Monday, April 5, 2010

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

When I lived in Rome as a student, I ate this rich cream-sauced dish at least once a week.   It was my introduction to pancetta and a Roman specialty that, at the time, was rarely found on this side of the water.  A wonderful little restaurant called Grappolo d’oro, which was very near the Campo dei Fiori, featured it in on its menu and, much to my amazement it’s still there (, and Carbonara is still on the menu.  But all that cream and butter, pancetta and cheese put Carbonara on the endangered list once we reached a certain…size.  But the memory lingered on and a recipe for a very much lighter version caught my eye and I cooked it. I'm posting it today on the off chance you may have some Easter Ham sitting around that you can easily substitute, cubed, for the pancetta or slab bacon. And I think it’s well worth sharing with you because it’s very quick and delicious and you can probably get dinner on the table in about 30 minutes.

The recipe came from More magazine.  What, you may ask, are Andrew and I doing with a subscription to a magazine targeted as being “smart talk for smart women” ?  Well I am sure you must have noticed that as one magazine after another goes belly up, your subscription is suddenly attached to another publication until it runs its course.  In our case, that’s how More came our way.  I am not sure if More replaced House and Garden or its replacement, Domino and I generally round-filed it soon after it arrived.  Then my Food Writing Boot Camp instructor, Laurie Buckle, herself the Editor of Fine Cooking, praised the magazine’s food content and ever since I’ve taken to going straight to those pages.   I did alter their recipe. I think when you really cut down on fat, you have to boost flavor which I did by adding a little white wine and some alleppo red pepper flakes. I am sure the familiar red pepper flakes are good alternative to the latter but if you can find them, try alleppo for a change of pace.  They seem to have more body and ‘fruit’ to them.  I served this with a couple of pieces of toasted peasant bread and a green salad.  Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara

1 lb spaghetti

½ lb pancetta or lean slab bacon

2 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

4 large eggs

4 tbsp dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp. Aleppo Red Chile Flakes ( or more to taste)*

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese plus extra for passing when served.

* You can substitute Red Pepper flakes but I urge you to try these 'fruity' pepper flakes that have more kick; you can buy them on-line at  or if you live in New York, you can visit the store at 
123 Lexington Avenue (29th St.) (212) 685-3451.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil to make the spaghetti
  2. Chop the pancetta in cubes.  Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the pancetta with the garlic until it is golden and the pancetta crisp.  Remove the garlic and throw it away.  With a slotted spoon, lift the pancetta from the pan and keep it warm.
  3. Break the eggs into a bowl large enough to hold the spaghetti. Beat and season the eggs with salt and pepper.  Whisk in the white wine. 
  4. Cook the spaghetti until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes.  Reserve half a cup of the cooking liquid.  Drain the spaghetti and add it hot to the egg mixture. (It must be hot when you toss it with the eggs and that is what will cook them).  Toss well, add the pancetta and grated cheese and toss to incorporate them.  If the sauce need thinning, add some of the reserved cooking liquid.  Season with plenty of freshly ground pepper, and add salt if necessary.

This recipe can be halved easily.  These measurements serve 4.



  1. Looks simple and delicious. That would be a good lunch for me.

  2. Serendipitous! It's one of my favorite dishes, Monte. And yes, I just so happen to have a bunch of Easter ham I'm definitely going to cook this up tomorrow. Thanks.

  3. Thanks Mary and Jorge!
    Mary, nice that you get to cook a lunch like this.
    Jorge, How is Alexis? She looks so adorable on Facebook. I can't wait to see her in person. All best, Monte