Pasta alla Carbonara

The basic meaning word ‘carbonara’ signifies something that is cooked over charcoal, which would suggest that this is a very old recipe indeed. It is a very simple dish, essentially pasta with a little cheese and bacon added to give it a bit of zest, and I would imagine that it has its origins in Italian peasant cooking which was done using the most basic of ingredients, making much out of little, over a charcoal brazier. The purist would use pancetta [Italian bacon], and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, more usually known in the English-speaking world by its French name; Parmesan. I use standard lean New Zealand bacon and supermarket grade Edam cheese, but then I am no gourmet.


1l lightly salted water.

2 cups dried pasta.

¼ cup olive oil.

150g bacon, chopped.

1 medium onion, finely chopped.

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped.

2 eggs.

1 cup grated cheese.

Dash cayenne.

1 cup flat leafed parsley, chopped.


Bring the water to a rolling boil and add the pasta. It will need 10-12 minutes to cook al dente. As it is cooking, heat a sauté pan over a hot flame and add the olive oil.

Add the bacon and stir fry until the fat is beginning to render, 2-3 minutes, then add the onion and garlic. Continue to stir fry for another 2-3 minutes until the onion is soft and slightly browned. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and beat in the cheese and cayenne.

Add the cooked pasta to the bacon and onion and mix thoroughly. Remove the pan from the heat and rapidly stir in the egg mixture; if you leave it on the heat you will end up with scrambled eggs. Stir through, allowing the heat of the pasta to cook the sauce. Add some of the pasta water a little at a time to the mixture – ½ a cup or a dash more should be sufficient – to thin out the sauce, and add the parsley, mixing thoroughly. Serve immediately.

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