This recipe not a traditional Italian Carbonara recipe; it’s actually a hybrid of Carbonara and Alfredo using ham. But if you prefer to use just the original ingredients.The true Carbonara is made with eggs (or just yolks), hard cheese (Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a combination of the two), guanciale (or pancetta), and black pepper combined with the hot pasta (Spaghetti is the most common pasta, but fettuccine, rigatoni, or linguine are also used) either in the pasta pot or in a serving dish, but away from direct heat, to avoid curdling the egg.
Using cream in a carbonara is actually as offensive as cutting up your spaghetti, ask any Italian. The original and traditional way has always been to use eggs. Bechamel is not at all a “traditional” ingredient for most Italian Carbonara recipes; however it just helps us keep eggs from setting/scrambling, and I liked the tast of the misture, but it is optional, you do not have to add it.
The garlic is also optional. It is not usually included in pasta carbonara, but it tastes great so I’ve also included it.
Similarly, I am substituting ham instead of the fattier guanciale or pancetta. Those are variations found in some recipes, like mine, mostly outside Italy.
Outside Italy, variations on carbonara (not mine) may also include green peas, broccoli, broccolini, leeks, other vegetables, and/or mushrooms. If adding any of those options remember, most chefs, although not all, say no cream (or Bechamel), and just about everyone says that under no circumstances do peas belong in carbonara.
- 450 g Spaghetti
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 1 Onion - chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic - minced - optional
- 300 g Smoked ham - cut into small dice or guanciale or pancetta
- Salt - to taste
- 2 cups Parmesan - freshly grated or Pecorino or a combination of the two
- 4 Egg
- 1 cup Béchamel sauce - or cream – whipping cream/thick cream/heavy cream - optional
- Black pepper - Freshly ground to taste
- Parsley - and/or oregano optional to taste
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.
- Put the spaghetti in the boiling water and cook until it is ‘al dente’ (not soft, but ‘to the bite’ which is what al dente means.).
- Just before pasta is finished, scoop out 2-3 cups pasta starchy cooking liquid with a heatproof measuring cup to use it to adjust the consistency of your sauce if you wish.
- Drain the pasta and keep it hot. Do NOT rinse the pasta, the starch helps the consistency of the sauce.
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add the garlic, if using, and continue to cook until softened.
- Add the Smoked ham to the pan with the onions and garlic and cook until just warmed through.
- Whisk together the Parmesan, eggs, salt and some pepper in a bowl.
- Toss the hot pasta in the ham & onion mix.
- Remove your saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the beaten egg and Parmesan mixture. And stir vigorously until well combined! The eggs will cook from the residual heat of the pan, and the hot pasta. If you keep the saucepan over the stovetop, you risk scrambling your eggs.
- If using, add Béchamel sauce to the misture. Cream or béchamel aren’t traditionally added to carbonara but you can add a small splash of béchamel or cream if you’d like.
- If needed, thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency.
- If you want, sprinkle with a little fresh chopped parsley, oregano and parmesan cheese for garnish!
- Serve immediately.
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