Destinations / Italy / Recipes from our travels

Traditional Pasta Carbonara

Traditional Pasta Carbonara, Traditional Pasta Carbonara

Bringing Italy Home

Stanley Tucci says that he never orders Pasta Carbonara outside of Italy. Anyone who has watched his hit show Searching Italy on CNN or HBO Max knows he is a pasta aficionado. He is also an excellent chef. When watching his first season before our 2021 travels to Italy, we realized we had never ordered this dish during previous visits. His description seemed too good to be true, and we knew we had to try it ourselves. After enjoying this famous Italian dish in Italy, we know there is truth to what he says.

Traditional Pasta Carbonara

We ordered traditional Pasta Carbonara in Sicily and Naples, and it was exceptional. The richness and flavors were incredible. A few simple ingredients (Pecorino Romano, Eggs, Pasta, Pepper, and Pancetta) make a dish so delicious that we were determined to find a way to replicate it once we returned home.

The experimentation began the first week after returning home. Joelle prepared traditional Pasta Carbonara for her family, and though they loved it, especially the young kids, it was far from what we experienced in Italy. After many attempts and missteps, we believe we have found the closest we could to replicate it outside of Italy. Crucial to success is using only the best quality ingredients. Remembering U.S. ingredients may never make it authentic, but this is our take on it.

While entertaining, this would be an excellent meal to offer guests, but may we suggest you do a practice run in a more relaxed setting the first time. Timing is everything, and a little practice will ensure perfection.

Buon Appetito

Traditional Pasta Carbonara, Traditional Pasta Carbonara

Traditional Pasta Carbonara: An Italian Masterpiece

Pasta carbonara is one of the most famous and simplest of traditional Italian dishes. It harks from the Lazio region of Italy and includes only five ingredients. That is the key to any traditional Pasta Carbonara, if it has more ingredients than that it is not the traditional form.
As simple as this recipe may sound, it is a tricky one. It took many attempts until we found the one that worked. The winner made a rich, lovely dish loved by all, especially the children who could not eat it fast enough.
The key is to choose quality ingredients: fresh eggs, pancetta or guanciale, Pecorino Romano, pepper, and pasta. It doesn't get simpler than that. An authentic recipe, per many sources, will not include cream, milk, garlic, parmigiano or bacon. Parsley or basil can added for presentation but not within the dish.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6
Calories 545 kcal


  • 1 Bowl
  • 1 Round Dutch Oven, enameled cast iron or a deep fry pan. Le Creuset works great
  • 1 Cheese grater


  • 1 pound Spaghetti or any pasta you desire (chose quality pasta)
  • 10 ounces Pancetta or guanciale (make sure it is fatty) chopped in small chunks or slices
  • 5 medium Eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, finely grated
  • 2 tbsp Pecorino Romano Cheese, coarsely grated For presentation before serving
  • Ground black pepper


  • Boil 5-6 quarts of water for the pasta while you begin to prepare the carbonara sauce. Add coarse salt at 1 tbsp per quart of water.
  • Cut into cubes or slices the pancetta or guanciale. Simmer in a large round enameled cast iron Dutch Oven or deep fry pan for several minutes. (I used my Le Creuset, which was perfect) It is important the fat melts and the meat is crunchy or to your desired texture. If it seems dry you can add a tbsp of the boiling water to emulsify. This creates a greasy sauce. Set aside.
  • In a bowl whisk the Pecorino Romano with the eggs. (Some Italians only use the yolks, try to see what you prefer, we prefer the whole egg) Finely grated cheese worked best. Coarsely grated cheese seemed to be problematic in our experimentation..
  • Add some black pepper and stir with a whisk until you acheive a creamy thick sause. Set aside
  • Place the pasta into the boiling water. Do not break the pasta, keep it whole. Boil per the pasta package instructions for al dente.
  • Use a pasta fork to remove the pasta from the boiling water and drain.
  • Put the pasta into the Dutch Over or pan with the pancetta or guanciale over high heat. Toss to season properly with the fat and pancetta or guanciale. When the pan is sizzlin and well tossed, turn off the heat.
  • Add the whisked eggs and cheese mixture quickly to the pan and stir.
    THIS PART IS IMPORTANT. DO NOT MULTI TASK! You need to be fast, ready and focused or you will have scrambled eggs and pasta .
  • Pay close attention to the consistency, it needs to be creamy. If it becomes to watery add some more grated Pecorina Romano cheese. It if it too sticky add 1-2 tbsp of the pasta cooking water.
  • Your Pasta Carbonara is ready to serve. Create a pasta nest on a plate.
  • Add on top of the pasta the remaining pancetta or guaniciale left in the pan, ground black pepper, and grated Pecorino Romano chesse. If you deisre some color add a small sprinkling of fresh parsley or basil.
  • Serve immediately


Traditional Pasta CarbonaraIn our several failures, as we attempted to find the ideal recipe, we learned a few things. 
  1. The meat you use must be fatty. In our first attempt, we used Trader Joe’s prechopped pancetta which is very lean. There was minimal fat which is an essential element to the success of the dish.
  2. We were unable to find guanciale in our local markets. The deli did have some imported pancetta which they sliced thick and we cubed at home. 
  3. We tried the recipe with coarsely chopped cheese and it did not do as well. Finely grated worked best. 
  4. Timing is everything, even the slightest delay can scramble the eggs. 
  5. Our first three attempts were less than creamy and the eggs scrambled quite a bit. Though not to our liking the dish was still devoured and enjoyed by our test audience, especially the kids. 
  6. This is a rich dish and you will find a large serving is not needed. 
  7. Pasta Carbonara is best fresh and isn’t the same reheated. 
Keyword Italian, Italian Recipe, Pasta Carbonara, Traditional Italian Pasta
Rate this recipe!
[Total: 1 Average: 5]

Photo slideshow of the steps for traditional Pasta Carbonara

  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
  • Traditional Pasta Carbonara
Traditional Pasta Carbonara

What does it look like when it fails?

If you look closely, you will see small chunks of scrambled eggs. It still was enjoyable, but without the creaminess, you can tell it is missing something, especially if you fell in love with authentic Carbonara in Italy.

© 2024 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved

Considering an Italian adventure? Check out our Italy Travel Guide

Check our other Italy Posts

Passionate about travel? Subscribe to our Wanderers Compass Community

Our quarterly newsletters will inspire your wanderlust

© 2022 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved

Do you have a question for us or have a comment?

Traditional Pasta Carbonara


Our favorite travel insurance site!

If you book a trip, don’t forget to get travel insurance within 14 days of your first booking. We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured. Not just for the little stuff but the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Over the years, we have used many sites but have now found our go-to place. Squaremouth.com does a fantastic job; it has a user-friendly interface, uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers, and most policies cover COVID-19 medical issues and cancellations. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems with your policy.

To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.


Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world

They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. They cover COVID-related transport as well.

Medjet carries its own policies. These policies are only for transport and do not cover other aspects of travel insurance. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74 and younger. Prices are not based on age below that.

To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.  


Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours 

Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Whether planning a family vacation, booking for business, or organizing the trip of a lifetime, they are a fantastic resource. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.  


Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours 

Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes.

We always check Expedia and Booking.com to verify prices. At times, one is sold out of rooms while another at the same place has rooms. We also often find some European hotels, especially smaller ones, on Booking.com but not on Expedia. It could be they are a Europe-based company. Try both before booking accommodations.

Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO)

Are you traveling with a family or having an extended stay at your destination?

With over 2 million bookable vacation rentals, VRBO connects homeowners with families and vacationers looking for something more than a hotel for their trip. The VRBO community offers families or groups various rental property types such as condos, cabins, lake rentals, beach houses, etc.

VRBO is now under the Expedia group’s ownership, which many were worried about, but it hasn’t panned out to be a concern. It is a massive network with access to all lodging forms should issues arise. Joelle has used VRBO for many years with her family and has had no problems with it.


As the leading marketplace for travel experiences, Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier.

With industry-leading flexibility and last-minute availability, it’s never too late to make any day extraordinary. This one site has it all and has experiences throughout the world. We use them often during our travels, especially for food tours. We especially take the time to read the reviews provided.


An excellent source for travel essentials and guides

We now have our own Amazon Storefront with all our favorite travel accessories and gear in one place. Check out our travel store at the link below.

Wanderers Compass Amazon Storefront

Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. Teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery on behalf of customers. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.

We buy most of our travel books, accessories, and luggage from Amazon. We have ordered up to two days before travel and get what we need.


This is not your ordinary drinkware company. The HYDAWAY difference is what their products do when you’re not using them. Practical and portable, HYDAWAY doesn’t take up unnecessary space in your already-packed life or pile up in landfills. We all know that trying to pack light while being environmentally conscious can be difficult. Having the right items can make a world of difference. HYDAWAY provides that.

We have used their collapsible water bottle, carrying case for the water bottle, and collapsible insulated drink tumbler. They are all lightweight and durable. A conservation-focused product you can be proud to buy.

Use our Promo Code. WANCOM15, at checkout for 15% off your Hydaway order

Welcome Pick-ups
(Airport and sightseeing service)

A global leader in ground transportation for travelers. They help hundreds of companies worldwide enhance their services and boost their revenue with our 5-star ride experiences and hassle-free automation.

Founded in 2015 in Athens, Greece, Welcome Pick-ups goes above and beyond the standard transfer service as the first company to deliver a holistic, in-destination travel experience. From the moment a traveler arrives at a new destination until they return home, Welcome accommodates all their travel needs (transfers, travel products, things to do, information) as the easiest, friendliest, and most personalized solution.


Do you feel like you are wasting time visiting an on-site photographer only to be embarrassed by the photo? Would you like control of the final product? Get the perfect VISA or passport photo online with PhotoAID.

When traveling, you often need to apply for official documents such as a passport, ID, and different kinds of licenses or cards. Those applications require a picture that must meet specific conditions to be accepted, depending on the country. Now, it is possible to take this picture at home without the help of a professional photographer. PhotoAiD allows you to take the perfect biometric photo you approve without leaving home.

This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Want to learn about Wanderers Compass?

Check out our most recent blog posts

Passionate about travel? Subscribe to our Wanderers Compass Community

Our quarterly newsletters will inspire your wanderlust

Traditional Pasta Carbonara

No Comments

    Leave a Reply

    IMG 8134 scaled

    Passionate about travel? Subscribe to our Wanderers Compass Community

    Our quarterly newsletters will inspire your wanderlust

    No spam, unsubscribe at any time, no more than one email a month