Fettucine Carbonara

21 Nov

(serves 2)
This may be one of the most basic pasta recipes but the combination of bacon, egg yolk and cheese makes for a wonderful pasta sauce which is considered one of the great classics. Anyone can make this pasta dish with a minimum of fuss in a relatively short amount of time, using common ingredients. If someone who is cooking for the first time comes to me for advice, this is the recipe I’d recommend.  
  1. Bacon (200g)
  2. Fettucine (160g)
  3. Heavy Cream (150ml)
  4. Parmigiano Reggiano (40g)
  5. Egg (1)
  6. Chopped Parsley
  7. Turmeric
  8. Nutmeg 
  9. Cognac
  10. Honey


  1. Take your egg out of the fridge so it can warm up a bit.
  2. Cut 200g of bacon (basically 6 strips) breadthwise into thin slices. I find that if you partially freeze your bacon in a stack, this will make the task all the easier. Put the bacon to fry in a pan under low heat until most of the fat has been melted to oil. The bacon itself should begin to crisp and turn to a dark shade of pink. 
  3. The bacon will continue to cook until it begins to cool so turn the heat off a minute before you think its done. During this minute, mix 2T cognac with 1/2t of honey, 1/2 t of nutmeg in a bowl. Scoop out the bacon pieces onto a strainer held over the pan, such that the drippings fall back into the pan. Place the bacon into the marinade and mix well. For best results, you can do parts 1-3 ahead of time so the bacon has a longer time to soak and soften up.
  4. Put a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil. When this boils, put your pasta in.
  5. While waiting for the water to boil, finely grate 40g of Parmigiano Reggiano (or any of the other grating cheeses).
  6. Then add the grated cheese, together with 150ml of whipping cream and 1/4t of turmeric to the bacon oil in the pan. Heat under low heat for a short while while stirring, until all the cheese has melted. Then turn the heat off once again. You should end up with a nice yellow sauce which thickens by itself over time.
  7. When the pasta begins to soften and is about 3/4 done, strain the pasta and transfer it to the pan as well. At this stage, pour the bacon including any liquid in as well. Stir fry under low heat until the fettucine is almost al dente. 
  8. Leave the pasta to stand in the pan. In the meanwhile seperate away the white of your egg and stir the yolk into the pasta after the pan has been given a minute to cool down. You can also use two yolks if you like. Stir immediately to prevent the yolk(s) from solidifying before it melds with the sauce.
  9. As a final touch sprinkle on 1T of chopped parsley and some black pepper. Serve immediately.


  • Strictly speaking you are supposed to use pancetta for a true carbonara but it comes in small cubes and I find that a lot of it gets left behind on the plate. Bacon on the other hand sticks well and evenly to the fettucine and that is why I usually use bacon.
  • Carbonara verses Alfredo I
    Italians will insist that there should be no garlic or onion in a carbonara sauce, which are some of the ingredients found in alfredo sauce. Well for once I am in agreement with tradition.
  • Carbonara verses Alfredo II
    However, I am inclined to use a limited amount of cream which Italians also insist belongs only in an alfredo sauce. The cream makes for a better dish, just make sure you don’t use too much or you really will end up with an Alfredo sauce instead.  Remember, a carbonara sauce is supposed to be thick and clingly – zoom in on the photo to get a closer look.
  • If you have grappa lying around the house for some strange reason, by all means use that instead of the cognac (and skip the honey as well). If you are the adventurous type, you can also try Chinese Cooking Wine.
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta


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