shells, can be excellent.
- 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
- 4 oz pancetta or guanciale diced
- 8 oz baby bella mushrooms sliced
- 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup peas thawed if using frozen
- 1 large egg
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 oz grated parmigiano regiano cheese (1/2 cup measured)
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- black pepper
- Start preheating a big pot of salted water* for boiling the spaghetti. You want to time this dish so that the pasta just finishes cooking to al dente right when the sauce is ready. Read all instructions before you begin cooking.
- Combine the olive oil and pancetta in a skillet set over medium heat, and cook for 5 minutes, until crisp.
- Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate or bowl, then add the mushrooms and yellow onion to the skillet. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp black pepper, and saute for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft.
- While the mushrooms and onion cook, begin cooking the spaghetti in the pot of salted water, according to package directions. Cook time is usually 8-10 minutes, but can vary by brand. Make sure to save the pasta water after it's done cooking.
- When the mushrooms and onions are done, add the peas and cook for 1 minute to briefly warm them, then pour the mushroom mixture into a very large bowl (5 qt). Add the pancetta.
- In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the eggs and grated cheese.
- As the pasta finishes cooking, prepare for the following to go very quickly: Drain the pasta (don't forget to save some pasta water) and immediately put it into the mushroom bacon peas bowl. Immediately pour in the egg cheese mixture and toss the pasta vigorously. The heat of the pasta will cook the eggs and melt the cheese and form a creamy sauce. Toss in the chopped parsley, and serve immediately.
- If the pasta dries out a bit from the heat, add pasta water as necessary. I usually add about 1/2 cup of pasta water to make sure it stays saucy. Once everything is tossed, serve the pasta as soon as possible. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.