rachel ray’s carbonara

Originally posted: September 2008


I used to hate carbonara, opting for tomato-based pasta sauces instead. This is partially because I can’t stomach overly creamy sauces and rich foods. I have ‘trained’ myself over the years to eat richer, cream-based foods but generally still avoid them for fear of having an all-nighter at the loo (if you get what I mean). I was pleasantly surprised when I chanced upon this recipe a few years ago (yes, I should have shared this earlier) in some cooking magazine. A carbonara recipe without any cream at all? I thought it was unique and moreso because Rachael Ray claims that that traditional carbonara does not contain any cream at all (another plus point for me). This recipe also marked another milestone for me – using white wine in my cooking, and I’ve been splashing and sploshing it on my food ever since (of course appropriately)!

I did some research about traditional carbonara and it turns out Ms Ray was right. The original stuff does not contain cream at all!

Here’s what wikipedia said. Yes, I know wikipedia is not an academic-approved source of information, but don’t we all just ‘wiki’ it?

“Carbonara is a traditional Italian pasta recipe. Its name comes from carbone, which is Italian for coal, and many believe the dish derives its name because it was popular among charcoal makers. Others believe, however, that the dish is called carbonara simply because of the black, freshly milled pepper that is used.

The original Roman recipe is made from eggs, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, guanciale (unsmoked pig cheeks), black pepper, and either strutto, olive oil or butter. Cream is not an ingredient in the original recipe, and is not generally used with pasta in central Italy. While guanciale is the most authentic and traditional meat used in carbonara, pancetta is an acceptable substitute, as is any unsmoked bacon. American-style smoked bacon may also be used, though its heavily smoky flavor can overwhelm the equally important flavors of egg, pepper, cheese, and oil; it should be regarded as a last resort if guanciale or pancetta is not available. The original recipe does not result in a heavily saucy pasta; the eggs and cheese form a coating on the noodles, with pieces of pancetta scattered throughout.”

Full wiki article here.

Okay, so the erm Anglo-Americans or sort kinda ‘messed’ it up so they say by adding cream and all sorts of other things…

BUT, that’s their take and we know that food only evolves when people experiment and transform and make something new by thinking out of the box e.g. adding cream…

Unfortunately, Joy likes the traditional one without the cream and mind you, everyone who has tried this version so far prefer it to the cream one. So guys, if there’s any pasta dish that you want to whip up to impress, this is the one. It’s got the flavour without the heaviness of the cream and you can proudly say that it’s ‘traditional’, 100% Italian (not some Anglo-Americana version…).

Rachel Ray’s Carbonara


  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta (about 500g), such as spaghetti or rigatoni (I usually use a thinner spaghetti, linguine, penne or bowtie pasta aka farfalle)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan)
  • 1/4 pound pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped (I just use bacon bits, about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes (You can leave this one out if you’re afraid of the heat and especially if you’re cooking for children, but I usually add more…heh)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • A large handful of freshly grated Romano cheese (Actually she didn’t state the amount, but it’s about there. Also, Romano is too strong for me, so I usually use Parmesan)
  • Handful of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (This is both hard to find and expensive in Singapore, so I either just leave it out or use plain ole’ English parsley)

I like to add chopped mushrooms (Yes, it’s not TRADITIONAL but it gives the pasta more depth in terms of ingredients) like white button or swiss browns. Portobellos work fine too. Add frozen or fresh peas/corn to pasta as well.


  1. Cook pasta in salted water till al dente. Check for timing on the pasta package.
  2. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and pancetta (or bacon). Brown pancetta (about 2 min).
  3. Add in garlic and chili flakes and cook for about 2-3 min more. Add in any other additional ingredients (e.g. mushrooms, peas etc.) Add wine and stir up all the pan drippings.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with 1 large ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water. This tempers the eggs and keeps tham from scrambling when added to the pasta.
  5. Drain pasta well and add it directly to the skillet with the pancetta and oil. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the pasta without cooking the egg.
  6. Remove pan from heat and add a big handful of cheese, lots of pepper and a little salt (I usually don’t add salt to my cooking unless absolutely needed). Continue to toss and turn the pasta until it soaks up the egg mixture and thickens (about 1-2 min).
  7. Garnish with parsley and extra grated Romano.

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