Daddy's Carbonara

By Eric Liftin
July 19, 2009
50 Comments


Author Notes: I refuse on principle to make pasta with butter (or powdered cheese) for my children. So I respond with this crowd-pleaser and artery-clogger. I prepared this version for my daughter's slumber party, and everyone loved it (even the vegetarian). Quick to prepare and easy to have on hand. Modify quantities and proportions as you will. Note use of complete packages below. I totally prefer American bacon to pancetta for its crispness in this dish.Eric Liftin

Food52 Review: A good carbonara is not easy to find -- nor, for that matter, to make. We found the silky, rich sauce resulting from generous doses of bacon, egg and cheese totally addictive, and peas are a great addition. We also love the story behind Eric's recipe. After all, feeding one's children is often a necessity that breeds culinary invention. Because one of us (we won't name names) suffers the chronic plight of scrambling her eggs when she makes carbonara, we tempered the egg and cheese mixture by whisking in about 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water before adding the spaghetti. 10 oz. is a whole lotta peas (we're guessing Eric's kids are fans), so feel free to take his advice and modify the proportions. - A&MThe Editors

Serves: about 6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 10 ounces frozen peas (1 package)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • black pepper

Directions

  1. Start cooking the pasta (I have long subscribed to the less-water method Harold McGee addresses here).
  2. Take the bacon out of the package, cold out of the refrigerator, and cut across the slices into 1/2" wide blocks. Cook in a skillet over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the blocks with a wooden spoon.
  3. Dump the peas into a Pyrex bowl with a little water and microwave 3-4 minutes, until they are warm, stirring halfway through.
  4. While all the cooking is going on, Mix the egg, parmesan, and pepper (to taste - it's best to use a lot, but for kids, maybe less) in a large bowl. It should have the consistency of thick batter.
  5. When the pasta is done, drain it quickly. Don't linger, as it's good to capture some of the water. Dump the steaming spaghetti into the egg mixture, and agitate well to cook the egg. Add the bacon with a slotted spoon. Some purists will just empty the skillet into the bowl, but that is too much. Mix in the peas, and you're done. The biggest challenge is to get the bacon and peas mixed in evenly - I recommend steel tongs.
  • This recipe is a Wildcard Contest Winner!

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Reviews (50) Questions (3)

50 Comments

Pete P. May 5, 2018
I love the line ... I prepared this version for my daughter's slumber party, and everyone loved it (even the vegetarian). It really tickles my darker sense of humour and troubles the ethical side of my brain ... I mean, a slumber party, with a vegetarian friend present ... and lets just chuck a pound of bacon in ... it worries me that I find it funny, sorry all ... my chuckling head is hung in shame ...
 
margaret February 14, 2018
Very good weeknight recipe. I sauteed spinach and garlic in some of the bacon grease then added the thawed peas. Threw it all together and it was great with arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette and garlic bread
 
MeatballQueen November 19, 2016
Love the addition of the fresh pop of peas with every forkful. I'm all about tradition but also love the fresh, new spins that keep these recipes in circulation
 
Man, did I mess this recipe up. Too little pasta, too much bacon, too little cheese, too many peas. An undisclosed amount of egg- like, I wasn't even counting shells, I was high on the crack. Just mixed it all together willy-nilly. Didn't follow a single step, and it turned out....<br /><br />Well, f*ckin' delicious.<br /><br />Great recipe. Hard to scramble (ha, ha). I devoured it. Boyfriend can't wait to eat the leftovers. Cheers!
 
KitchVega September 8, 2014
Love this dish! I used bow tie pasta because that's all I had at the moment. Added the 1/2c to temper the eggs and since I was 4 slices short of a pound of bacon, I added most of the rendered fat. I'll walk off the extra calories tonight.
 
LeeLeeBee March 31, 2014
I love that the peas cut the richness of this dish (and make me feel a touch less guilty about what I'm eating for dinner!). I usually reserve about a cup of pasta water, whisking about 1/3 to 1/2 cup into the eggs to temper them before adding the egg mixture to the hot pasta, and then adding a bit more if needed. I've never had a problem with scrambling or with raw eggs that way. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!
 
John B. March 7, 2014
Thank you for this. I don't care about authenticity. I love peas, I love bacon, I love pasta, I love Parmesan, I love eggs, and I love pepper. I made this tonight and it was excellent. The only adjustments I made after reading all of the comments was tempering the egg/cheese 'batter' with a 1/2 cup of the hot past water and mixing all the final ingredients in a large Pyrex bowl with a close fitting lid. Great way to combine all of the yumminess and finish the egg off while combining with the hot pasta, peas and bacon. (I may have added a few tablespoons of the rendered peppered bacon fat as well) Ok, I definitely did that. Might even add another Tbsp or two next time. This was amazing.
 
ChefJune February 10, 2014
Peas are not a standard ingredient in Carbonara, though I agree they are a tasty addition.
 
Tina H. January 8, 2014
Just made this with Jonathan Robinson's notes. YUM.
 
Jonathan R. December 7, 2013
You should really start with a tablespoon of olive oil, or a tiny knob of butter before adding the bacon. Even in a non stick pan, Especially if you are using lean bacon. Crack fresh pepper over the bacon as it cooks. Seasoning is so important at every stage of the dish. No Salt is needed because the bacon is salted. Instead of cooking the peas in the microwave, throw the frozen peas into the pasta water 1 minute before you drain it, (probably 2 mins if you are using the whole bag) this doesnt overcook them and the peas pop in your mouth with amazing freshness.<br />Once you have drained the pasta and reserved a cup full of the water. Throw the pasta straight into the skillet, stir, season again with pepper. Add the water back to the skillet and as it starts to simmer. Turn the heat off and crack the eggs directly into the pasta and fold through, then fold through the cheese and finish with more cracked pepper. This allows the egg to coddle as it folds through the pasta and makes a wonderously creamy sauce.
 
Christian November 6, 2013
Great quick meal if your starving, took me bout 15 minutes to prep & serve... Thank you!
 
Cooking I. September 22, 2013
I made it with edemame instead of peas to please the non-pea lovers in the family. Pretty good results. Everything's good with bacon...
 
Elaine G. June 16, 2013
Nonna<br />When I lived in Rome in the1960s I was told that Carbonara refers to the occupation of charcoal burners--visible black pepper is a reminder of them. No peas in the Roman version--that is from paglia e fieno (hay and straw--white and green linguini).
 
nanw. June 16, 2013
my mother made this for me, and i want more
 
walkie74 January 17, 2013
i screwed up and added 1 whole cup, as opposed to half a cup, of pasta water. Hubby didn't complain, though--he seemed to enjoy it. He added red pepper flakes as well as black pepper. I had to substitute raw spinach for the peas, but it was still a hit.
 
Author Comment
Eric L. January 17, 2013
The Times had a nice article about carbonara just recently: http://nyti.ms/ZZYGKC .<br />Authenticity is interesting, if elusive. It is alluring to connect back to old traditions. And sometimes authenticity reconnects us with a lost ingredient or technique. But with the explosion of available foods we must make choices and encourage evolution for reasons of health, taste, and sustainability. That said, I agree with @PazzoNico that black pepper is to be applied heavily. It is the symbolic soul of the dish.
 
PazzoNico January 17, 2013
True, the origins of the dish aren't really certain. Either way, black pepper is vital in the dish (for whatever reason). It runs along the same lines as Cacio e Pepe and Pasta alla Gricia; minimal ingredients, each playing an important role. <br />And also, there is usually some type of fat used in the base of the dish to render the pork; olive oil, butter, or lard. And even on the rare occasion, a clove of garlic (whole) is used to flavor the oil and later removed.
 
Greenstuff January 17, 2013
Really interesting discussion. My understanding is that the origins of the dish are lost in history. Is it pasta in the manner of carbon workers? Does pepper symbolize carbon? Are there in fact no written references to the dish before World War II? I'm pretty sure I've never seen a reference to true authenticity but I'd love to see anything people come up with. And pizza with pineapple? Thanks for blaming that one on the Germans, I'd thought it was pseudo-Hawaiian and the fault of some American chain!
 
mboerner January 17, 2013
The Germans also put corn on pizza. But they really shouldn't call it pizza since not only are the toppings un-Italian, so is the pizza crust itself. I suppose the Italians would say the same of pizza found in the United States.
 
PazzoNico January 16, 2013
@Serena: If you want to be true to authenticity, freshly cracked black pepper is an important ingredient in carbonara; much to the respect of the origin of the name of the dish - "charcoal/carbon worker's pasta". The black pepper is sort of "symbolic" to the name since it looks like ash on the pasta. It goes in the base of the dish and as a garnish to serve, along with the pepper in the guanciale. But again, there are so many variations.
 
mboerner January 16, 2013
It's quite a tasty dish. But it really shouldn't be called "carbonara" since it is not. Nor is it pizza when the Germans put pineapple on it. If we want to talk about food, shouldn't we use the terms in their original meaning?
 
Greenstuff January 16, 2013
Even with peas, this is a pretty standard "Americanized" carbonara and a great dish for the night you arrive home from a trip, as well as when you're cooking for kids. And (without the peas) exactly how I learned to make it in Germany 30+ years ago. I admit I was a little surprised when I got to Rome and found how much less meat the chefs used in it there than we do in the US or the Germans did in Germany. But that's another story...
 
Author Comment
Eric L. January 16, 2013
Serena, I learned it the "traditional" way, too, 25 years ago... but what fun is cooking if we adhere rigidly to tradition? Of course, everything tastes better in Rome, but having had it both ways, I prefer crispy American bacon to guanciale. Peas contribute some freshness, but as I'm putting this forward as a family recipe, the agenda is to incorporate something green. So we get all 5 food groups, protein, grain, vegetables, dairy, and bacon.
 
Serena P. January 16, 2013
Eric, I understand your point but I am really traditional when it comes to these recipes. It really is my pet peeve and I apologize if my comment sounded more abrasive then I planned. I have been defending a lot of Italian traditions lately :-)<br />Guess what, you inspired me and I'll make carbonara tonight!
 
Serena P. January 16, 2013
Food 52 you are letting me down. Carbonara with peas? really? how about some garlic cream and onion in it too? This is no carbonara. I have learned to make this pasta sauce in Rome at a restaurant called Il Matriciano and there are only 4 ingredients: eggs (many only put the yolk in but that is way to heavy for my taste) guanciale (or pancetta but even american bacon will do) pecorino and parmigiano. Maybe a touch of black pepper. That's it. Check out this video to see how it is made http://serenapalumbo.com/videorecipe-the-real-carbonara/
 
Muse January 2, 2013
Mmmmmm...I love peas, am trying this recipe for dinner tonight...can't wait to eat it!
 
thomasc October 12, 2012
made this tonight with whole wheat spaghetti - really excellent, lick the spoon(s) good. Thirded everything to make two nice servings (3 oz peas) - lots of pepper. Found that a good mixing method was to have egg+parm mixture in a small bowl, add pasta to a big bowl, add egg+parm, add bacon and peas, cover large bowl with a plate, hold tight and shake - integrated everything pretty well. enjoyed this a lot!
 
dads C. October 3, 2012
am trying right away
 
Katie April 20, 2012
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this delicious pasta. It was quick and easy to prepare (thanks to a&m for reminding me to temper my eggs) and will be in our weeknight repertoire from this point on. Thank you for a lovely recipe!
 
nicci January 28, 2012
We made this last night and it was delicious! Cooking for just two people, so I used about 2/3 a package of whole wheat pasta, about 3/4 or so of a package of bacon and 3/4 cup of parmesan, reduced the amount of peas (about 1/2 pound), and used three eggs instead of four (we ended up with a bit too much anyway, which we were then compelled to eat.....). I also sauteed some diced onions and tossed them in with the peas as someone previously suggested, and added a dash of red pepper flakes. All in all, a superb meal for a nice evening in. Thanks for the recipe!!
 
ubs2007 January 15, 2012
Made it tonight. Good recipe -- though I'll need to change proportions next time. Thanks for sharing.
 
elisabeth11 November 28, 2011
I've been making this recipe for years with one slight difference - add 1/2 cup white wine to the bacon fat. It adds another layer of flavor. Delicious!
 
tastyfish November 25, 2011
Not sure about the authenticity but a little shallot or garlic mixed with olive oil and butter in the hot just emptied pasta pan for a minute, then a little ham works nice and then toss the very al dente pasta in and over high heat keep adding little bits of pasta water..then pull off heat and add egg and parmesan. Makes the sauce bond with the pasta.
 
Midge November 8, 2011
I made this last night with half the bacon and chopped kale (added to the pasta in the last few minutes of cooking) instead of peas. Delicious!
 
Shalini November 5, 2011
Thanks for putting this recipe back in the spotlight! We made it two years ago and loved its tasty simplicity.
 
Shalini November 5, 2011
I forgot about this recipe! We made it two years ago from this site and loved its tasty simplicity. Thanks for putting it back in the spotlight!
 
isac September 28, 2011
Really fast, easy and really tasty. <br />had all ingredients in my fridge. Will make again for sure!
 
saparker1 July 13, 2011
I don't cook much so I was trying to find something easy and good. Made a small batch trial for lunch and it was great! I will be making for my new hubby soon. Thanks!
 
SWTorrey July 13, 2011
Tried this the other night - it was good, but I agree with morgandrew that it was missing something - it seemed to need more sauce, although I discovered later that a lot of the sauce had percolated down to the bottom of the serving bowl. Perhaps next time I'll try a more textured pasta that will hold the sauce better, and maybe some onion or garlic. Or cream...
 
GSmodden June 17, 2011
I liked this dish. I usually make carbonara with some cream. This was lighter, which was nice, because I was looking for quick dinner but not something extremely heavy. I used wheat pasta and added crushed red pepper for heat.
 
Blissful B. June 17, 2011
I needed a quick & easy meal tonight, so I pulled this recipe from my "must try" pile. How have I gone this long without making carbonara? Unlike Amanda, I looooove veggies, so I doubled the peas in this recipe. I used fusilli for the pasta, which made the mixing of bacon & peas easy (no tangles of spaghetti to navigate). Everything was ready within 20 minutes. Delicious!
 
mboerner April 2, 2011
Pancetta is tastier in this dish because it is not smoked, as is bacon. The way to get pancetta crisp is to put it in a panini press, which will drain the fat into its tray. Just use as much pancetta fat as you like. But I agree, not much for this already fatty dish.
 
morgandrew March 31, 2011
Made for dinner tonight. Lacking something. Needed more flavor somewhere.
 
cantrelld October 28, 2010
I made this tonight and it was a definite hit with my family. Will make this again.
 
aromes July 1, 2010
Excellent! <br />I am trying this recipe
 
ody June 30, 2010
My mom always made carbonara with peas for us kids! I think she skipped the traditional egg (used a little cream to thicken it instead---probably because it was easier), but she added onions, sauteed with the bacon, which I highly recommend.
 
EmilyNunn March 27, 2010
Just made this for dinner. Loved it. Second night of Food52 meals.
 
Elise October 11, 2009
made this for dinner, and we loved it. used whole wheat spaghetti to counter the delicious but unhealthier ingredients. great for a quick meal because it took no time.
 
Elise October 11, 2009
made this for dinner, and we loved it. used whole wheat spaghetti to counter the delicious but unhealthier ingredients. great for a quick meal because it took no time.
 
Kelsey B. July 28, 2009
I love the addition to peas to one of my favorite dishes. Great idea!