At a quaint, off the beaten path café in Amalfi, Italy, I had the best pasta carbonara I’ve ever had (and one of the single best pasta dishes ever consumed). The family that owned this café was so happy that we loved their carbonara, that they invited me into their kitchen to watch the magic happen. It was one of the best moments of my life!
This simple pasta carbonara recipe is a perfect flavor blend of creamy richness and a porky kick. This timeless Italian classic is kicked up a notch with this Amalfi version, adding shallots and whole milk to the dish for extra flavor and creaminess. Your taste buds will thank you!
Want another classic Italian pasta dish recipe? Try Pasta al Limone!
What is Pasta Carbonara?
Carbonara is a traditional Roman pasta dish that combines few, but high-quality ingredients. This dish showcases the harmonious blend of pasta, eggs, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, guanciale (cured pork jowl) or pancetta, and black pepper. The result is a creamy, rich sauce that clings to the pasta, creating an indulgent flavor experience.
This “Amalfi style” includes the five standard ingredients in Roman carbonara (spaghetti, pancetta/guanciale, eggs, parmesan cheese, and black pepper), but it also includes whole milk and shallots.
Still – this recipe doesn’t include cream or peas that you’d typically see in carbonara throughout the US. This Amalfi carbonara is delicate like the Roman version, but it has just a bit more creaminess with a touch of sharpness from the shallots. I was so lucky to be able to watch and cook carbonara with a local pro. Here’s how she made carbonara as I remember it. She didn’t measure out ingredients, so I’ve experimented with the recipe to recreate it just how I remember it tasting!
Tips for Marking Pasta Carbonara
- Choose Quality Ingredients: Opt for high-quality eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and pancetta to ensure an authentic and flavorful Carbonara base.
- Respect Tradition: Stick to the traditional ingredients and preparation methods for an authentic taste that pays homage to its Italian roots.
- Mind the Heat: While cooking the sauce, use low heat to avoid scrambling the eggs, achieving a silky and creamy texture. I use pasteurized eggs (previously heat-treated) since I don’t like to take any risks when working with raw ingredients.
- Pasta Water is Your Friend: Save a cup of pasta cooking water before draining. The starchy water can be added to the sauce for a smoother consistency.
- Serve and Eat Immediately: Carbonara is best eaten right after preparation to enjoy its creamy goodness at its peak.
Pasta Carbonara Ingredients
- High-quality spaghetti: Nothing beats a perfect al dente pasta. Spaghetti or bucatini is the go-to noodle for this dish.
- Pancetta or guanciale: Pancetta is milder, while guanciale is more intense and fatty. I like pancetta!
- Parmigiano Reggiano: Parmigiano is used in the sauce to add creaminess and flavor, and as a finishing touch.
- Whole milk: Whole milk adds a creamy richness to balance the sauce’s flavors and texture.
- Shallots: Shallots add an onion-like kick providing subtle depth to the dish.
- Eggs (I use pasteurized): Eggs also contribute to the creaminess and richness to the sauce.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: EVOO helps saute shallots.
- Black pepper to taste: Freshly cracked black pepper adds a warm, peppery kick.
How to Make Pasta Carbonara
Full instructions in the recipe card; this is just an outline!
Whisk together whole milk, egg, cheese, and black pepper to create your sauce base. Set aside.
Cook spaghetti to perfect al dente, according to cooking instructions on the box.
In a separate pot or pan, cook pancetta until just crispy, about 5-8 minutes over medium heat. Drain extra fat (the liquid in the pan!).
Throw in your shallots to the pancetta pan (and a dash of olive oil if needed) and sweat them for about 2 minutes.
Drain your pasta and add to the pancetta/shallot pot. Use tongs to combine.
Turn stove off, and add egg mixture, stirring into hot pasta, pancetta and shallots. Stir constantly until all ingredients are steaming hot.
Serve immediately! And of course, with more grated cheese and black pepper!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Guanciale or pancetta are traditional, but bacon can be used as an alternative and still give you the essence of Carbonara.
Incorporate a little more reserved pasta water and gently toss until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
Add a bit more cheese to help bind the sauce.
You can certainly add salt, but the cheese and pancetta/guanciale are plenty salty. Only add a little at a time if you choose to do so.
Spaghetti is traditional, but you can use any type of pasta shape you like. I prefer to stick to ones that can hold the creamy sauce, like fettuccine, bucatini or rigatoni.
Make sure to remove the pan from direct heat before adding the egg and cheese mixture and toss quickly to coat the pasta evenly.
Carbonara is best enjoyed fresh, as reheating can cause the eggs to overcook and the sauce to become less creamy.
Reheating carbonara is not recommended as it can result in a loss of creaminess.
Taste the pasta a minute or two before the suggested cooking time ends. It should have a slight firmness when bitten, as it will continue cooking briefly when combined with the sauce.
Other Pasta Recipes You’ll Love
- Italian Chicken Pesto Pasta
- Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta With Chicken
- Authentic Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper) Pasta
- Creamy Pasta Primavera
- Pasta alla Genovese (6-Hour Beef & Onion Sauce)
- Creamy Lemon Pasta (Pasta al Limone)
- The Ultimate Pasta With Bacon and Peas
- 1 pound good-quality spaghetti
- 8 ounces pancetta or guanciale, which is fattier and gamier
- 1 ½ cup parmigiano reggiano plus more to garnish
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 2 shallots chopped
- 3 large eggs you can substitute pasteurized eggs if you prefer!
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon black pepper or to taste
- In a bowl, whisk together milk, egg, cheese, and black pepper. Set aside.
- Begin boiling spaghetti to al dente, according to cooking instructions on box.
- In a separate large pot, sauté pancetta in a dry pan until it just starts to get crispy, about 5-8 minutes over medium heat. Drain extra fat (the liquid in the pan!). Add shallots (and a dash of olive oil if needed) and sweat them for about 2 minutes. Then turn heat to low to keep ingredients warm.
- Drain pasta and add to pancetta/shallot pot. Use tongs to combine. Turn stove off, and add egg mixture, stirring into hot pasta, pancetta and shallots. Stir constantly until all ingredients are steaming hot.
- Serve immediately with more grated cheese and black pepper! OH MY!!