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Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

by . Featured in FEAST
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Introduction

I think spaghetti carbonara is what Meryl Streep cooks for Jack Nicholson in the film version of one of my favourite books, "Heartburn", and it is so right, for that chin-dripping, love-soaked primal feast, the first time someone actually stays through the night. Yes, I know a whole pack of spaghetti is far too much for two, but I want that whole panful lugged back to the bedroom. No namby-pamby mimsy little plated arrangement. So you'll have leftovers? Just work up an appetite for them later.

I think spaghetti carbonara is what Meryl Streep cooks for Jack Nicholson in the film version of one of my favourite books, "Heartburn", and it is so right, for that chin-dripping, love-soaked primal feast, the first time someone actually stays through the night. Yes, I know a whole pack of spaghetti is far too much for two, but I want that whole panful lugged back to the bedroom. No namby-pamby mimsy little plated arrangement. So you'll have leftovers? Just work up an appetite for them later.

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
Photo by James Merrell

Ingredients

Serves: 2

Metric Cups
  • 500 grams spaghetti
  • 275 grams cubed pancetta (or lardons)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 60 millilitres dry white wine (or vermouth)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50 grams parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
  • black pepper
  • 60 millilitres double cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 cups cubed pancetta (or lardons)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (or vermouth)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
  • black pepper
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Method

  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Cut the pancetta into 1 x 1.5cm / ½ x ¼ inch cubes. If the pancetta has its rind on, cut it off - and use a bigger piece of pancetta, as the amount I've specified is for the prepared cubes - and put the rind in a pan with a film of oil and cook it gently to render down.
  2. Then in a large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Chuck over them the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.
  3. In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream and some pepper. Cook the pasta more or less according to the packet instructions, but since you want it kept al dente start checking it 2 minutes before the wrapper says it's done. Lower in a cup and remove approximately 125ml / ½ cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the other pan, the one with the bacon cubes, on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Add a little of the reserved pasta water to lubricate if necessary.
  4. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg, carry proudly aloft, and dive in.
  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Cut the pancetta into 1 x 1.5cm / ½ x ¼ inch cubes. If the pancetta has its rind on, cut it off - and use a bigger piece of pancetta, as the amount I've specified is for the prepared cubes - and put the rind in a pan with a film of oil and cook it gently to render down.
  2. Then in a large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Chuck over them the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.
  3. In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream and some pepper. Cook the pasta more or less according to the packet instructions, but since you want it kept al dente start checking it 2 minutes before the wrapper says it's done. Lower in a cup and remove approximately 125ml / ½ cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the other pan, the one with the bacon cubes, on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Add a little of the reserved pasta water to lubricate if necessary.
  4. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg, carry proudly aloft, and dive in.

Tell us what you think

What 24 Others have said

  • Just made this, tastes good but wow if you only want to cook for one person, dont use half the pasta, use a quarter of it.

    Posted by GreatSnowman on 6th July 2016
  • This is a fabulous recipe, take the time to make the spaghetti from scratch though. The vermouth in this recipe makes it a real treat. Quite possibly the best pasta I've ever tasted. Be warned though when Nigella says this is more than enough for 2, it will comfortably feed 5 people.

    Posted by Mark.champ on 20th February 2016
  • I've had this recipe for years from one of your cookbooks, and it has remained a staple on Christmas Eve ever since. Words cannot describe how beautifully decadent the spaghetti becomes when combined with the egg, pancetta and cheese!!! Delish. Junie

    Posted by juniepierce on 18th November 2015
  • If one were not to use any alcohol, what could you use instead of dry white wine or vermouth??

    Posted by Paul_South_Africa on 20th September 2011
  • Really good recipe - definitely the best, but the description nearly put me off. Not sure I want to cook "chin-dripping, love soaked primal feast" for my mum and dad.

    Posted by jj87 on 19th January 2015
  • This has become a firm favourite of mine and my new hubby's - hubby has been a Nigella fan for a while and is getting me converted too :-D

    Posted by JoViolin on 15th January 2015
  • 500 Grams of pasta for 2 people .....WOW.

    Posted by Geedoc on 13th December 2014
  • ... Italians, as my italian neighbour told me, use just the yolk, the eggwhite doesn't tastes of nothing. Without it the sauce is much more creamy.

    Posted by on 5th December 2014
  • Great recipe - quintessentially Italian. Though, made for 7, and so tripled ingredients, but only cooked 1000 grams of spaghetti (33% less than recipe says) which was absolutely plentiful.

    Posted by Harrimw on 22nd November 2014
  • Absolutely delicious!! Yum!!! I added chopped garlic to the pancetta at the last minute then threw in the wine! Thanks Nigella for a quick, easy and cheap recipe :)

    Posted by cazkillen on 24th October 2014
  • The ultimate comfort food. For a hangover, a break up, or a pig out with friends, its the best thing in the world. Take it up another level and serve it with garlic bread! Love you Nigella!

    Posted by jerrypwjr on 4th October 2014
  • That is the most authentic Italian recipe I ever seen from a non Italian! Brava Nigella, ti voglio sposare! Maybe not so much about the wine here but it would give it a touch of personality and great taste. Remember in Italy not everyone would add cream but if we do just a dash! Chef Gabriel

    Posted by gabelele on 10th April 2014
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