Crimes against carbonara – Carbonara Variations for desperate moments

Crimes against carbonara – Carbonara Variations for desperate moments

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The authentic carbonara

If you want an authentic carbonara, don’t add anything else to the list of ingredients.

Carbonara Variations for desperate moments

Carbonara is one of the most mistreated recipes ever! It makes Italians suffer a lot!

As with all the dishes of traditional Italian cuisine, there are several variations to the Spaghetti alla Carbonara authentic recipe.

As you might expect, some adaptations of the famous dish have left Italian gourmands less than impressed. Many Italian cooks get touchy when ingredients are changed or added to the mix – often saying anything that deviates from the classic recipe should not be called carbonara.

But some gourmands are more tolerant of carbonara adaptations, pointing out that the recipe has evolved over time. In each variation, you can add or substitute one or more ingredients.

Remember: This is NOT an authentic carbonara.

Spaghetti “Carbonara” with Cream

Adding cream to carbonara is the biggest no-no, as the creaminess of the pasta dish should only come courtesy of the raw egg and the addition of some of the reserved cooking water.

Many people like to make Spaghetti Carbonara with cream, replacing 1 egg with 100 ml of whipping cream. For them, the dish is more creamy, and it has a taste of egg less pronounced.

You should not use whipping cream to make the dish more creamy.

For the simple reason that the fat of the guanciale, the cheese and the eggs are already quite creamy and heavy by nature.

The cream is useless. It just makes it fatter.

So adding the cream would only make the dish heavier and cloying.

Cooking tricks, but only for desperate moments.

On the other hand, it is true that if you prepare large quantities of pasta (e.g. for 10 people), a dash of cream can help make the seasoning more fluid. But it must remain a secret. And it’s a makeshift solution.

Carbonara” with Pancetta or Bacon

The second thing people get wrong when they make carbonara is they substitute cheap bacon for guanciale (Italian cured meat prepared from pork jowl) or pancetta (Italian salt-cured bacon made from pork belly)

Pancetta is a cured Italian “bacon that is usually not smoked and sometimes substitutes when guanciale is not available.

Many people sometimes use pancetta in carbonara pasta because it’s easier to find it on the market. But more often, they use it because guanciale is rather fat meat, and there is no doubt that it is a hypercaloric ingredient.

Pancetta is a good substitute in this recipe, but guanciale’s richer, deeper flavour makes it worth seeking out.

Spaghetti carbonara with pancetta is a variation of the traditional recipe.

Guanciale is similar to pancetta. But pancetta comes from the belly of the pig, while guanciale is made from the jowl and has a stronger pork flavour and a more delicate texture.

Pancetta is drier and less fat. If you use pancetta (possibly not smoked), add a tablespoon of oil to fry it.

Talking about variations, when cooking at home, failing to find Guanciale or Pancetta, bacon (the pork belly) is a super handy substitute.

Pancetta and bacon are made from pork belly, but pancetta is salt-cured and dried while bacon is smoked. The pancetta will have a salty flavour, while the bacon will be smoky.

Whatever you use, cook until nice and crispy for the best flavour.

Pasta “Carbonara” with Parmigiano

Even for what concerns the cheese, some use Parmigiano cheese instead of Pecorino Romano or half Parmigiano cheese and half Pecorino Romano. In this case, the taste becomes less strong and flavourful (Pecorino Romano is a delicious cheese).

So, suppose that’s what you have, in that case, you can use Parmigiano Reggiano for sure in your carbonara recipe but be aware that it is a variation of the more classic carbonara pasta.

Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino-romano or parmesan are the best varieties for this dish because they’ll melt into the creamy sauce without becoming stringy.

It’s best to avoid mozzarella or pizza cheese blends for this reason.


No oil, no butter, no lard. Just the fat from guanciale.

Place the guanciale in a really hot pan and let it braise at medium heat until it is golden and releases enough fat.

Spaghetti “Carbonara” with Garlic or Onion

Garlic is Carbonara’s worst enemy!
Remember it! An Italian would never do that!
No garlic, no onion, it’s not a ragù!

Many people like to simmer the guanciale with a clove of garlic or a little onion. This isn’t so authentic but adds a nicely gently background flavour. Carbonara tastes a lot of onion and garlic – another recipe for another time.


Also, peas are undesired guests. Pasta carbonara with peas does not compute under any circumstance.

Serving the pasta with peas isn’t going to balance out the dish at all; they’re just going to get overwhelmed and talked over by the more prominent flavours on board.

“Carbonara” with herbs

Do NOT put parsley, basil or other spices everywhere!

Then again, if you need some green, perhaps carbonara isn’t your dish.

Egg noodles

Also, using egg noodles wouldn’t be good! The egg is already present in the sauce!

Vegan “Carbonara”

Never say ‘carbonara’ and ‘vegan’ in the same sentence.

You’re not the only one

I have also committed those Crimes against carbonara. My first “carbonara” was nothing that carbonara must be. You can check it here.

Remember: This is NOT an authentic carbonara.

The authentic carbonara

This is the authentic Carbonara recipe

If you want an authentic carbonara, don’t add anything else to the list of ingredients.

Also follow those tricks for making real Italian pasta alla carbonara

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