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How to make Traditional Carbonara

Before pursuing his education, Nigel was a cook for two years in several restaurants specializing in Malaysian and international cuisine.


What's a Traditional Carbonara?

What do we know about traditional Carbonara? the traditional Carbonara is a traditional Italian pasta dish from Rome, Italy and it was created in the early 19th century however, it only got its name in the early 20th century.

Carbonara is traditionally made with eggs, Pecorino-Romano cheese, guanciale (pork jowl) and pasta. The most common type of pasta used in this recipe is Spaghetti, however, in recent years, Fettuccine and Linguine is used.

Using Pork Guanciale is the most traditional way to make Carbonara as it is rich in the “Lardon” or Fat which makes the pasta dish more flavorful, however, Pancetta is also acceptable in Traditional Roman Carbonara.

Pork Bacon is also used outside Italy as a replacement for Guanciale, however, today we’re focusing on traditional Carbonara, so there will be no Pork Bacon involved.

Pecorino-Romano is the main cheese used in this dish however, Parmigiano-Reggiano can be mixed into the Pecorino for a sharper flavor.

This Is A Guanciale

Guanciale is a seasoned Pork Jowl, it is then smoked before going on sale.

Guanciale is a seasoned Pork Jowl, it is then smoked before going on sale.

How i learnt to make it?

I’ve learnt how to make a traditional Carbonara when I was working in a cafe back in 2016 when my head chef, who learnt how to make traditional Carbonara from an Italian friend of his, he then taught me how to make it during an off day we had.

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It was a great experience learning this dish with him which at the same time, gave me a new insight on Pasta Carbonara. In Malaysia, Carbonara is misunderstood with Alfredo because Carbonara here (Malaysia) is made with cream rather than eggs and cheese.

While i fully understand the use of cream in Carbonara here, it is cheaper and less effort to make, however, if you stumble upon this recipe, do try it out. It may cost a little more in Malaysia and a bit more effort, but your effort in trying this recipe will pay off when you enjoy the taste of it.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

30 min

30 min

1 hour



  • 3/4 pack spaghetti
  • 4 slices guanciale, chopped
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 cup pecorino-romano cheese
  • black pepper


  1. First, before you start, get a pot of water boiling, make sure to salt it as salty as you can, you want it to taste like the ocean's water.
  2. As the water boils, slice 4 slices of guanciale/pancetta, into half an inch thick size and then chop it into half an inch sized cubes.
  3. Crack 2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg and mix it (2 yolks and 2 whole if you're using 4 eggs), after that, grate some pecorino-romano cheese and mix with the eggs until thickened, also, add black pepper (up to your liking).
  4. At this point, you can put your pasta into the water, remember, if your box says "cook for 7 minutes", cook it for 6 minutes for Al-dente noodles.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, add the guanciale/pancetta to the pan and let it brown and release its flavor. Make sure to clear some of the fat after cooking, but keep some to mix into the pasta.
  6. By the time the guanciale/pancetta is browned, your pasta should be done, then turn off the heat and add the pasta into the pan straight.
  7. Remember to save the pasta water, you will need to put the water into the pan, let the meat and pasta get to know each other.
  8. Next, put your pan on the lowest heat for 30 seconds and then turn off the heat, then add in the pecorino-romano and egg mix into the pan, keep mixing the pasta.
  9. Add pasta water to reduce thickness of the sauce, once you're satisfied with the consistency of the sauce and the pasta, its time to plate.
  10. Serve with extra grating of pecorino-romano and black pepper. Voila!

Check out, The Real Reason You Should Never Drain Pasta In The Sink by Mashed

How mine turned out

Disclaimer: Due to the difficulty to find Guanciale in my country, i used bacon for this plate. my apologies.

Disclaimer: Due to the difficulty to find Guanciale in my country, i used bacon for this plate. my apologies.

Cooking notes

  • Carbonara is a type of pasta that would get harden quickly if it gets cold due to using cheese, which will harden if cold, so it is best to serve your Carbonara right after finishing the cooking process.
  • There are options in Traditional Carbonara on whether you want to use guanciale or pancetta, but do not use bacon as bacon is smoked, therefore, bacon gives the traditional Carbonara a smokier flavor.
  • Also, you want to have a saucy and creamy sauce, try adding the pasta water slowly until you get the saucy consistency.

HACK: You can put the pasta water in the pecorino-romano,pepper and egg mix to dilute the sauce early, you can see how creamy it becomes, however, be careful of the temperature of your water, you don't want scrambled eggs.

Let me know how you feel about this recipe!

© 2020 Nigel Koay

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