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

(taken and adapted from here)


  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound pasta (about 250g), linguine works best
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 rashers of bacon, chopped or 1/4 pound pancetta
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion or 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • About 1 cup grated Parmesan or any other hard Italian cheese
  • 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
  • Handful of finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish, optional


  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 bacon/pancetta and cook till fat renders and pieces brown slightly.
  3. Add in diced onion and chili flakes. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add in garlic and cook for another minute.
  5. Add frozen peas (if using) and cook for another minute.
  6. De-glaze pan by adding in white wine. Remember to scrape off all the browned bits on the pan. Allow alcohol to evaporate, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and slowly pour in about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. This tempers the eggs and keeps them from scrambling when added to the pasta.
  8. Add drained pasta directly to the skillet.
  9. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the pasta without cooking the egg.
  10. Remove pan from heat and add the cheese and salt and pepper, to taste.
  11. Continue to toss and turn the pasta until it soaks up the egg mixture and thickens.
  12. Garnish with parsley and extra grated cheese. Serve immediately.

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