This Bucatini alla Carbonara is rich, creamy (but don't add cream!!) and super slurpable. If you've never made carbonara at home, it's time to change that! Read through the post for tips on how to make the best, and easiest Bucatini alla Carbonara!
Carbonara originated in the Lazio region of Italy, where Rome is. Rome is known for it’s four pastas: carbonara, amatriciana, cacio e pepe and gricia. Of the four, carbonara is most similar to gricia. In fact, gricia is pretty much just an eggless carbonara! All four pastas are delicious and easy to make—it's all about technique!
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So what's in an authentic carbonara? Traditionally, carbonara includes just guanciale, egg, Pecorino Romano, and pepper. No cream, no garlic! With those being the base ingredients that everyone can agree on, there are still slight variations within Italy that count as authentic. These variations mostly have to do with the eggs (whole eggs or just yolks), the cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino or just Pecorino), and the pasta shape (spaghetti, rigatoni or bucatini). So this is the way that I like to make it! Authentic, easy to make and super flavorful.
Because there are so few ingredients in carbonara, it's important to use the best quality ingredients you can find. Make sure to check your local Italian markets for guanciale (cured pork jowl), but if you can't find it, pancetta will work instead. For the cheese, you'll need the real deal! Look for Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano, not parmesan and romano. If you find Locatelli Pecorino, buy it!! The eggs should be good quality and fresh. The pepper needs to be freshly cracked, not pre-ground.
Geez, this pasta is sounding like a snob. I promise, the good quality ingredients are worth it!
Carbonara is all about technique. There are a few things that can go wrong, mostly where the eggs are concerned, so having the right technique is key. Carbonara is made with raw eggs, but the heat from the pasta cooks the eggs enough so that they're not reeeaaally raw when you eat them. The pasta heat, pasta water, and cheese will all help the eggs turn into a delicious, silky sauce. But! If you add the eggs to the pan when it's too hot, they'll scramble. We want to avoid scrambled eggs pasta. No thank you to that.
There are a couple important things to do to make sure the eggs don't scramble. First, start with room temperature eggs. If you use cold eggs straight from the refrigerator, the shock from the heat will scramble them. If you forgot to take your eggs out of the refrigerator before hand, that's okay! Just fill a bowl with warm water and let the eggs sit in there while you slice your guanciale and get your pasta water boiling.
Second, temper the eggs. Add a little pasta water (a few tablespoons) to the egg mixture before adding it to the pan. This will bring the eggs closer to the temperature of the pan, and avoid that egg shock scramble.
Finally, take the pan off the heat for 30 seconds before adding the eggs, and start to mix right away! Add pasta water in small splashes to loosen the sauce.
I hope those tips didn't make this seem complicated—it's really not! Here's the gist of what you'll do: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, slice your guanciale, warm your eggs in water if they're not already room temperature, grate your cheese and make your egg mixture. For the egg mixture, you'll just mix 1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks in a bowl with a cup of cheese and a generous pinch of cracked pepper.
Then cook the guanciale. I like to start the guanciale in a cold pan and bring it up to heat slowly to make sure the fat renders out well. If you fry the guanciale too hard, there won't be enough time to render enough fat for the sauce. See all that beautiful, crispy guanciale in that delicious fat?! We need that fat for the sauce. If you're using pancetta, you'll need to add a bit of olive oil since it doesn't have as much fat as guanciale.
Boil the pasta to just shy of al dente and transfer it to the pan with the guanciale. Toss the bucatini so that each strand is coated in the guanciale fat, then add a bit of pasta water to the pan, toss and turn the heat off. Now comes, the fun part—the eggs! Make sure your pan has been off the heat for 30 seconds and then drizzle the egg mixture in, tossing with the pasta immediately. Keep tossing the pasta and adding small splashes of pasta water as needed until you have a silky, glossy, golden sauce. Taste and season with salt (you won't need much!) and more pepper. Serve it up!
Once you get the hang of making carbonara at home, you'll want to make it all the time. So go on, prosper, and become a carbonara making pro!
For liability reasons, I feel like I should mention that the amount shown on that plate is like 3 servings.
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Authentic Bucatini Alla Carbonara
- 4-5 Ounces guanciale cut into strips
- 1 Whole egg and 3 egg yolks at room temperature
- ¾ Cup Pecorino Romano grated
- ¼ Cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- ¾ Pound Bucatini
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- kosher salt
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt the water.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, cheese, and a generous pinch of pepper.
- Add the guanciale to a large, cold skillet. Turn the heat to medium low and cook the guanciale until the fat has rendered and it's starting to crisp; 10-15 minutes. Turn the heat off until the pasta is ready. Turn the heat back on to medium and transfer the pasta directly to the pan, reserving the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the guanciale, making sure to coat each strand in the rendered fat. Add a splash of pasta water and keep tossing for 1-2 minutes.
- Turn the heat off and wait 30 seconds. Add a couple tablespoons of pasta water to the egg mixture, stir, and then pour the egg mixture into the pan. Begin tossing the pasta with the eggs immediately, adding small splashes of pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Keep tossing until a glossy sauce forms. Taste and add salt if needed and more pepper. Serve with more cheese.