Introduction: Four Ingredient Carbonara (bacon and Eggs Pasta)

Picture of Four Ingredient Carbonara (bacon and Eggs Pasta)

This is a simple but delicious Carbonara recipe that uses only four ingredients: spaghetti, cheese, one egg, and one slice of bacon. (Allegedly, the name "carbonara" is a reference to the coal miners in Italy who frequently ate cured pork and eggs and this kind of stuff for lunch.) The yoke is served on top of the pasta raw; when the yoke is mixed throughout the pasta, giving the pasta a rich smooth peppery egg sauce punctuated by crunchy bits of bacon.

For such a simple dish, it is surprisingly satisfying. It's hard to beat a bowl of cheesy, bacony, peppery, eggy goodness. After I adopted this recipe, I never went back to making carbonara any other way.


Step 1: Mise En Place: Ingredients and Equipment

Picture of Mise En Place: Ingredients and Equipment

This recipe makes one serving.

Start by gathering your ingredients:

one serving of pasta
one egg
one or two slices of bacon, depending on how much bacon you want
pecorino or Parmesan cheese

You'll also need a fine grater, a pot for cooking the spaghetti, tongs for handling the food, and a skillet for cooking the bacon. You'll also need couple of ramekins for separating the egg ahead of time.

I personally like the flavor of pecorino cheese better than Parmasean (actually, I like using half grated pecorino, and half grated parma, but then this would be a five ingredient recipe), and I always grate my cheese as I need it; that crumbly pre-ground crap that passes for cheese in most supermarkets is gross. Ground cheese has the wrong texture; insist on grating your own if you're going to do this right. Life is too short to be eating gross pre-ground industrially processed cheese.

Step 2: Start the Pasta, Separate the Egg

Picture of Start the Pasta, Separate the Egg

Before begining with the egg, you should have started your pasta water. I'm not going to explain the details of properly boiling pasta besides these three tips:

1) salt the water until it tastes salty to season the pasta, and
2) the only proper way to test the pasta for readiness is to pull a strand out and taste it. None of this nonsense about throwing it on walls or crushing it under a chair leg; neither of those "tricks" tells you how the pasta tastes and feels in your mouth, which is the only thing that matters.
3) Pasta should be cooked until al dente; it should still be somewhat firm and have a little snap to it, but the core of the pasta should not be hard or crunchy.

Separate the egg, and use a chopstick or some functionally equivalent tool to remove that squiggly bungee cord thing from the egg white. Beat it lightly with a fork, add a teaspoon of water if needed to make it easier to beat.

Beating the egg white with a bit of water makes it more liquid, and easier to spread throughout the pasta later.

If you are concerned about raw egg yoke:
Don't be. In general, eggs are safe nowadays, since they vaccinate chickens against salmonella. If you are really concerned anyhow, use pasteurized eggs; these eggs have been heated to the point where salmonella can't survive, but not to the point where the egg cooks.

Step 3: Cut Up the Bacon and Cook It

Picture of Cut Up the Bacon and Cook It

Cut the bacon into little strips, and cook it over medium-low heat until it gets crispy. If your bacon renders out a lot of fat, pour off most the fat, leaving about half a teaspoon or less to coat the pasta.

Once the bacon is done, turn the heat to super-low, or off if you have a heavy pan; we just need to keep it warm until everything is put together.

Put your egg white ramekin near by, because you'll want to apply the egg white to the pasta while the pasta is hot, so the heat of the pasta cooks the egg. If the egg white isn't somewhat cooked because you added it after the pasta has cooled too much, it just coats everything like slime. Trust me, you want it to cook a little. The residual heat from the pasta is just enough to cook it to a soft consistency.

Step 4: Prep the Cheese

Picture of Prep the Cheese

Grate the cheese up. If you decide to use a blend of Parmasean and pecorino, mix the two together to simplify the next step.

When you grate the cheese with a fine grater, there will appear to be a lot of grated cheese, but most of the volume will be air. The texture of a hard cheese shaved into tiny ribbons with the Microplane is amazing. The shavings quickly dissolve on your tongue in a soft burst of cheese flavor.

You'll need between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of this, depending on how much you like cheese.

Finely grated pecorino is quite delicious. Try a pinch of the finely grated stuff. There's no way store bought pre-ground pseudo-parmasean cheese can compare.

Step 5: Putting It All Together and Serve

Picture of Putting It All Together and Serve

Test the pasta to see if it is ready. As soon as the past is ready, drain the pasta, put the pasta in the skillet with the bacon, and toss with tongs to combine. Add the egg white to the hot pasta and turn off the heat; the objective is to get the egg white to softly cook on the pasta itself. Add the cheese shavings, and toss to combine. If the whole thing looks a little too dry, put in a few tablespoons of pasta water to moisten it up. You don't want it wet, you just want a silky, creamy sauce made of egg white and shaved cheese coating everything.

Once it's all together, put it in a bowl, plop the egg yoke on top, and garnish with a bit of grated cheese and plenty of pepper.

Serve it up. A rich pasta like this goes well with a good beer. Serve it up with some salad, and a side of grees, and you're all set.

To eat this, first bust the egg yoke with your fork, and stir it into the pasta so everything is coated with a little yellow. If the pepper isn't enough to offset the richness of bacon, egg, and cheese, add a few dashes of crushed red pepper to give it a spicy kick.



BlackSheep1 (author)2014-10-24

This looks really good -- more pepper okay?

Berkana (author)BlackSheep12014-10-24

Yes. Actually, red pepper flakes also work well for this, and have a different taste.

mmartinez36 (author)2012-03-19

...great taste!!! just seems so simple to cook Carbonara... I really study how the proper cooking of Carbonara... Thanks to Instructables! ...( to be continued...=))

beehard44 (author)2011-12-06

Tastes awesome even without cheese, but i believe it'll taste better with it.

TrueItalian (author)2010-11-24

Try to blend with egg (don't separate egg, we use it entire) and cheese ( very well 50% reggiano 50% pecorino) also some milk, mix them very well and you have a cream (or sauce or as you called it XD),when your pasta is cooked mix together (I suggest to try with linguine pasta next time). For the bacon (in Italy pancetta) 2 soupspoon of olio e.v.o. (olio extravergine d'oliva) and cook as you described (hold the fat, in the photo isn' too much and also it serve to cook the egg sauce when you put it over your pasta) For pasta:there is a rule (10,100,1000 rule) 10 gr of salt for 100gr of pasta in1000 milliliter (1 litre) of water So you can't mistake ;) So in order: make the egg-cheese-milk sauce, then cook the pasta and make crispy the bacon,in the end mix pasta and sauce and now pour the bacon and the fat (do it very hot) over all, some ground pepper, mix again,eat. If you found it drink a falanghina or pinot grigio (or a white fizzy wine)
Let me know if you like it, sorry for my english...I'am italian XD
Best wishes from Rome :) xoxo

smav (author)TrueItalian2011-01-20

In Milan we don't use pecorino: only parmesan or grana ;)
And we don't add milk, but we count one egg every 100g of pasta and one yolk (we say "a yolk for the pot" eheh).
We add a lots of pepper when the plate is finished.


enjoy your meal! bye from Milan ;) ihihih

gaudopippo (author)smav2011-10-08

i use some onions with half smoked bacon and half not

TrueItalian (author)smav2011-01-20

de gustibus non disputandum est ;)

smav (author)TrueItalian2011-01-22

In fact I was only comparing differences from various parts of Italy! :)

Berkana (author)TrueItalian2010-11-25

Thank you for your suggestion. ^_^
The 10,100,1000 rule is very helpful.

TrueItalian (author)Berkana2010-11-25

you are welcome ^^

jpereira11 (author)2011-09-25

looks good

foxxtrot (author)2011-08-25

Note: Salmonella is bacterial, you can't "vaccinate" against it. They do treat chickens with antibiotics to kill of salmonella, and as you say, it's unlikely you'll get Salmonella from eggs, though pasteurization almost entirely eliminates that risk.

Linda Allen (author)2011-03-25

I've been making a very similar version for 30+ years. After cooking the bacon, brown a chopped onion in the drippings. I mix the egg and cheese together in the serving dish, then add the spaghetti and toss to coat, then add the bacon and onion and a little of the drippings and toss to coat. Mmmmm. When heating a leftover the next day, I like to microwave it until it's crispy. Mmmmm!

Screamo (author)2010-09-25

Bacon and eggs pasta? odd

anthhyde (author)2010-08-05

I used this recipe. and since i was out of pasta i used ramen. It still came out great.

mastermakoko (author)2010-06-21

greatt!!!!! ive been making it twice already this month!~

c0lin (author)2009-03-14

I've got a college student spin on this recipe. Mine is made up of 3 main ingredients not including spices (no cheese, cheese is expensive). The egg isn't raw either, it's quickly added to the noodles after draining, while mixing the egg is cooked from the heat of the noodles and bacon and sticks to the noodles and bacon. Cheap, quick, and not made in a microwave.

sole (author)c0lin2010-05-21

If it's not microwaved then how is it a college student spin xD

j626no (author)2009-02-13

idk how i feel about the raw yoke though...other than that it looks delicious

Berkana (author)j626no2009-06-27

The raw yoke actually tastes pretty good on cheesy peppery pasta. Raw egg yoke is delicious; raw egg white is what grosses me out. If you try this, for the best taste make sure you separate the egg yoke very thoroughly so there's no coating of egg white on it.

red-king (author)Berkana2009-08-26

raw egg white is like slime. =/ yoke is good though.

Lafiel (author)Berkana2009-07-01

As u like. But do know that in Italy we beat the entire egg or do the exact opposite (sometimes we only use beaten yoke on the hot pasta totally discarding the white part).

Lafiel (author)2009-06-27

your recipe is quite near to the original one, but you have to beat white and red egg all together (no raw red egg please u_u), then add salt and black pepper, drop it on the hot pasta at end.

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Bio: I'm an inventor, poet, permaculture / sustainability nerd, and activist. I work in the renewable energy industry with biomass gasification. I love to show people ... More »
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