What is Spaghetti Alla Carbonara?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Spaghetti alla carbonara is an Italian pasta dish that includes spaghetti and a cream sauce made from eggs and cheese. The dish became prominent after World War II and is popular in the United States and other countries, though cream sauce is generally not common in authentic Italian cooking. Spaghetti alla carbonara includes small bits of cured meat, usually pancetta or guanciale, though other meats such as bacon are often substituted. The origins of the dish and the name of the dish are uncertain, but many theories suggest it originated in the coal mining areas of Italy after World War II.

To make spaghetti alla carbonara, one should seek out an accurate recipe for the dish. This usually includes frying the pork in a pan, then boiling spaghetti until it is cooked through. Traditionalists may want to make their own spaghetti from scratch, though this process takes much longer than simply buying spaghetti from the store. Once the spaghetti is cooked, the cream sauce is made. Egg, cheese — usually Romano cheese — olive oil, and/or lard are combined in a pan along with the cooked pasta. The sauce simmers and adheres to the spaghetti; after a short simmering period, the pork is added to the mixture and the spaghetti alla carbonara dish is complete. Pepper can be added to the top of the dish for added flavor, and sometimes peas or other vegetables are added for flavor and texture.


The first record of spaghetti alla carbonara being eaten in Italy occurred sometime during or after World War II, when the availability of eggs was high in certain parts of Italy. Though the origins of the dish are uncertain, many theories suggest it originated in areas of italy where coal mining was common, and the dish was known as coal miner's pasta. Other theories exist that speculate where the dish may have originated, but no definitive origins have been discovered. The dish is similar in texture and flavor to fettucini alfredo, though the roots of the alfredo dish are much clearer.

Spaghetti alla carbonara is not the only carbonara dish common in Italian cuisine. Any pasta can be used in combination with the carbonara sauce, though longer pastas are commonly used to provide more surface area on which the sauce can cling. The meat used in the dish also varies, and varieties of bacon are commonly used in the United States in lieu of more expensive and harder to find meats traditionally used in spaghetti alla carbonara.


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