Simple Roman Spaghetti Carbonara

. August, 2016
Photography by Sarah Tuck.
Simple Roman Spaghetti Carbonara

This is true classic Roman carbonara and with just four main ingredients it can be on the table in 10 minutes.

Serves: 4


400 grams spaghetti
200 grams guanciale (or pancetta), roughly chopped
120 grams pecorino (or parmesan), grated, plus a tablespoon extra to serve
4 egg yolks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In Italy this is made with guanciale (cured pork jowel). If you can’t get your hands on any, good pancetta will suffice. Also, the Romans make this with pecorino, which is slightly saltier and sharper (my preference for the dish), but again if you can’t find any, parmesan is still great. 


Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until only just al dente – I usually cook mine 2 minutes less than it says on the packet, as it keeps cooking in the next few minutes before serving.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large heavy-based pot and cook the pancetta for 4–5 minutes until crispy. (Make sure you leave the fat on the pancetta so you don’t need to add any to the pan).

In a small food processor, whiz the cheese and egg until a paste – I find this the easiest way as it makes the parmesan nice and small, so that it melts quickly.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving about half a cup of pasta water (more if you are feeding a large crowd). Add the drained pasta to the pancetta in the pot, add the egg and pecorino and stir to combine. Add a little hot pasta water to bring the sauce together. The heat from the pancetta, pasta and water will help to almost cook the egg. Season well with pepper, it may not need any salt if you used pecorino, and due to the curing of the pancetta.

Serve immediately with extra parmesan and a good grinding of black pepper. A simply dressed green salad would work well as a side.