Recipe for spaghetti carbonara: the original one

What is the original recipe for spaghetti carbonara?

There are so many recipes and data online that make even harder to prepare properly this myth of Italian cuisine. 

This post has been written following a logical path that over the years has led me to understand and appreciate much better this dish.

I advise you to read all the paragraphs in their order and invite you to leave your comment at the bottom of the page. If you want to add some more information or curiosities about the recipe of spaghetti carbonara you are more than welcome!

Table of contents

Spaghetti carbonara: a myth of Italian cuisine

Spaghetti carbonara is certainly one of the most traditional dishes of Italian cuisine. Particularly common in the central part of Italy, carbonara sauce is probably the most difficult of the pasta seasonings.

There is a lot to be said about the origin of spaghetti carbonara (in Italian, Spaghetti alla carbonara) which, like many other Italian foods, has a really interesting history.

Italy, known for its pasta with tomato sauce, would not have this gastronomic reputation if Marco Polo’s navigation had not led him to know the “golden apple” (this is the literary translation of tomato) as well as for soy spaghetti (noodles) or potatoes whose transformation led to the creation of famous specialties of traditional Italian cuisine.

Well, even spaghetti carbonara seems to be actually the result of these migrations and cultural imports of which Italy is certainly jealous and appreciated guardian.

In search of the origins of the recipe for spaghetti carbonara

The recipe for pasta alla carbonara only appears after the Second World War and, in this case, sees nothing less than American soldiers as protagonists.

Is a myth collapsing? I am pervaded by a chill of the cold !!

We do not find a trace of a recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara neither in the Talisman of Happiness, written by Ada Boni in 1930 in which all the recipes of the Roman culinary tradition are registered.

It looks like, the recipe for spaghetti carbonara seems to have been published for the first time in 1952 in an American gastronomic guide written by Patricia Bronté.

The first appearance of carbonara sauce on an Italian cuisine publication, although the ingredients are NOT those of carbonara spaghetti known today, seems to date back to 1954. The ingredients reported in this version of spaghetti carbonara are egg, bacon, Gruyere, and garlic.

No, no, no !!! Italian pride rebels.

Only in 1955 in the “Lady in the kitchen”, an Italian cookbook written by Felix Dessì, spaghetti carbonara is presented in a version more similar to today, with the presence of eggs, pepper, parmesan.

Over the years, other ingredients such as wine, garlic, onion, parsley, pepper, chili pepper find space in the carbonara spaghetti recipe but the definitive consecration of the carbonara spaghetti as a national recipe takes place with the publication in Luigi Carnacina’s recipe book “La grande cucina ” dated 1960.

For the first time, pork cheek is introduced, replacing the bacon, and the cream that will often be present in the carbonara sauce recipe until the end of the 80s.

In today’s version, as recognized in Italy, the recipe for spaghetti carbonara includes four simple ingredients masterfully combined: egg, pecorino, and pork cheek with a generous sprinkle of black pepper.

The roots of Spaghetti carbonara

The true origins of this fantastic Italian recipe are not entirely clear.

Someone wants carbonara sauce to take its name from the Abruzzese lumberjacks who collected wood to make coal, others that it was the typical dish of shepherds in transhumance or that it was a typical dish of Roman cuisine at the time of the carbonari but, according to the most accredited sources, the history of spaghetti carbonara seems to be linked to the Americans and the Second World War.

It seems that the traditional dishes in use at the time had been enriched with meat to satisfy the wishes of Americans, who have always been great consumers of meat.

But what was the local tradition of Italian cuisine?

Let’s introduce some data so that the probable origin of spaghetti carbonara is easier to understand.

Pasta carbonara is now recognized as a typical dish of Roman cuisine but in reality linked to the gastronomic culture of two Italian regions: Lazio (the region of which Rome is the capital) and Abruzzo.

Both these regions are crossed by the Apennines, a gentle mountain range where in the past abundant flocks of sheep passed to spend the winter in the coastal plains of the south, in particular in the Region of Puglia, and then returned in spring on the fresh and greener meadows of the Apennine heights of central Italy, in particular of the Abruzzo region.

And it is precisely in central Italy, where the sheep fed in the spring, that there is a higher consumption of the famous pecorino, a cheese made from sheep’s milk.

The history of Spaghetti carbonara between myths and legends

Someone, claims that during the Second World War on the Reinhard line, between Lazio, Molise, and Campania, bacon was added to the pasta “ovo e cacio”, a typical dish of Abruzzo cuisine, to please Americans who have always been great consumers of meat.

But still today the most accredited, documented, and never denied version is that of Renato Gualandi.

This young chef from Bologna was hired in September 1944 to prepare lunch on the occasion of the meeting between the English Eighth Army and the American Fifth Army in the newly liberated city of Riccione.

In his memories Gualandi quotes: “The Americans had fantastic bacon, delicious milk cream, cheese, and egg red powder. I put it all together and served this pasta to the generals and officers for dinner. At the last moment, I decided to put black pepper which gave off an excellent flavor.”

Subsequently, from September 1944 to April 1945, Gualandi was hired as a cook for the American troops in Rome and it seems that it was then that the fame and use of Spaghetti carbonara spread in the capital and became a traditional Italian dish.

Little secrets to prepare a superb Spaghetti carbonara

To prepare the carbonara it takes long pasta. Greenlight for bavette or bucatini, but the pasta indicated for carbonara sauce is spaghetti.

The pork cheek, with the more delicate flavor of the bacon, should be cut into strips and cooked on low heat until it becomes slightly crispy.

Btw, nobody kills you if cut the pork cheek into little cubes.

When you saute the past with the pork cheek the pasta has to look shining and slightly creamy, no dry, no wet. If necessary, at this stage fire is still on and you can use just a little boiling water to reach your target. Add the eggs only after switching off the fire.

The use of bacon, smoked bacon, cream, and other ingredients other than eggs, pecorino, pork cheek, and pepper, although endorsed by some cooking manuals, is not strictly philological.

Spaghetti carbonara is not a day after dish. Do not try to heat them but, in the very rare case you get some leftover, do not throw them away. Even a couple of days later you can beat some eggs, mix with pasta and cook in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil. You will get an excellent Frittata to serve, for example, with a fresh tomato salad.


This is the creamy Spaghetti carbonara you are looking for


This is the scrambled egg result you should avoid

The original recipe for spaghetti carbonara


350 gr./ 0.88 pounds of spaghetti
120 gr./ 0.250 pounds of pork cheek
50 gr. / 0.11 pounds of Roman pecorino
3 eggs
Black pepper as wished

Duration: 30 min
Level: challenging
Servings: 4 people

Boil the water for the pasta.

In the meantime, cut the bacon into thin slices (2mm. /0.08 inches) and then into strips of 5mm / 0.20 inches) and cook over low heat until it becomes crispy.

Separately, beat the eggs, add the pecorino and stretch with 40 gr /2.5 ounces of water. Mix with a whisk so that the eggs become creamy and salty.

When the pasta water boils, add sea salt and cook the pasta. Drain the pasta and saute it in the pan whit the pork cheek to allow the absorption of the pork cheek fat and flavor by the pasta.

Turn off the heat, add the mixture of eggs and pecorino and mix everything quickly avoiding the formation of lumps (the effect of the scrambled egg).

If strictly necessary, to maintain the right creaminess, add just a little cooking water. Sprinkle fresh black pepper as wished and serve warm. Enjoy and let us know if you liked it.


Pasta: funny shapes and great sauces

It’s incredible how many kind of pasta are on the market; some are very funny shaped pasta. I have always known that there were an infinity of different shapes of pasta but I was surprised to discover how many shapes of pasta are there.

How many shapes of pasta are there?

Only in Italy, there are over 250 types of pasta consumed, considering the classic, traditional and regional pastas.
Maybe they sound many but in the nineties there were about 400 different shapes of pasta on the market.

Industrial production is progressively reducing the number of formats due to international market needs.
Pasta is classified between dry and fresh pasta, short, fine, smooth, striped.

The countless varieties of pasta are distinguished by type of dough, shape, surface and, eventually, the filling.
There are also imaginative formats and strange shapes, which are however sold more abroad

What are the different types of pasta?

The most common  type of pasta are divided into these categories:


Fettuccine, lasagnette, spaghetti, vermicelli, trenette, pappardelle, bucatini, linguine, bavette

Macaroni, rigatoni, penne, penne, snails, pipettes, celery, snails, fusilli, garganelli

Lasagna, make falle, lasagnette

Noodles, noodles, angel hair and all the pastas that come in a skein

Sedanini, pipette, gramigna, macaroni, ditalini

Tortellini, ravioli, cappelletti, panzerotti

What are the different types of pasta?


What are the types of pasta?

The most common  type of pasta are divided into these categories:

Fettuccine, lasagnette, spaghetti, vermicelli, trenette, pappardelle, bucatini, linguine, bavette

Macaroni, rigatoni, penne, penne, snails, pipettes, celery, snails, fusilli, garganelli

Lasagna, make falle, lasagnette

Noodles, noodles, angel hair and all the pastas that come in a skein

Sedanini, pipette, gramigna, macaroni, ditalini

Tortellini, ravioli, cappelletti, panzerotti

Italian seems to prefer short pasta (65%) to long past (35%) but without too much wonder the type and shape of pasta can significantly change from region to region.

Some pastas have really great and funny names and shape. Here are a few of our favorites:

Funny pasta shapes:



These are smaller, round bowl-shaped pastas. The word Orecchiette translates to mean “little ears.”

Funny pasta shapes:



This pasta is a hollow tube that has been folded in half. Lumaconi means “big snails,” and if you look carefully, you can see how this pasta might resemble a snail shell!

Funny pasta shapes:



Composed of two pieces of pasta twisted together. You may see how this pasta name looks a bit similar to “Gemini” which is the astrological sign of the twins. Well, “gemelli” means “twins” which makes sense since the pasta is two twin shapes twirled together!

Funny pasta shapes:


Farfalle (far-FAHL-leh

This pasta is a classic, often referred to many as bow-tie pasta, but the word “farfalle” actually means “butterflies.”

Funny pasta shapes: Strangolapreti


This pasta literally translates to mean “priest stranglers.” Traditionally made with ground millet bread rather than flour, many believe that the pasta gets its name from the heavy texture too tough for a priest’s delicate palate which might choke!

Lazio wine

Wine area in Italy: exploring Lazio region

When most people think of a wine area in Italy, Tuscany comes to mind but few people realize that each Italian region has a special quality wine to offer. The first DOCG denomination in Italy has been given to wine from Lazio.

In all, therefore, in Lazio, there are 3 DOCGs and 26 DOCs (in addition to 6 IGTs). The agri-food production includes 11 PDOs and 8 PGIs.

The wine area of Lazio - Italy

Lazio is the Italian region whose provincial capital is the well-known Rome appreciated and admired by tourists from all over the world mostly for its history.

Few deep-in its food & wine history and  discover that also Lazio is a renowned wine area in Italy.

With its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and rich volcanic soils, this area has prime conditions for grape-growing

Let’s explore the wine area of Lazio - Italy

Lazio is the Italian region whose capital is the well-known Rome appreciated and admired by tourists from all over the world mostly for its history.

Few deep-in its food & wine history and  discover that also Lazio is a renowned wine area in Italy.

With its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and rich volcanic soils, this area has prime conditions for grape-growing

Lazio Italy

Lazio wine area extension and wine grape species

Of the wine area in Italy, Lazio covers almost 28,000 hectares which gives rise to over 2 million hectoliters of wine. It is  50% hilly and the remainder is divided halfway between lowland and mountainous areas.

The vineyards are located 70% in the hills and 30% in flat areas. Thanks to the presence of volcanoes, lakes, hilly areas and reclaimed plains, Lazio has a mixed territory that gives rise to different types of wine made by exploiting in particular the potential of native vines.

The most important native black grape variety is undoubtedly the Cesanese which is the basis of excellent wines. Other black grape varieties grown in Lazio are: Montepulciano, Ciliegiolo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

For the white wines instead Malvasia, Trebbiano and Grechetto are used, the latter grown mainly on the border with Umbria.

Credit: Quattro Calici

Lazio wine production

The most important wine area of Lazio is: the Castelli Romani, south-east of Rome.

The Castelli Romani are dotted with medieval villages, villas, vineyards, woods and is by chance the area where we decided to move from Rome over 20 years ago and settle Olive Tree Hill.  Here white berried grapes such as Malvasia del Lazio and Trebbiano yellow predominate and then Bellone and other local varieties. Among the black berried ones Cesanese, Sangiovese and Montepulciano, but also Merlot, Ciliegiolo and Bombino Nero.

in the area the DOC denomination is assigned to the wines of Zagarolo, Frascati, Colonna, Montecompatri and Cori.

Towards the south, between Rome and Frosinone, in the territories of Ciociaria, Cesanese reigns, a native black grape variety that gives rise to high quality red wines often associated with Barbera, Montepulciano and Sangiovese vines.

To the east, in the province of Latina, red wines prevail. The Aprilia DOC and Circeo DOC stand out,

In the province of Viterbo, on the volcanic soils around Lake Bolsena, mainly white grapes are grown such as Trebbiano Toscano and Trebbiano Giallo, as well as Malvasia puntinata del Lazio. The most famous local wine is the East! East!! East!!!; among the red wines the Aleatico di Gradoli DOC. The other two denominations of the area are Tarquinia DOC and Cerveteri DOC (in the province of Rome).

The vineyards of the province of Rieti are located on the foothills of the Apennines. The Colli della Sabina DOC is shared with the province of Rome, and includes almost the entire right bank of the Tiber.


Lazio wine and food combination

Perfect for an aperitif with friends, Lazio wine match perfectly with the classic first courses of the Roman cuisine (aka Lazio cuisine) such as carbonara, cacio e pepe, gricia, etc.

In addition, the white wines of Lazio go perfectly with white meats, fish, vegetables and dairy products such as mozzarella and burrata.

For tastier and tastier dishes such as a pasta amatriciana, or a meat-based main courses of Roman cuisine e Lazio cuisine such as tripe, ossobuco, pancetta and peas. At the table, the Cesanese adds to the dish that pinch of spiciness and at the same time sweetness that manages to make the dish even tastier.

Cesanese is an intense and pleasant wine, important but versatile, suitable for a party evening with friends but also for that simpler everyday cuisine, to be enjoyed with the family.

The legend of EST! EST!! EST!!! wine

The story tells of a German bishop who had to point out to Emperor Henry V of Germany, on a visit to the pope, the places to stop around the capital and find good wine.

The bishop’s servant, who arrived in Montefiascone and tasted the local wine, was so enthusiastic that he wrote next to the door of a local Hostaria: “Est! Est !! Est !!!”. The bishop, having arrived in the village, shared the judgment of his cupbearer and extended his stay in Montefiascone for three days.

ciambelle al vino

Italian wine cookies: ciambelle al vino

Cookies have a universal popularity. Who doesn’t like cookies? However, cookies take on an additional importance in Italy. You might be surprised to learn that the typical Italian breakfast is a cappuccino and something sweet, such as a croissant or a cookie. Simple and delicious, it’s an excellent way to start the day.

In Zagarolo, all cookies are not created equal. The village has its own special type of cookie called ciambelle. Ciambelle are donut-shaped, and they are larger and lighter than most Italian cookies. However, a significant differentiator is that they are made with wine instead of water! They can be made with either white or red wine. Hazelnuts and chocolate are sometimes added for additional taste and texture.
image source:

Ciambelle are often enjoyed as a dessert after dinner; they are dipped in wine to bring out the flavor.

Another interesting aspect of ciambelle is that they are mainly baked in forno (large community brick ovens) and distributed to local shops for sale. Historically forno served as a central point where the art of breadmaking could be passed on, and where baking took place when not every home had its own oven in the kitchen.
Chestnut wood bundles that will fuel a forno (wood-fired brick oven) in Zagarolo

Brick ovens still exist, including three Fornos in central Zagarolo. In the mornings, the brick ovens are fired with chestnut branches to bake the day’s bread and cookies, and then the ovens are closed for the afternoon.

Ciambelle-producing brick ovens are just one example of the quirky things you will encounter in Zagarolo. Come to Zagarolo to enjoy a pizza baked in a wood-fired brick oven. Discover a different way of living, only 30 minutes away from Rome’s Termini station. Let Olive Tree Hill treat you to ciambelle and show you more local treasures!