There are a couple of recipes I've tried over time. I've used one from Williams-Sonoma and one from Tyler Florence. Honestly, the only way they differ is in measurements of ingredients.
The basic premise is to cook your pasta to al dente, in a separate skillet brown some bacon, toss the pasta into the skillet and add your egg & parm and thin it with a little pasta water. Boom, you're done.
One tip I have - after you toss your pasta in, remove it from the heat before adding in your egg, otherwise you'll just end up with a spaghetti frittata.
The recipe below is the one I used most recently from Tyler Florence. Don't let the wordy directions deter you from making this...once you read through them you'll see that this is insanely simple and quick to make...you can have it on the table in about 20 minutes. It serves about 6.
- 1 pound dry spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (as they say in Italian "al dente.") Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.
- Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table.