The simplicity in this luxuriously creamy spaghetti carbonara is thanks to just four ingredients and a hearty dose of black pepper.
Easy Spaghetti Carbonara
“Here. Smell this. Does it smell like it’s gone bad to you?”
I HATE hearing those words in my kitchen. It means I’ve let good food go bad.
One of the things I struggle most with as a food blogger is food waste. Not of other people’s, but of my own.
Way too often than I want to admit, I find produce in the crisper that has turned into a science fair project. Or I make two or three dinner recipes in the middle of the day and with the best of intentions I save them to eat for dinner duriung the week.
And then I forget about them. Or my husband and daughter want something different for dinner. And by the beginning of the next week, those entire meals end up wasted.
I’m diligently working on getting better at that. It disgusts me how easy it is for me to disregard food in this way.
Because 1 in 7 Americans currently struggle with hunger. That’s 48.1 million people including 15.3 million children and 5.1 million seniors.
Those people don’t have the luxury of using 4 or 5 avocados to perfect their skills at making avocado roses. Or tossing the mega pack of chicken breasts in the garbage because they didn’t get around to cooking the whole package before the chicken started perfuming the fridge with that oh-too-familiar smell.
Whitney of the blog Jew Hungry asked me to join her and other food bloggers and contribute a post to highlight the plight of so many hungry Americans who simply can’t afford to feed themselves and their families when they have about $5 in their wallet for dinner.
So that was her challenge. To create a meal that costs less than $5 as part of her Foodies Fighting Hunger challenge. Whitney hopes this challenge will bring more exposure to the national nonprofit organization MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, the nonprofit working to end hunger in the United States and Israel for all faiths and backgrounds.
“As the nation’s economic recovery continues, government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps) provide a vital lifeline that helps people receive the sustenance they need to get back on their feet. 40% of households receiving SNAP benefits include at least one working person. The average benefit provided by SNAP equates to roughly $1.40 per person per meal – hardly an extravagant amount, and certainly not enough to do anything beyond simply get by.” ~ www.mazon.org
Thinking of a recipe that fit the bill was my challenge, but given that it’s one that millions are tasked with every day, I was more than ready to accept it.
What Is Carbonara?
If you’ve never slurped up a plate of pasta carbonara before, you’re in for a treat. Essentially, it’s a pasta dish that consists of spaghetti coated in a creamy cheese sauce and speckled with bits of bacon. This easy carbonara sauce gets its creaminess from eggs — don’t worry, you’re not eating raw eggs here. They get cooked when mixed with the piping hot pasta.
In the scheme of things, spaghetti carbonara is fairly inexpensive to make. And uncomplicated. And the ingredients have a long fridge life so you won’t be found searching for the foul-smelling culprit you forgot about.
Here’s how I spent my $5. I went a little bit over, but considering this meal delivers 6 servings, I feel like it still falls within the challenge’s guidelines.
- Spaghetti pasta: $3.50
- ½ dozen eggs: $.60
- 6 ounces bacon: $2.75
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese: $1.50
- Salt and Pepper: I already had on hand
How to Make Carbonara
The key to making spaghetti alla carbonara is to move quickly. You’ll first need to cook the spaghetti until just al dente. While the spaghetti cooks, heat the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the bacon until lightly browned.
Separate the eggs — place the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Stir the grated cheese into the whites.
Add the reserved pasta water to the bacon and bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Quickly add the hot pasta to the bacon mixture and toss well to combine before stirring in the egg white and cheese mixture.
Divide the spaghetti carbonara among your bowls and drop an egg yolk into the center of each portion — be sure to stir the yolk into the pasta so it will cook!
Can I Use Another Type of Pasta?
Yes, although long, skinny pastas work best when making pasta carbonara.
Do I Have to Use the Raw Eggs?
Absolutely! The eggs are crucial to making creamy spaghetti carbonara. Note that the eggs get cooked when combined with the hot pasta. So even though the spaghetti alla carbonara is coated in a creamy sauce, no part of the dish is “raw” anymore.
Tips for the Best Carbonara Recipe
Spaghetti carbonara has only four main ingredients, so the quality of those ingredients will dictate its level of deliciousness. For the purpose of keeping to my budget I used bacon for this recipe. For a more traditional version, pancetta or guanciale can be used.
Making this sauce one that coats the pasta instead of one that ends up as pasta with scrambled eggs, you’ll want to work quickly and efficiently and be sure your pasta is hot, hot, hot. I’ve followed Mario Batali’s lead in separating the eggs and mixing all of the whites with the cheese, actually cooking the sauce in the hot pasta. The yolks are served on each of the dished pasta portions for the guests to mix in themselves and cook into the hot pasta. It makes a fun presentation.
Be sure to adequately salt your water to flavor your pasta with at least 3 tablespoons of salt or so it tastes like the ocean. It truly does make all the difference.
More Easy Pasta Recipes to Master
- Lighter Penne Alla Vodka
- Shrimp Scampi Pasta
- Fresh Tomato and Ricotta Whole Wheat Pasta
- Mom’s Homemade Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
- Baked Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni
- Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Bookmark this recipe and leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces sliced bacon , cut into ½-inch wide strips
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 6 large eggs
- ½ cup grated pecorino romano
- In a large pot, cook the spaghetti in generously salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving ¾ cup of the pasta water.
- While the spaghetti is cooking, in another large pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat and cook the bacon until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the pepper and remove from the heat.
- Separate the eggs, being careful to keep the egg yolks intact. Put the whites in a small bowl and the yolks in another or place the yolks each back into one half of it's shell. Whisk the egg whites until frothy. Whisk in the pecorino romano.
- Add the reserved pasta water to the bacon and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
- Add the hot pasta to the bacon mixture and toss well to combine.
- Add the whisked eggs and cheese to the pasta, stir and toss to coat well. The residual heat from the hot pasta will cook the sauce, but toss quickly so the eggs don't scramble.
- Divide the pasta among six bowls making a nest in the center of each pile of pasta. Gently drop an egg yolk into the center of each portion and serve immediately. Stir the yolk into the pasta so it will cook.
- Add more black pepper and grated pecorino romano to taste.
- Adapted from Mario Batali'a Molto Gusto
Help Yourself and Help Others Who Are Hungry
Following are a few other bloggers who took on the $5 challenge for Foodies Fighting Hunger. Check out their posts and share your own versions or ideas for a $5 dinner on Instagram by tagging it #foodiesfightinghunger
Ramen Alfredo with Fresh Herbs | Jew Hungry
Spicy Tomato Chickpea Pasta | The Bojon Gourmet
Fried Green Tomato Sabich | What Jew Wanna Eat
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Overnight Oats | Let’s Eat Cake
If you would like to do more to make a difference for those who are going hungry tonight, here are a few things you can do to help.
- Tell Congress to end hunger for military families now.
- Invest and Improve Child Nutrition Programs.
- Educate others: Share this post and other posts involved in this advocacy campaign.
- Sign up to volunteer by yourself or with your family at various local food shelters.
- Next time you host a holiday party or birthday party, ask friends to bring a canned good or other donate-able food item instead of a gift and then donate it to your local food bank.
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I think I should try this one, thankyou for this recipe :D
Agen Sabung Ayam
I like spaghetti, thanks for the tips
Christine aa Batteries
I appreciate the fact that diversions from the classic are mentioned here, and left as options–not essentials. I find it best at its absolute basic; whatever water is clinging to the pasta is plenty. Please don’t compromise the proper cheese in this one: Parmigiano Reggiano. The real $tuff. It matters!
I just made this for breakfast… Lol… I know it’s not for breakfast but it looked so good I had to… I used bacon though( didn’t have any pancetta) yummy!!!
Savita @ ChefDeHome
So simple and delicious with runny egg! drooling!
This is the ultimate Spaghetti carbonara! I love pasta, this recipe is going to be perfection. It is a dish that is required at dinner table at least once a week in my house. I can’t wait to try it, thanks for sharing :)
Emily @ Life on Food
This is such a good cause to highlight. I hate wasting food too. It makes me so mad at myself. In general we do a pretty good job but still it happens.
I love pasta carbonarra but that is way too much to spend on a pound of pasta when you can get it at Dollar Tree or the 99Cent Store for a buck.
And you can certainly do that! It would take the price down for sure. I simply prefer DeLallo pasta so that’s what I used.
Yum! This looks delicious. I especially love that it’s not over sauced.
The sauce can be thinned out if you’d like with more pasta water, it’s all to your taste!
Jill Silverman Hough
I love both your recipe and your inspiration for it! Thanks for sharing both, Heidi.
I also love the presentation–but does the lack of yolks in the sauce make it less creamy, or do they get mixed in there as you eat it?
The yolks get mixed in at the end and still make a creamy sauce. BUT! If you prefer, you can surely add the eggs all in at once. I just think it’s fun to wow your guests with the yolk delivered separately :)
Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps
I’m with you, I’m constantly feeling guilty about all the food I waste, I’ve been trying to get a little bit better over time, and am happy to say that I’ve taken great strides in the last year or so. I try to have at least one “clean out the fridge” meal a week, which helps tremendously. Beautiful carbonara!
I’m trying to keep better track of what’s in the fridge so I don’t buy more of what I already have. That’s already helped heaps.
Vivian | stayaliveandcooking
I think it’s very important to think about those who are less fortunate – but also about the food wasted daily. Strong message, great recipe!
Thank you Vivian! So happy to be part of sharing this message.