Spaghetti alla carbonara
Course Primo (pasta course, Italy); main course (elsewhere)
Place of origin Italy
Region or state Rome/Lazio
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Guanciale (or pancetta), eggs, hard cheese (usually Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, or a mixture of the two), black pepper
Variations (US) peas, mushrooms, or other vegetables, cream
Cookbook: Carbonara  Media: Carbonara

Carbonara (Italian: [karboˈnaːra]) is an Italian pasta dish from Rome[1][2] made with egg, hard cheese, guanciale (or pancetta), and pepper.

The recipe is not fixed by a specific type of hard cheese or pasta. The cheese is usually Pecorino Romano.[1] Spaghetti is the usual pasta, however, fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini are also used. Either guanciale or pancetta can be used. Another common substitute outside Italy is lardons of smoked bacon.

The dish was created in the middle of the 20th century.[3]


The pasta is cooked in moderately-salted boiling water. The guanciale is briefly fried on the pan without the use of oil (the fat of the guanciale will behave the same as the olive oil and prevent it from becoming too crispy).[4] A mixture of raw eggs, grated pecorino (or a mixture of pecorino and Parmesan), and lots of ground black pepper is combined with the hot pasta away from additional direct heat to avoid curdling the egg, either in the pasta pot or in a serving dish.[2] The fried guanciale is added, and the mixture is tossed, creating a creamy sauce.[1][3][4][5] Although various pasta shapes can be used, the raw egg can only cook properly with a shape that has a sufficiently large ratio of surface area to volume, such as spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine.

Guanciale is the most commonly used meat for the dish in Italy, but pancetta is also used[6][7] and in English speaking countries bacon is often used as a substitute.[8][9] The usual cheese is Pecorino Romano,[1] or occasionally Parmesan.[10][11] Recipes differ in the use of egg: some use the whole egg, others only the yolk, some a mixture.[12]


Cream is not used in most Italian recipes,[13][14][15] though there are exceptions;[7][6] but it is often used elsewhere.[8][16] Garlic is similarly found mostly outside Italy.[4][17] Other variations on carbonara outside Italy may include peas, broccoli, mushrooms, leeks or other vegetables.[16] Many of these preparations have more sauce than the Italian versions and subsequently types of pasta better at holding sauce are used, such as penne.[18]

Origin and history

As with many recipes, the origins of the dish and its name are obscure.

The dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese, and pepper, such as spaghetti alla gricia. Indeed, it is very similar to the Italian pasta cacio e uova, dressed with melted lard and mixed eggs and cheese.[4]

There are many theories for the origin of the name, which may be more recent than the dish itself.[4] Since the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers.[1] In parts of the United States the etymology gave rise to the term "coal miner's spaghetti". It has even been suggested that it was created as a tribute to the Carbonari ("charcoalmen"), a secret society prominent in the early, repressed stages of Italian unification.[19] It seems more likely that it is an urban dish from Rome,[20] although it has nothing to do with the Roman restaurant of the same name.[21]

The name may also have derived from "Carbonada", the word for bacon in central Italy's dialect.[22]

Pasta alla carbonara is unrecorded before the Second World War; notably, it is absent from Ada Boni's 1930 La Cucina Romana. The dish is first attested in 1950, when it was described in the Italian newspaper La Stampa as a dish sought by the American officers after the allied liberation of Rome in 1944.[23] It was described as a Roman dish, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States.[24] It was included in Elizabeth David's Italian Food, an English-language cookbook published in Great Britain in 1954.[25]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Gosetti della Salda, Anna (1967). Le Ricette Regionali Italiane (in Italian). Milan: Solares. p. 696. ISBN 978-88-900219-0-9.
  2. 1 2 Carnacina, Luigi; Buonassisi, Vincenzo (1975). Roma in Cucina (in Italian). Milan: Giunti Martello. p. 91. OCLC 14086124.
  3. 1 2 Alberini, Massimo; Mistretta, Giorgio (1984). Guida all'Italia gastronomica (in Italian). Touring Club Italiano. p. 286. OCLC 14164964.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Buccini, Anthony F. (October 2007). "On Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Related Dishes of Central and Southern Italy". In Hosking, Richard. Eggs in Cookery: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2006. Prospect Books. pp. 36–47. ISBN 1-903018-54-4.
  5. Ricettario Nazionale delle Cucine Regionali Italiane. Accademia Italiana della Cucina.
  6. 1 2 Carnacina, Luigi; Veronelli, Luigi (1977). "Vol. 2, Italia Centrale". La cucina Rustica Regionale. Rizzoli. OCLC 797623404. republication of La Buona Vera Cucina Italiana, 1966.
  7. 1 2 Buonassisi, Vincenzo (1985). Il Nuovo Codice della Pasta. Rizzoli.
  8. 1 2 Herbst, Sharon Tyler; Herbst, Ron (2007). "alla Carbonara". The New Food Lover's Companion, Fourth Edition. Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 0-7641-3577-5.
  9. "Fettucine Carbonara". Better Homes and Gardens. Yahoo!7 Food.
  10. Gennaro Contaldo (2015). Jamie’s Food Tube: The Pasta Book. Penguin UK.
  11. Antonio Carluccio (2011). 100 Pasta Recipes (My Kitchen Table). BBC Books.
  12. "Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe".
  13. Carluccio, Antonio (2002). "Spaghetti alla Carbonara". Antonio Carluccio's Southern Italian Feast. BBC Worldwide ISBN 0563551879.
  14. "Spaghetti alla Carbonara (all'uso di Roma)".
  15. Marchesi, Gualtiero (2015). La cucina italiana. Il grande ricettario. De Agostini ISBN 8851127336.
  16. 1 2 Labensky, Sarah R; Alan M. House (2003). On Cooking, Third Edition: Techniques from expert chefs. Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 0-13-045241-6.
  17. Oliver, Jamie (2016). "Gennaro's classic spaghetti carbonara".
  18. Perry, Neil; Carter, Earl; Fairlie-Cuninghame, Sue (2006). The Food I Love: Beautiful, Simple Food to Cook at Home. Simon and Schuster. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-7432-9245-0.
  19. Mariani, Galina; Tedeschi, Laura (2000). The Italian-American cookbook: a feast of food from a great American cooking tradition. Harvard Common. pp. 140–41. ISBN 978-1-55832-166-3.
  20. "Myths" in Gillian Riley, The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, 2007, ISBN 0-19-860617-6, p. 342
  21. Russo, Andrea. "La Carbonara, una storia di famiglia" (in Italian). La Carbonara. Archived from the original on 2015-09-26.
  22. Dolce Jasmine (2017-11-11), What is Carbonara, in one minute?, retrieved 2017-11-12
  23. "La Stampa - Consultazione Archivio".
  24. Davidson, Alan (1999). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford UP. p. 740. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
  25. David, Elizabeth (1954). Italian Food. Great Britain: Macdonald.
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