What Pasta is Carbonara Made Of?

Part 1: Understanding Carbonara

Introduction to Carbonara

Carbonara is a staple in Italian cuisine, known for its creamy texture and rich flavors. Its origins are deeply rooted in Italy’s culinary history, making it a beloved dish worldwide. Learn more about the fascinating history of carbonara from this source.

Core Ingredients of Carbonara

Carbonara is a simple dish, yet each ingredient plays a crucial role:

  • Pasta: Traditional carbonara is made with spaghetti, but bucatini or rigatoni can also be used. The choice of pasta significantly impacts the dish’s texture and how it holds the sauce.
  • Guanciale: This is a type of Italian cured meat made from pork cheek. Its fat content adds depth and richness to the sauce.
  • Cheese: Pecorino Romano or Parmesan is used in carbonara. The cheese adds a salty, umami flavor that balances the richness of the other ingredients. Learn more about Italian cheeses here.
  • Eggs: Specifically, the yolks are used. They create the creamy, glossy sauce that carbonara is famous for.

The Process of Making Carbonara

Making carbonara involves a few key steps:

  1. Cook the guanciale until it’s crispy.
  2. Boil the pasta until it’s al dente. Reserve some pasta water before draining.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cheese.
  4. Slowly add hot pasta water to the egg-cheese mixture while whisking. This tempers the eggs and prevents them from scrambling.
  5. Combine the cooked pasta, guanciale, and egg-cheese mixture. The heat from the pasta will cook the egg slightly, creating a creamy sauce.

Part 2: Deep Dive into Carbonara

Variations of Carbonara

While the recipe above is traditional, there are many variations of carbonara. For example, have you ever tried Ravioli Carbonara? It’s a delightful twist on the classic dish.

  • Regional Variations: In some parts of Italy, cream is added to the sauce, or different types of pasta are used.
  • International Adaptations: Outside of Italy, variations may include peas, mushrooms, or other types of meat.

Pairing Carbonara with Other Dishes

Carbonara is a rich dish, so it pairs well with lighter, acidic dishes like a green salad or roasted vegetables. For wine, a white wine like a crisp Chardonnay or a light red like a Pinot Noir would complement the dish well.


  • Can other types of pasta be used in carbonara? Yes, while spaghetti is traditional, other types of pasta like rigatoni or fettuccine can also be used.
  • What can be used as a substitute for guanciale? If you can’t find guanciale, pancetta or a good quality bacon can be used instead.
  • How to store and reheat carbonara? Carbonara is best eaten fresh, but leftovers can be stored in the fridge and reheated gently on the stove.


Carbonara is a classic Italian dish that’s much more than the sum of its parts. The combination of spaghetti, guanciale, Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, and egg yolks creates a dish that’s rich, creamy, and utterly delicious. Whether you stick to the traditional recipe or make it your own, carbonara is a dish worth mastering. If you’re interested in exploring more Italian dishes, check out this article on the difference between Alfredo sauce and carbonara.

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