This spaghetti carbonara recipe is so delicious and creamy with a silky smooth sauce, just a little bit fancy, and simple enough to make on busy weeknights. There is no cream in this recipe, just good quality, simple ingredients and you’ll have dinner on the table in 20 minutes.
Spaghetti carbonara is a classic Italian pasta dish that is super creamy without the need for any cream, and is the perfect simple weeknight dinner that’s still fancy enough to pull together on date night.
There are plenty of recipes online that will claim to be authentic but this isn’t one of them. This recipe understands what an authentic carbonara is and what it isn’t (no cream will be found here!), and then works to make the recipe just a little simpler and more accessible so that you can have something really delicious on the table in 20 minutes without needing to think too much.
This simple carbonara recipe is a go to when you want something comforting that also feels a little lush and special. Plus the few simple ingredients needed for this spaghetti recipe usually happen to be in my fridge and pantry already making it often the answer to my ‘what’s for dinner’ question.
This recipe is one that I have been making at home for a while now as I search for recipes in this current season of my life where things feel a bit chaotic. It’s for those nights when you want to feel like you’ve got your life together but maybe don’t. Is it girl dinner elevated? Just maybe.
This is not a dairy free recipe, but it is one that is lactose free making it perfect for those of us who need something a bit easier on the tummy without missing out on rich, creamy pasta dishes. Make sure to read through the ingredients section and FAQs to understand what makes this recipe lactose free even though it does contain cheese.
I love making spaghetti carbonara on a busy weeknight because it still feels like a meal that has had a lot of care put into it but it’s made with very basic ingredients that are easy to keep on hand.
Note all ingredients and their quantities are laid out in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Spaghetti – you can use any long thin pasta shapes you like. I often make this with fettuccine or linguine instead of spaghetti.
- Bacon – traditionally the cured pork component of this dish will be guanciale or even pancetta however we want this recipe to be easy with easy to find ingredients that you normally buy in a weekly shop so we’re using bacon.
- Eggs – the secret to the rich, creamy, silky sauce.
- Parmesan – you want to make sure to use a good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano that has been aged more than 12 months to keep this recipe lactose free. You could also use a combination of both parmesan and pecorino romano to make it more traditional. Pecorino romano is also naturally low in lactose as it’s made from sheep’s milk rather than cow’s milk, however I personally find sheep’s milk cheese still not great for my digestion. Use what you know you like and can eat! More information in the FAQs.
To make this pasta recipe you’ll need a large saucepan to cook the pasta, a frying pan to cook the bacon and a large mixing bowl to bring everything together. I usually use tongs as my utensil of choice, but a wooden spoon would also work.
Start by bringing your pasta water to a boil and cook your spaghetti following the packet instructions until al dente. This means you want your pasta to be cooked through but still slightly firm when you bite it, not soft.
While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the bacon and let it cook until it’s golden and crispy. Once done, place the bacon on a plate with a paper towel to drain away any excess fat and set aside to cool.
In your large bowl, whisk together the eggs then add in your parmesan cheese and again mix to combine. Season with cracked black pepper. Finally add in the cooked bacon and stir through.
Once the spaghetti is cooked, reserve about ¼ cup of the cooking water before draining. Immediately transfer the hot spaghetti to the bowl with the egg mixture and start tossing everything together vigorously using your tongs or a wooden spoon.
As you mix the heat from the spaghetti will cook the eggs and the sauce will start to thicken and become super silky and creamy. If it’s too thick, add a little of the reserved pasta water until it reaches a smooth consistency.
The trick here is once the pasta has been added, keep the mixture moving, tossing it quickly to ensure an even coating of the sauce. Doing this will ensure that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. This is also why I choose to do this in a bowl rather than in the saucepan or frying pan as I want to ensure I have less possible heat and can guarantee perfect results every time.
Serve up the carbonara in pasta bowls or plates and top with extra grated parmesan cheese, a little extra cracked black pepper and a little chopped fresh parsley which isn’t traditional but adds really good freshness to the dish and of course looks pretty!
Tips for the ultimate easy carbonara
- Finely grating the cheese – I love my microplane for finley grating the parmesan over the top of the finished pasta dish but thinking about doing that for 50 grams of cheese makes me way too tired. Instead, I chop off a chunk, cut it into small pieces and put it into the small container of my bullet blender with the flat blade attached. A few shakes to get all those chunks and you have perfectly finely grated parmesan super quickly and with no effort.
- Getting the right consistency – once you add your spaghetti start mixing vigorously straight away. Wait to see how thick the sauce becomes initially before adding any of your reserved pasta water. How much extra water you need will depend on how well drained your spaghetti was (i.e. how much extra water just ends up in your bowl naturally) and also will be impacted by the size of your eggs. It’s always easy to thin it out if you need, but harder to thicken again.
Parmesan cheese, especially Parmigiano-Reggiano produced in Italy, is usually safe to consume by people with lactose intolerance as long as it has aged for at least 12 months due to the cheese-making process.
What happens is that the lactose is converted into lactic acid, which is then drained off with the whey. This means that even though Parmesan is made from cow’s milk, it contains only trace amounts of lactose and can be safely consumed by people with lactose intolerance.
The production of Parmigiano-Reggiano in Italy is tightly regulated and must adhere to strict guidelines to ensure quality and authenticity. One of these guidelines is that the cheese must be aged for a minimum of 12 months, with many producers choosing to age their cheese for much longer to develop a richer flavour.
Therefore, I always buy Parmigiano-Reggiano produced in Italy so I know it’s gone through this strict process and will be safe for me to consume.
Spaghetti Carbonara is best enjoyed fresh, as it may not reheat well due to the egg-based sauce. It’s recommended to prepare and serve it immediately for the creamiest and tastiest results.
More simple weeknight dinner recipes:
- 200 grams spaghetti
- 100 grams bacon diced
- 2 eggs
- 50 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano finely grated
- ¼ cup reserved pasta water
- Black pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley optional to serve
- Extra Parmigiano-Reggiano to serve
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to packet directions until al dente. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta cooking water before draining.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and cook until it becomes crispy and browned. Once done, remove the bacon from the pan and place on a plate with a paper towel to allow the excess fat to drain away.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and add the finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir to combine, and season with black pepper. Add in the cooled bacon.
- Once the spaghetti is cooked, transfer it to the bowl with the egg mixture immediately and toss everything together vigorously, ensuring the heat from the pasta and bacon cooks the eggs, creating a creamy sauce. If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta cooking water to reach your desired consistency.
- Serve the spaghetti carbonara immediately with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano grated over the top, and a sprinkle of fresh parsley if desired.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.