Right now if I asked Tony to pick his favorite meal that I make, it would be a tie between this pasta carbonara and my bbq cheddar stuffed meatloaf paired with mashed potatoes or possibly my healthier sloppy joes.
Tony loves pasta and he loves meat so neither of his answers would surprise me, but I am surprised by just how much he adored this pasta when I first made it for him a few years back. He seriously started requesting it on a weekly basis.
Great news for me (and you!) because this pasta carbonara takes less than 30 minutes to make, requires minimal ingredients, is inexpensive, and is incredibly flavorful. We absolutely love this meal because of the creamy sauce in the pasta, protein, and veggies — and my kids LOVE it, too!
Today I’m sharing my super easy version of pasta carbonara so you can enjoy it as much as we do. Okay, let’s do this!
What is pasta carbonara?
Pasta carbonara is an Italian dish made with hard cheese such as Pecorino Romano or parmesan, eggs, guanciale (an Italian cured meat), freshly ground black pepper and pasta. Traditionally, most pasta carbonara recipes are made with spaghetti, but it’s also common to use bucatini, linguine, rigatoni, or angel hair pasta.
Ingredients in the best healthy pasta carbonara
What I love about making this carbonara recipe is that it requires minimal ingredients but is SO delicious and satisfying. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Eggs: you’ll need 2 eggs in this recipe, which will help create that luscious sauce. No cream necessary!
- Cheese: feel free to use grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese. I highly recommend grating your own from a block instead of using the bagged kind! Freshly grated will melt much better because it doesn’t have the stabilizers that bagged cheese has.
- Seasonings: you’ll just need some garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Bacon: instead of guanciale, we’re using regular bacon for ease! You could also use pancetta or, to lighten up the dish a bit, turkey bacon.
- Pasta: I LOVE using this fun Fusilli col Buco pasta shape, but feel free to use angel hair pasta or spaghetti! More notes on this below.
- Peas: I just love adding peas to this pasta carbonara! Totally optional, but so good in my opinion.
Customize your carbonara
This easy pasta carbonara recipe is great for customizing to your taste preferences! Here’s what I can recommend:
- Pick your noodle. I love how creamy this Fusilli col Buco gets, but you can actually use any noodle shape you’d like. If you want to make this recipe gluten free, you can use gluten free angel hair or spaghetti pasta of choice or Banza chickpea pasta.
- Swap your veggie. If you want to use spinach instead of peas, I recommend cooking 6-8 cups of spinach in a skillet with a little olive oil until it’s completely wilted. You can do this after you cook the bacon, or you can do this before you start the recipe. You could also do fresh or frozen sweet corn instead. (I know that’s what my mother-in-law will do!)
- Add a kick of heat. I like to sprinkle my portion with red pepper flakes for a little heat to balance out the creaminess of the pasta. SO GOOD.
Can I make it vegan or dairy free?
There really isn’t a way to make this pasta vegan as the eggs and bacon are essential to that true carbonara sauce. If you have a dairy free parmesan you trust and know that it melts well, feel free to try that to make it dairy free!
How to make the best pasta carbonara
- Make the egg mixture. Start by whisking together the eggs, cheese, and garlic powder. Set the mixture aside.
- Cook your bacon. Next, cook your bacon in a large skillet until it’s nice and golden. Once it’s done, blot it with a paper towel to absorb excess grease and chop it into bite-sized pieces. If you use pork bacon, drain the grease so there are only a couple of teaspoons left in the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Cook your pasta. While the bacon is cooking, boil your water and cook your pasta until al dente. Remember to reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water before draining.
- Mix the carbonara. Add the cooked pasta to the same pan that you cooked the bacon (it should be warm but not over direct heat). Pour in the egg & cheese mixture and use tongs to stir and coat the pasta well. Add pasta water a little bit at a time to make the pasta creamier as needed.
- Season, toss & serve. Finish the carbonara with salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper, then toss with the bacon and thawed peas. Garnish with extra parmesan and enjoy!
Don’t forget these carbonara tips
- Tip for using turkey bacon. If you purchase turkey bacon, please choose a brand without nitrates. I like Applegate and Wellshire Farms brands of turkey bacon best. Look for minimal ingredients on the labels. I always suggest buying organic meat or meat from small family farms, if possible.
- Get your ingredients ready. This recipe goes quickly so you’ll just need to make sure you have everything out, measured and ready so you aren’t scrambling.
- Season your pasta water. Remember to generously season the pasta water with salt when you cook your pasta. This will naturally add flavor to the noodles themselves.
- Watch the pan heat. When you’re mixing the eggs and cheese together it can be easy to curdle your eggs if the pan is too hot. My best advice is to cook your bacon first as directed, then once it’s done, take the pan off the heat and move to a different burner while you finish cooking your pasta. Once the pasta is done and drained, add pasta to the pan you cooked the bacon in. The gentle heat from the pasta will be enough to set the eggs to create a nice, creamy sauce instead of scrambled eggs.
- Add the right amount of pasta water. The reserved pasta water will help to make the pasta nice and creamy to your liking. Generally, I only add a tablespoon, maybe two to create a nice consistency.
Store any leftover carbonara in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Please note that the pasta won’t be as creamy coming out of the fridge, so I’d recommend reheating it on the stovetop with a little olive oil to return some of the creamy texture.
I hope you love this pasta carbonara with peas as much as we do! It’s absolutely delicious, easy, and perfect for weeknight meals or even date night with your partner. Don’t forget to add lots of freshly ground black pepper, and if you’d like some extra cheese on top. Enjoy!
More pasta recipes you’ll love
Get all of my pasta recipes here!
If you make this pasta carbonara, please let me know by leaving a comment and rating the recipe below. I’d love to hear from you and it helps encourage others to make the recipe too! xo.
30-Minute Pasta Carbonara
Delicious pasta carbonara made with bacon, your fav pasta shape, plenty of pecorino or parmesan for a creamy sauce, and peas. You’ll love this easy, 30-minute pasta carbonara for date night and weeknight dinners!
grated pecorino romano or grated parmesan cheese
bacon (or sub turkey bacon)
spaghetti or fusilli col buco, feel free to use gluten free or whole grain pasta if desired
reserved pasta water
salt, plus more to taste
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
frozen peas, thawed (add more peas if you like them!)
- Freshly ground salt and black pepper
Add eggs, cheese and garlic powder to a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside.
Add bacon to a large skillet or pan and place over medium heat, cook bacon on both sides until golden brown. If the pan starts to smoke at any point, simply lower the heat. I always cook my bacon on medium to medium low heat.
Once bacon is done, blot with a paper towel to absorb excess grease, then chop into bite sized pieces and set aside. If you used regular bacon (not turkey bacon), drain bacon grease from pan, leaving only about 1-3 teaspoons grease in the pan. You’ll be using this pan for the pasta so remove it from the heat and the hot burner and set on aside on the stovetop.
While the bacon is cooking, place a large pot of water over high heat and add in a generous amount of salt. Once the water boils, stir in the pasta and cook until al dente.
Once pasta is done cooking, reserve 1/3 cup of pasta water and set aside, then drain remaining pasta in a colander. IMMEDIATELY transfer pasta to the pan you cooked the bacon in; the pan might still be warm but it should not be over any direct heat.
Slowly stir in the egg and parmesan mixture and use tongs to coat the pasta with the mixture. The warmth of the pasta will help cook the eggs and make them nice and creamy to coat the pasta. The eggs should not be curdled or chunky. Add in a little bit of the reserved pasta water as necessary to make the sauce creamier. I usually only add a few tablespoons of reserved pasta water, but it depends on how creamy you like your pasta!
Give the pasta another stir, then add in 1/4 teaspoon salt, LOTS of freshly ground black pepper, the chopped bacon and thawed peas. Stir again to coat. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Enjoy! Serves 4. Garnish with parm and dig in!
If you want to use spinach instead of peas, I recommend cooking 4-6 cups of spinach in a skillet with a little olive oil until it’s completely wilted. You can do this after you cook the bacon, or you can do this before you start the recipe.
See the full post for tips, tricks & ways to customize your carbonara!
Servings: 4 servings
Serving size: 1 serving (based on 4)
Saturated fat: 2.9g
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by Eat Love Eats
This post was originally published on May 28th, 2019, and republished on February 12th, 2023.