Classic Roman-style rigatoni alla carbonara

Rigatoni alla carbonara
Serves 4


  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 2 cups diced guanciale bacon
  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup shaved pecorino romano cheese
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup blanched fresh peas (optional)
  1. In a 10 to 12 quart stock pot bring water to a boil with a copious amount of salt. Add the rigatoni pasta and stir briefly.

  2. Render the guanciale bacon in a large sauté pan or brazier until very crispy. Using a slotted spoon remove the crispy bacon from the pan and reserve.

  3. Add the sliced onions and sauté in the remaining bacon fat until translucent. Meanwhile, whisk the whole eggs and egg yolks together until light and frothy.

  4. When cooked just al dente, add the rigatoni along with the reserved bacon to the pan. If using fresh peas, add them as well at this point. Season with salt and stir to combine.

  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and eggs. Season the pasta vigorously with freshly cracked black pepper. Return the pan to low heat and add a couple ladlefuls of the pasta water to temper the eggs.

  6. Cook slowly while continuously stirring until a creamy sauce is formed. Be careful not to overheat at the risk of scrambling the eggs and breaking the sauce.

  7. Serve and top with shaved pecorino romano cheese.

Story behind the recipe:

Legend has it that the word carbonara is derived from the miners outside of Rome who would enjoy a hearty pasta made with cured pork jowels, fresh eggs, and pecorino romano cheese.

They would then adorn the dish with copious amounts of black pepper which was reminiscent of the specks of carbon that covered their hands and clothing after a day in the mines. The true Roman carbonara is made with guanciale bacon that is cured from pork jowels as opposed to pancetta or American bacon which comes from the belly.

The classic version contains no cream whatsoever, and the creamy sauce is actually made from a liason of pasta water, fresh eggs, parmesan cheese, and the rendered fat from the guanciale. Add fresh spring peas to the dish only when in season between May and June.

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