If Filipino carbonara has cream, Italian carbonara sauce uses eggs—raw yolks, to be exact. This understandably raises some concerns, so we cook our carbonara sauce over a double-boiler. The mild heat pasteurizes the eggs while gently curdling them into a velvety, cheesy sauce.
Italian carbonara uses guanciale (salted pork jowl), which can be difficult and expensive to source. Pancetta is mellower in flavor, but makes a fine (and slightly cheaper) substitute. In a pinch, go with thick-cut bacon—we won’t tell the purists.
- ¼ cup grated pecorino
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, with extra for garnish
- 4 egg yolks
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- ½ cup cubed pancetta or guanciale
- 300g spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
Set up a double boiler: Add an inch or two of water to a pot and bring to a simmer. Place a heatproof mixing bowl on top of the pot. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not make contact with the water.
Make sauce: Combine pecorino cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, egg yolks, and cracked pepper in the mixing bowl. Whisk until the mixture thickens then set aside. Maintain a simmer and do not bring water to a boil—the mixture might turn into scrambled eggs!
Cook pancetta: Place pancetta or guanciale in a cold pan over medium-low heat until fat renders out. Spoon out extra rendered fat until you’re left with about 1 ½ tablespoons of it in the pan.
Mix pasta: Add the cooked pasta, a couple tablespoons of the carbonara sauce, and a bit of reserved pasta water to thin it out. Mix until well combined.
Serve: Plate carbonara on a serving dish. Top with extra Parmigiano Reggiano add a few cracks of black pepper. Serve while still warm.