Recently I came across a recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara by Mario Batali and decided to make it to compare with the oral recipe that has been used in my family for decades.
Spaghetti Carbonara have been a staple of Italian Cuisine since the middle of the last century, although its origins are murky. Carbonaro means coalman  and some have speculated that coalmen’s wives came up with a similar recipe for a filling meal. But Carbonari was also a historical group of underground revolutionaries who worked tirelessly for the unification of Italy in the 1800’s. So, who knows…
This is one of the least cholesterol friendly recipes you will ever encounter – traditionally made with pancetta or guanciale (but bacon is an acceptable substitution here in the States), raw egg yolks and butter, it screams heart attack just by reading through the ingredients. It is as decadent as it is delicious.
What intrigued me about Mario Batali’s recipe was the omission of butter and onion and the use of some whole eggs as well as egg yolks, and very many of them at that.
My mother’s recipe also calls for an abundant sprinkling of black pepper and puts to good use the fat from the cooked pancetta (or bacon). I found Batali’s recipe to be blander, more restrained which might also be due to the egg whites taming the final result.
If you would like to check out his recipe, go to and search under the “make” section. My mother’s recipe, on the other hand, is right here.
RECIPE  – serves 4
1/2     Yellow onion, finely chopped
5 or 5 Strips of bacon (or pancetta or guanciale), diced
4         Egg yolks
2 T     Butter
1/3 C Parmesan or Pecorino (or more to taste)
           Freshly ground black pepper
1 #     Spaghetti
1. Brown the onion and the bacon together, letting the bacon render its own fat. I like it crispy but the traditional recipe leaves it fairly soft.
2. Cook the spaghetti.
3. While the pasta is cooking, soften the butter in a bowl with a fork and mix it with the egg yolks.
4. Once the spaghetti is cooked and drained, pour in the bowl with a bit of the cooking water and mix it very fast – letting the yolks and the butter coat the pasta while also cooking the yolks.
5. Add the parmesan and the bacon/onion mixture with some of the rendered fat (I told you it was a cholesterol nightmare).
6. Sprinkle abundant black pepper and serve immediately.


Filed under food


  1. great article
    Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  2. toni carbonara

    great recipe BUT the true Carbonara does not have butter in it, also whole eggs are used, signed a loving descendant of the Carbonara family.

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