Spaghetti alla carbonara
CoursePrimo (Italian pasta course); main course
Place of originItaly
Region or stateLazio
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsGuanciale (or pancetta), eggs, hard cheese (usually pecorino romano, occasionally Parmesan or Grana Padano, or a mixture), black pepper, spaghetti
VariationsUsing penne, or adding cream, garlic, or vegetables

Carbonara (Italian: [karboˈnaːra]) is a pasta dish[1][2] made with eggs, hard cheese, fatty cured pork, and black pepper. The dish took its modern form and name in the middle of the 20th century.[3]

The cheese is usually pecorino romano. Some variations use Parmesan, Grana Padano, or a combination of cheeses.[1][4][5] Spaghetti is the most common pasta, but rigatoni or bucatini are also used. While guanciale, a cured pork jowl, is traditional, some variations use pancetta,[1][2] and lardons of smoked bacon are a common substitute outside Italy.

Origin and history

As with many recipes, the origins of the dish and its name are obscure;[6] most sources trace its origin to the region of Lazio.[1][2]

The dish forms part of a family of dishes involving pasta with bacon, cheese, and pepper, one of which is pasta alla gricia. Indeed, it is very similar to pasta cacio e uova, a dish dressed with melted lard and a mixture of eggs and cheese, which is documented as long ago as 1839, and, according to some researchers and older Italians, may have been the pre-Second World War name of carbonara.[4]

There are many theories for the origin of the name carbonara, which is likely more recent than the dish itself.[4] There is no good evidence for any of them:

The names pasta alla carbonara and spaghetti alla carbonara are unrecorded before the Second World War; notably, it is absent from Ada Boni's 1930 La Cucina romana (lit.'Roman cuisine').[4]

In the Guide of Italy of the TCI, 1931 edition, is recorded a pasta (strascinati) dish from Cascia and Monteleone di Spoleto in Umbria, whose sauce contains whipped eggs and pork fat and lean, and could be considered as a precursor of Carbonara.[11]

The name carbonara is first attested in 1950, when it was described in the Italian newspaper La Stampa as a Roman dish sought out by American officers after the Allied liberation of Rome in 1944.[12] It was described as a "Roman dish" at a time when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States.[9]

According to another unverified hypothesis[13] a young Italian army cook, Renato Gualandi, created the dish in 1944 together with other Italian cooks working for the allies for a dinner for the US army as the Americans "had fabulous bacon, very good cream, some cheese and powdered egg yolks".[14][15]

Food blogger and historian Luca Cesari states that carbonara was born in Rome around 1944, just after the liberation of the city, probably because of the bacon that flowed in quantity with the American army.[16] He adds that the first mention of the dish is in an Italian movie from 1951[17] (but see above about a reference in 1950), while the first attested recipe is in an illustrated cookbook[18] published in Chicago in 1952 by Patricia Bronté.[19][13] According to Cesari, it is likely that the recipe was brought to the United States by an American serviceman who had passed through Rome during the Italian campaign or by an Italian-American who had met it in Rome.[19] This makes carbonara a dish that closely links Italy and the United States, according to Cesari.[19] The Italian academic Alberto Grandi also said that carbonara's first attested recipe is American, citing Cesari, a claim that has been criticized in Italy.[15][20] According to Alberto Grandi, the dish was created by Americans living in Italy after World War II. The American soldiers initially referred to it as "spaghetti breakfast". Eggs and bacon were their common snack, and they decided to incorporate pasta into it, thus creating the dish.[21]

In 1954, carbonara was included in Elizabeth David's Italian Food, an English-language cookbook published in Great Britain.[22]


The pasta is cooked in moderately salted boiling water, due to the saltiness of the cured meat and the hard cheese. The meat is briefly fried in a pan in its own fat.[4] A mixture of raw eggs (or yolks), grated cheese, and a liberal amount of ground black pepper is combined with the hot pasta either in the pasta pot or in a serving dish or Bain-marie,[5] but away from direct heat, to avoid curdling the egg.[2] The fried meat is then added and the mixture is tossed, creating a rich, creamy sauce with bits of meat spread throughout.[1][3][4][23] Although various shapes of pasta can be used, the raw egg can only cook properly with a shape that has a sufficiently large ratio of surface area to volume, such as the long, thin types fettuccine, linguine, tagliatelle or spaghetti.[citation needed][24]


Guanciale is the most commonly used meat for the dish in Italy, but pancetta and pancetta affumicata are also used[25][26][4] and, in English-speaking countries, bacon is often used as a substitute.[27][28] The usual cheese is pecorino romano;[1] occasionally Parmesan, Grana Padano, or a combination of hard cheeses are used.[5][29][30] Recipes differ as to how eggs are used—some use the whole egg, some others only the yolk, and still others a mixture.[31]

Some preparations have more sauce and therefore use tubular pasta, such as penne, which is better suited to holding sauce.[4][32] Cream is not used in most Italian recipes,[33][34] with some exceptions.[26][25] However, it is often employed in other countries.[27][35] Similarly, garlic is found in some recipes, but mostly outside Italy.[4][36] Outside Italy, variations on carbonara may include green peas, broccoli, tenderstem broccoli, leeks, onions,[37] other vegetables or mushrooms,[35] and may substitute a meat like ham or coppa for the fattier guanciale or pancetta.[38]

Halal or kosher versions

Since neither guanciale nor bacon are allowed for Muslims and Jews, these are replaced in carbonara in two ways: either by using another type of jerky, such as biltong or turkey bacon, or with non-meat alternatives such as zucchini or mushrooms. Thus the dish becomes halal or kosher.[39][40]


Carbonara sauce is sold as a ready-to-eat convenience food in grocery stores in many countries. Unlike the original preparation, which is inseparable from its dish as its creamy texture is created on the pasta itself, the ultra-processed versions of carbonara are prepared sauces to be applied onto separately cooked pasta. They may be thickened with cream and sometimes food starch, while often using bacon or cubed pancetta slices as its meat of choice instead of guanciale.[41][42]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gosetti della Salda, Anna (1967). Le Ricette Regionali Italiane (in Italian). Milan: Solares. p. 696. ISBN 978-88-900219-0-9.
  2. ^ a b c d Carnacina, Luigi; Buonassisi, Vincenzo (1975). Roma in Cucina (in Italian). Milan: Giunti Martello. p. 91. OCLC 14086124.
  3. ^ a b Alberini, Massimo; Mistretta, Giorgio (1984). Guida all'Italia gastronomica (in Italian). Touring Club Italiano. p. 286. OCLC 14164964.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Buccini, Antony F. (2007). Hosking, Richard (ed.). On Spaghetti alla Carbonara and related Dishes of Central and Southern Italy. Oxford Symposium. pp. 36–47. ISBN 978-1-903018-54-5. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  5. ^ a b c "La ricetta della Carbonara raccontata da chi l'ha trasformata in arte". Agi (in Italian). Retrieved 19 December 2023. It is made with egg, pecorino romano, grana padano, guancale, strictly long pasta.
  6. ^ "Carbonara recipe and origins". The Foodellers.
  7. ^ Mariani, Galina; Tedeschi, Laura (2000). The Italian-American cookbook: a feast of food from a great American cooking tradition. Harvard Common. pp. 140–41. ISBN 978-1-55832-166-3.
  8. ^ "Myths" in Gillian Riley, The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, 2007, ISBN 0-19-860617-6, p. 342
  9. ^ a b Davidson, Alan (1999). Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford UP. p. 740. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
  10. ^ Russo, Andrea. "La Carbonara, una storia di famiglia" (in Italian). La Carbonara. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015.
  11. ^ Luca Cesari; Jacopo Fontaneto (6 April 2023). "Carbonara day: altro che americana, la ricetta è nata in Umbria". La Stampa (in Italian). Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  12. ^ "Il papa ha "passato ponte"". (in Italian). La Stampa. 26 July 1950. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  13. ^ a b Dario Bressanini (3 December 2012). "L'origine della Carbonara. Il commissario Rebaudengo indaga" (in Italian). Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  14. ^ "Le origini della carbonara. L'invenzione di Gualandi avvenne a Roma: la scoperta di Igles Corelli" (in Italian). Retrieved 2 October 2020.
  15. ^ a b Giusti, Marianna (23 March 2023). "Everything I, an Italian, thought I knew about Italian food is wrong". Financial Times.
  16. ^ Luca Cesari (12 March 2018). "La storia della carbonara – Capitolo 1. I precedenti" (in Italian). Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  17. ^ Video on YouTube
  18. ^ Patricia Bronté (1952). Vittles and Vice: An Extraordinary Guide to What's Cooking on Chicago's Near North Side. Chicago: H. Regnery Company. p. 34.
  19. ^ a b c Luca Cesari (12 March 2018). "La storia della carbonara – Capitolo 2. Gli esordi 1951-1960" (in Italian). Retrieved 5 May 2023.
  20. ^ Giuffrida, Angela (27 March 2023). "Italian academic cooks up controversy with claim carbonara is US dish". The Guardian.
  21. ^ Grandi, Alberto (30 January 2018). Denominazione di origine inventata (in Italian). Mondadori. ISBN 978-88-520-8494-2.
  22. ^ David, Elizabeth (1954). Italian Food. Great Britain: Macdonald.
  23. ^ Ricettario Nazionale delle Cucine Regionali Italiane. Accademia Italiana della Cucina.
  24. ^ Gustiblog (27 March 2020). "On Serious Eats: a Pasta Rant". Gustiamo. Retrieved 21 June 2023.
  25. ^ a b Carnacina, Luigi; Veronelli, Luigi (1977). "Vol. 2, Italia Centrale". La cucina Rustica Regionale. Rizzoli. OCLC 797623404. republication of La Buona Vera Cucina Italiana, 1966.
  26. ^ a b Buonassisi, Vincenzo (1985). Il Nuovo Codice della Pasta. Rizzoli.
  27. ^ a b Herbst, Sharon Tyler; Herbst, Ron (2007). alla Carbonara. Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 978-0-7641-3577-4. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  28. ^ "Fettucine Carbonara". Better Homes and Gardens. Yahoo!7 Food.
  29. ^ Contaldo, Gennaro (2015). Jamie's Food Tube: The Pasta Book. Penguin UK.
  30. ^ Antonio, Carluccio (2011). 100 Pasta Recipes (My Kitchen Table). BBC Books.
  31. ^ "Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe". Archived from the original on 11 August 2019. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  32. ^ Perry, Neil; Carter, Earl; Fairlie-Cuninghame, Sue (2006). The Food I Love: Beautiful, Simple Food to Cook at Home. Simon and Schuster. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-7432-9245-0.
  33. ^ "Spaghetti alla Carbonara (all'uso di Roma)". Archived from the original on 10 September 2016. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  34. ^ Marchesi, Gualtiero (2015). La cucina italiana. Il grande ricettario. De Agostini. ISBN 978-88-511-2733-6.
  35. ^ a b Labensky, Sarah R.; House, Alan M. (2003). On Cooking, Third Edition: Techniques from expert chefs. Pearson Education, Inc. ISBN 0-13-045241-6.
  36. ^ Oliver, Jamie (2016). "Gennaro's classic spaghetti carbonara".
  37. ^ Beltramme, Ilaria. Magna Roma - 110 ricette per cucinare a casa i piatti della tradizione romana, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milano, 2011, pag. 73, ISBN 978-88-04-60723-6
  38. ^ Cloake, Felicity (9 May 2012). "How to cook the perfect spaghetti carbonara". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  39. ^ Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (2022). Cooking alla Giudia: A Celebration of the Jewish Food of Italy. Artisan. p. 114. ISBN 9781579659806.
  40. ^ Baz, Molly (22 March 2019). "Mushroom Carbonara". Bon Appétit. Condé Nast. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  41. ^ Zanini De Vita, Oretta; Fant, Maureen B., eds. (2013). Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-393-08243-2. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  42. ^ "Cooking Sauce Carbonara, 15 oz. Jar (Directions For Me)". Archived from the original on 25 December 2019. Retrieved 24 August 2019.


Further reading