Creamy, Classic Carbonara—And 5 Ways to Riff

March  5, 2018

What makes a carbonara a carbonara? The classic Italian pasta dish, at its most simple, is a marvelous melding of bacon, egg, and cheese (like my favorite breakfast sandwich but so, so different). The trio comes together to coat pasta with a creamy, sumptuous sauce that warms your belly and sticks to your ribs. It’s supreme comfort food.

Though there’s a method to carbonara madness, that doesn’t mean it’s always prepared the same way. Like any good thing, a carbonara recipe is endlessly customizable. Sub out meat for a vegetable-forward approach, or change up the shape of your pasta. A carbonara is still a carbonara if you will it to be one. Start with this handy guide to a no-recipe rendition, then get to riffing:

Creamy & Classic

These two takes are carbonara recipes at their most typical. Follow these to master the technique and make sure you’ve got the simple ones down before you start swerving.

Go Green

The addition of fresh and crunchy vegetables in these two recipes take the carbonara a bit off course and into exciting new territory. Be it ramps or Brussels sprouts, a vegetable-dappled sauce is a welcome alteration.

Different but Delicious

These takes eschew the traditional ingredients. Instead, they opt for unconventional approaches to the creamy, bacon-laden sauce. One features cauliflower, another mushrooms. Consider this carbonara-ish.

How do you carbonara? Tell us your tips in the comments below.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.