This recipe is for spaghetti carbonara with bacon, eggs, and cream. I have always loved carbonara, but apparently had been making it wrong my entire life! My mom called her recipe “bacon spaghetti,” and I adapted and improved it when I grew up and learned to cook. However, I always made the sauce from bacon and the rendered fat, grated parmesan, and one apparently completely forbidden ingredient, CREAM. If you are Italian, no need to flame me. I have been aware for several years that my recipe was completely inauthentic. It is, however, delicious, and I couldn’t bear to leave it off the site.Jump to Recipe
I decided to have a battle of the carbonaras in our kitchen the other night. In the pan on the right: my creamy carbonara recipe. In the pan on the left: carbonara with 5 traditional Italian ingredients (or the closest I could get in a town without an Italian market), nothing more. The pasta on the left in the second picture is authentic Italian and the one on the right is made with cream and a few other things. We all won, because both are amazing! Our family was split on which was our favorite. You can find the authentic Italian spaghetti carbonara recipe here, or read on for the recipe for bacon spaghetti “carbonara” with cream!
Ingredients for Bacon Spaghetti Carbonara with Cream
What’s the most important ingredient in spaghetti carbonara? The bacon. Please don’t substitute turkey bacon here, or use low sodium or pre-cooked varieties. Don’t substitute ham. Be sure to follow the directions, and fry it on your stovetop so that you to use the rendered fat later in the recipe. It is permissible (and possibly preferable) to use pancetta or even guanciale (cured pork jowl) if you can get your hands on them. Read more at Livitaly on the differences between the three. Unfortunately Green Bay has no Italian market and even pancetta is hard to find.
What else do you need for carbonara? Spaghetti. A long, thin noodle is mandatory. Spaghetti is my preference, but bucatini would be a good substitute. I’ve used linguine and fettucine in a pinch, but prefer the chewier texture of spaghetti. Eggs. More yolk than white, and if you can get duck eggs their richer flavor is amazing in carbonara. Cheese. Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano. Never use the fake canned stuff, and pre-grated has additives that it’s better to avoid. For this recipe, minced fresh garlic, white wine, and heavy cream help to round out the sauce. Granulated and jarred minced garlic won’t give you the best flavor, so mince your own for this one. Chicken stock could be substituted for wine, and you could use half and half or milk in place of the cream – it just won’t be as rich.
Start by putting a large pan over medium heat. Stainless or well-seasoned cast iron works well. While it’s still cold, add diced bacon. This allows the fat to begin to render, and prevents sticking. Stir periodically, and cook until it begins to get crispy. Remove to a paper towel, without discarding the fat in the pan.
In the same pan, toss about 4 cloves of finely minced fresh garlic in with the bacon fat. Trust me, don’t toss the fat and replace with something your brain thinks is healthier. Bacon fat is one of life’s most perfect foods. Stir for about 30 seconds, and do not allow to burn. Have a bottle of white wine handy, already opened, and pour about a cup in once the garlic has begun to cook. Use a drinkable but not pricy dry white wine – chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, maybe a pinot grigio. Avoid sweet whites like most rieslings and some blends. You can substitute chicken stock if wine isn’t your thing. It gives a different flavor. I would use only about a half a cup of chicken stock, since reducing it is less important. If using wine, let it reduce by half of its volume, or until you can no longer smell the alcohol.
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once it reaches a rapid boil, salt it generously and cook your spaghetti according to package directions. Drain, reserving a cup or so of pasta water. Try to time this so the noodles and sauce are done at about the same time, and any side dishes as well. The noodles need to be tossed with the eggs while they’re still hot, and then mixed immediately with the sauce. I find this works best if you cook the bacon first, then boil the water, and cook the noodles while you’re finishing the sauce. I have a gas stove with a large “rapid boil” burner, however – if I’m at my mother’s house with a slower electric stove I might put the water on before starting the bacon.
Once the wine has reduced, add a half cup of cream to the pan, then a half cup of grated parmesan. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Grind in some black pepper and add a pinch of salt, but remember that you’ll still be adding the bacon back in, which will add salt. Keep a close watch on this pan while your noodles boil – you don’t want the cream to boil. Stir here and there, and make sure the cheese is melting appropriately. Add the bacon bits back in, taste the sauce, and add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to your taste.
Crack one egg and two yolks into a bowl (discard the whites or save for another use). I use the two shell method to separate eggs, described here. Mix well. As soon as your pasta and sauce are both ready, toss the pasta with the raw eggs off of the heat. This will cook the eggs to the point that they will be safe to eat, but the goal is NOT to scramble the eggs. Immediately toss with your bacon-laden sauce. Taste one more time, adjust seasonings if necessary, and serve.
Let me know what you serve it with, and how you like the recipe! We like to have bacon spaghetti carbonara with cream with broiled asparagus and a caprese salad.
Spaghetti “Carbonara” with Cream
- 8 strips bacon diced
- 1 lb spaghetti
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup white wine dry
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese freshly grated, may substitute parmigiano reggiano
- 3 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place stainless steel or cast-iron pan over medium heat, and add diced bacon while pan is still cold (this will allow fat to render slowly and prevent sticking). Cook to desired doneness and remove to paper towel-lined plate.
- Bring large pot of water to a rapid boil. Salt generously and add spaghetti, stirring once to prevent noodles from sticking. Boil to al dente according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
- Turn pan that bacon was cooked in down to medium-low. Add minced garlic to bacon fat, and sauté while stirring for not more than 30 seconds. Do not allow to burn. Add white wine to pan and cook 5 min, or until alcohol smell has dissipated and volume has reduced by half.
- Turn pan down to lowest setting and add cream. Stir to combine. Add grated cheese and stir periodically until pasta is done. If sauce starts to bubble on lowest burner setting, remove from heat for a few minutes. Add bacon bits back into sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper to your preference.
- In large bowl, crack 1 whole egg and add two egg yolks. Whisk well. Add noodles to bowl with eggs and toss very quickly to coat. Immediately combine with sauce. Do not place back over burner. Serve immediately.
**The eggs in this recipe are cooked by contact with the hot noodles and sauce. However, there may be some risk to vulnerable individuals including infants, pregnant women, and the immunocompromised if they do not cook completely.