The Iconic Italian Dish that Defies Tradition

Carbonara is a dish that has captured the hearts (and stomachs) of food lovers worldwide. Made with simple ingredients like spaghetti, eggs, bacon, and cheese, this pasta dish has become a classic in Italian cuisine. However, despite its popularity, there is much debate about how the dish should be prepared.

Traditionally, Carbonara is made with guanciale, an Italian cured pork jowl, and Pecorino Romano cheese. However, many chefs and home cooks have begun to experiment with different ingredients, such as pancetta or even mushrooms. Some have even swapped out the traditional spaghetti for other pasta shapes, like rigatoni or penne.

While some purists may turn their noses up at these non-traditional variations, others argue that it is the experimentation and evolution of Carbonara that keeps the dish exciting and relevant. As food writer Ruth Reichl once said, "If we stick to tradition, we might as well go back to wearing powdered wigs."

Whether you prefer your Carbonara traditional or with a twist, one thing is for sure: this iconic Italian dish will continue to be a beloved staple on menus and in kitchens around the world.

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Here's a recipe for traditional Carbonara:


  • 400g spaghetti
  • 150g guanciale or pancetta, diced
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente, following the package instructions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced guanciale or pancetta and cook until crispy and browned.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Once the pasta is cooked, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  5. Add the cooked guanciale or pancetta to the pot with the spaghetti and toss to combine.
  6. Slowly pour the egg mixture over the pasta, tossing constantly until the eggs are evenly distributed and the pasta is coated.
  7. If the pasta seems too dry, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water a little at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
  8. Serve immediately, garnished with additional Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper to taste.

Enjoy your traditional Carbonara!
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