BEST Creamy Carbonara! Authentic Italian Carbonara (no cream) Recipe.
An easy 20 minute restaurant worthy meal you can make on a weeknight! This recipe is perfectly smooth and creamy without cream. In Italy, authentic carbonara means no cream. Learn to make it the authentic way with only 4 ingredients.
This is our tried and true Italian family recipe. It's simply the BEST. It is a quick and easy meal to make using staple pantry and a few fresh items, a great one to add to your weekly dinner rotation!
You will also love these authentic and easy Italian pasta dishes:
What is Pasta Carbonara?
Carbonara is a silky creamy egg and cheese sauce with mouthwatering crispy pancetta or bacon combined with al dente pasta. At the end the dish is blessed with a sprinkle of fresh cheese and black pepper (optional). This meal is all you need to satisfy your pasta cravings.
Read about the origins of pasta carbonara in this post World Carbonara Day.
Easy Pasta Meal
My mother calls this dish “the meal that saves lives!” It’s easy to make, filling, tastes delicious, and it can feed a crowd. Whenever I invited friends to dinner at the last minute this was a go-to- meal. It even tastes fancy enough for dinner guest. It’s a must make recipe that everyone will love!
It’s a quick and easy meal to make using staple pantry and a few fresh items, a great one to add to your weekly dinner rotation!
Carbonara is known all over the world as a traditional Italian pasta dish. The authentic Italian recipe requires a few quality ingredients. The high quality of the ingredients is a necessary condition for the success of carbonara recipe.
- Pasta of choice - long or short pasta works well. The most traditional is spaghetti in these photos I used a wider variety called fettuccini. We also love short pasta as it is easier for children to eat.
- Bacon, guanciale or pancetta - salty and crisp you will want a thick cut cured meat variety! I use the kind at grocery counter butcher counter it always tastes better than the prepackaged variety
- Fresh eggs - since eggs are one of the stars here make sure to use high quality and preferable farm fresh. The taste really makes a difference in this recipe.
- Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano cheese - either variety will work and is commonly used. The important part is to use freshly grated cheese, or you might end up with a gloopy mess.
- Pepper to taste - pepper is optional and freshly ground is preferred.
Whole Egg or Just Yolks?
You will see a variety of recipes that use only yolk, a mixture of both, or the whole egg. In my Italian family we use the whole egg. Why? I find that it provides a lighter and more fresh carbonara that still delivers a delicious and creamy (without cream) sauce.
Bacon, Guanciale, or Pancetta?
In the most traditional carbonara recipes guanciale is used since it has the most fat and flavor. Generally the higher the fat and longer the cure on the meat the more flavor it will have.
The next in line is pancetta as far as most commonly used for Italian carbonara. I've found that guanciale and pancetta can be hard to find in most American stores. Buying high quality thick cut bacon will work when that is all you can find!
Pecorino or Parmigiano?
Many believe that the origins of pasta carbonara are from Lazio, Italy. At the time, they used pecorino because it’s a cheese specific to the Lazio region. Parmigiano belongs to another region: Emilia Romagna.
I love them both ways, but most often use parmigiano since I always have that on hand.
Spaghetti alla carbonara is perhaps the most traditional way to serve carbonara sauce. I love carbonara with thicker long pasta, such as linguini, or even short pasta such as, rotini (fusilli).
Does Authentic Pasta Carbonara Have Cream?
There is a big debate between American and Italians about adding cream to carbonara. The answer, in my Italian and bias opinion, is NO CREAM, in authentic carbonara! Most people add cream to make the sauce smooth. You can still achieve a creamy sauce without cream...
Follow these easy steps and achieve the perfect restaurant style carbonara without using cream!
1. Use Room Temperature Eggs
Using room temperature eggs will help get your sauce smooth and light. The use of cold eggs can lead to clumps in your sauce. We didn’t sign up for an egg scramble.
2. Use Freshly Grated Parmigiano
It helps to finely grate the cheese, so it mixes well with the egg and melts nicely into the sauce. I wrote an entire article on why using freshly grated cheese makes a difference Read and you will see why!
3. Whisk Eggs and Parmigiano Together
Whisking your eggs so that the whites are completely incorporated into the yolks will give your sauce a more uniform texture. Think of scrambled eggs.
Then, combine your eggs and parmigiano and whisk more until you achieve a smooth consistency. This eggs and cheese mixture will be quite thick.
4. Cook Pasta Perfectly
Make sure to salt the water to flavor the pasta from the inside out. Only cook until al dente. Make sure to read: How Long to Boil Spaghetti Pasta Perfectly Every Time.
5. Save Drippings and Pasta Water
After frying the pancetta, guanciale, or bacon remove it and set aside so it stays crispy. Then, save a couple tablespoons of the grease in the pan. This will help the sauce come together in the end!
Reserve a little (¼- ½ cup) of pasta water. If you need a little extra binder to form the sauce you can add it.
6. Turn off the Heat
This is where most people mess up carbonara. You cannot mix the pasta and eggs over heat. You will create scrambled eggs!
The residual heat from the pasta and the reserved pan drippings creates that velvety sauce, not the heat from the pan. It is okay to mix the pasta in the pan with the drippings (it is preferred) just make sure the pan is not on the heat.
7. Mix HOT Pasta with Sauce
The pasta needs to be as hot as possible to cook the eggs and create a creamy sauce. Don't let your pasta sit after draining. Start incorporating with the egg mixture and pan drippings with the hot pasta.
8. Keep Stirring
Make sure the egg and cheese mixture is evenly distributed. You want every inch of the al dente pasta coated in the velvety eggy cheesy sauce.
How to make video
Watch this short video on how to make carbonara the right way! Enjoy!
This is the most traditional carbonara recipe. If you want to make carbonara with a twist try these options.
- Vegetarian: sauté mushroom, peas, or asparagus with butter or olive oil and use the same method
- Add garlic, onions, or shallots to add an extra element of flavor
- Spice it up by adding some red chili flakes or hot sauce
If you want a creamy pasta recipe try this one Creamy Pasta Shells with Sweet Peas and Bacon
Step by Step Instructions with Photos
How to Make Creamy Carbonara (without cream). There’s a few key steps to make a creamy carbonara without cream. Let’s start right at the beginning.
First, you want create your egg mixture. This, alongside the starchy pasta water, will create a smooth and glossy sauce for the pasta. Start by mixing the whole eggs until well combined and uniform.
Then, add the freshly grated cheese and combine. It helps to finally grate the cheese so it can melt quickly and create the sauce. The mixture will be very thick like in the last photo.
Second, fry the bacon (or pancetta) on medium heat (you can also start boiling your pasta water at this time). No oil needed for frying the meat as there is a lot of natural fat.
After the meat is nice and crisp move onto a clean plate and set aside. Reserving a couple tablespoons of the pan drippings and discard the rest of the grease. Set the pan and bacon aside while the pasta cooks.
Third, cook the pasta. Tips for cooking flavorful al dente pasta:
1 pound pasta : 2 tablespoons Kosher salt : 4 quarts water.
Make sure the water is boiling before adding the salt and pasta. Stir often. Cook until al dente.
Reserve ¼ cup (up to ½ cup) of the pasta water. Drain the pasta add it back to the pan with dripping and add the reserved pasta water.
Lastly, combine the ingredients and create the final dish. Add the egg mixture a little at a time stirring to combine with each addition. The pan drippings, egg and cheese mixture, and hot pasta will create the creamiest sauce (see- no cream!).
Add the bacon (reserve a little for topping) and stir to combine. Finish with freshly grated cheese and black pepper (if desired). Eat hot!
Summary of Steps
- Make cheese and egg mixture
- Add pancetta/bacon to pan fry until crispy. Save drippings.
- Cook pasta
- Combine pasta to pan when removed from heat. Slowly add egg mixture (add a splash of starchy pasta water- if needed)
- Toss until glossy, slightly creamy and fully blended.
- Fold in pancetta/bacon and serve hot!
Carbonara is best served immediately, while it is hot and creamy. If you have leftovers, store in the refrigerator for up to two days. Once reheated it will not taste the same since the eggs will cook more in the reheating process.
My preferred way to enjoy authentic carbonara is to make and eat the carbonara as soon as it is made!
More Recipes for you
This delicious Authentic Carbonara Recipe will easily become a new family favorite! If you make it don't forget to leave a STAR rating and review. I can't wait to hear from you!Print
Authentic Italian Carbonara (without cream) is an easy 20 minute restaurant worthy meal you can make on a weeknight! This recipe is perfectly smooth and creamy without using cream. In Italy, a traditional carbonara means no cream. Learn to make it the authentic way.
- 4 eggs (room temperature)
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 lb (16 oz) of pancetta, guanciale, or bacon, sliced into pieces about ¼ inch thick by ⅓ inch square
- 1 lb (454 grams) of pasta of choice
- Place a large pot of salted water (no more than 2 tablespoon salt per 500 gr pasta) over high heat, and bring to a boil.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs until very well combined and smooth. Add the cheese and mix to incorporate. You should have a thick mass once combined.
- Meanwhile, fry bacon in a pan, on the edge of crispness but not too hard. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Save a couple tablespoons of bacon drippings in pan. Take pan off heat and wait to reuse.
- Add pasta to the water and boil until al dente according to your taste and package directions. Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water (in case you need it), then drain pasta.
- Add pasta to pan with bacon drippings. Then, a little at a time, add the egg mixture, adding some reserved pasta water if needed for added creaminess. After a creamy texture is achieved add the bacon and incorporate into the pasta and sauce. Save a little bacon for garnish.
- Serve immediately, dressing it with a bit of additional grated cheese and fresh ground pepper.
STORING: Carbonara is best served immediately, while it is hot and creamy. If you have leftovers, store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Once reheated it will not taste the same since the eggs will cook more in the reheating process. My preferred way to enjoy authentic carbonara is to make and eat the carbonara as soon as it is made!
Keywords: pasta, carbonara, pasta carbonara, eggs, bacon, pancetta, parmigiano, easy dinner, easy meal, no cream, authentic Italian