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.
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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
- Spinach Garlic Parmesan Orzo with Crispy Bacon
- Brown Butter Acorn Squash Pasta with Toasted Hazelnuts + Sage
- One Pot Cheesy Mushroom Spinach Beef Pasta
- Cozy Roasted Vegetable Butternut Squash Lasagna
- Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
Get all of my pasta recipes here!
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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!
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano or grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 8 ounces bacon (or sub turkey bacon)
- 10 ounces spaghetti or fusilli col buco, feel free to use gluten free or whole grain pasta if desired
- 1/3 cup reserved pasta water
- ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1 ½ cups 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!
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.
Made this last night, it was delicious! My husband couldn’t believe how good it was. This will definitely be going into our regular rotation.
So happy to hear that! It’s one of my new favorite weeknight dinners too 🙂
Hmm I wonder what I did wrong- the only thing I did different was use whole wheat speghetti. Everything came out too dry- looked like the egg mixture cooked on the outside of the pasta instead of turning creamy. The reserved pasta water didn’t help turn it creamier either 🙁 I might have left the speghetti to drain a bit too long maybe?
Hi! Sorry to hear that you had a problem. It sounds like your pan and/or pasta was too hot when you added in the egg mixture, as it cooked the eggs. The eggs should not curdle or cook, instead they should fold into a nice creamy sauce as the video and photos show. The whole wheat spaghetti should not have made a difference. Try again and be sure to take your pan off the heat!
It’s really important to use room-temperature eggs, probably an extra yolk or 2 for this recipe. Beat them with the grated cheese while everything else is cooking. They should be a custardy consistency.
I made this last week. Watching the video made me crave this sooooo much. I made my first carbonara! I have celiac disease so I used brown rice noodle and regular bacon and substituted broccoli for the peas and it was AWESOME!!! I groaned all through my dinner. lol
So happy those swaps worked out for you! The perfect weeknight dinner 🙂
I made this last night and for myself and my boyfriend and it worked out so well! This will definitely be made again! Thank you so much!
Amazing! So happy to hear that. Perfect weeknight dinner 🙂
Loving this easy-to-modify, healthy version of carbonara! I raided the fridge and larder for ingredients i already had, resulting in a flavorful and innovative twist: Pappardelle pasta, Oscar Mayer DeliFresh Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken Breast Deli Meat, Shallots, Zucchini, Watercress, Part Skim Mozzarella & Egg. The sky’s the limit with this recipe! Many thanks!
This one is great for customizing! Glad you enjoyed!
It’s so good!! I used both peas and spinach to get extra veggies! I forgot to add the pasta water and it was a little too eggy for more… but that was my bad the recipe is great!
Love the additional veggies! The pasta water will help out next time 🙂 glad you liked this one!
Perfection! It’s cheesy it’s creamy it’s amazing. I added extra veggies and used normal bacon (turkey bacon isn’t really a thing in Australia) but it was absolutely amazing!
Perfect! Love that!
Saw this on your IG story tonight and it looked sooooo good I HAD to make it. So I did and it was so easy and delicious. Used reg bacon And spinach instead of turkey bacon and peas since that’s all I had. It was so great that my husband kept sneaking bites out of the pot on his way out of the house!
Perfect! So delicious!
Just made this last night and it was so easy and delicious! Definitely going to plan on making again in the future, especially since it requires so few ingredients.
Perfect! Such an easy, delicious dinner for the week.
This was delicious! Made it last night, exactly as written, and it was excellent! (I did sprinkle a few red chili flakes on the top, but I do that with everything) Thanks for such an easy and delicious recipe!
So happy to hear that! One of my favorites 🙂
I followed the recipe as is. It was amazing! To add more protein to the dish I used the Banza chickpea pasta. Delish!
Perfect! Great idea 🙂
This was so good! Glad I read the comments to remind myself how important it was to stir in the egg mixture with the pan off the heat. So fast and easy.
Simple ingredients and super tasty!
Absolutely! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
I added some sundried tomatoes! So good!
Yum! Love that idea 🙂
I’ve made this a couple times now, so great! I used Banza spaghetti noodles and it was perfect! Highly recommend!
Love it!! So happy you enjoyed 🙂
Finding this recipe was a gift! I wanted a good dinner for the fam and happened to remember pasta carbonara. I had Turkey bacon and leftover peas. This was delicious- everyone ate it- does that ever happen? It was easy too. I sliced the bacon before cooking it in my cast iron. Put all together in the skillet and it was great! I will be checking out more of your recipes!
One of my family’s favorites! Easy and quick dinner recipe that is definitely a crowd pleaser. Perfect recipe for having guests over or for when you want a cozy and comforting meal in. My fiance and I made this the first night in our new apartment and it was a great way to celebrate!
Absolutely! One of our favorites for special occasions that feels a little fancy 🙂
Such a great and easy recipe! Never even thought about switching bacon for turkey bacon. Have made this a few times during quarantine as it’s so easy to make after a long day at work.
Super quick and tasty weeknight meal!
We love this and I’ve made it with GF pasta and a cashew cheese parmesan, not as creamy but my carb loving carbonara picky husband still enjoyed and was so excited for a healthier version.
This is not the thick, greasy, creamy pasta carbonara you would get at olive garden. This is light, refreshing and oh so good with minimal ingredients that I usually have on hand!
Light, airy, savory, balanced and filling. This recipe has it all. What a fun way to change up a pasta dinner. I loved it!
This is the best pasta carbonara recipe ever!!!! Been making it since 2019, it’s a crowd pleaser for sure! I recently used penne pasta with this recipe because I didn’t have any spaghetti on hand, still BOMB! Thank you for the recipe!
So happy to hear that!!
Delicious!!!! Will definitely be making again!
Glad you loved it!!
So easy and one of our favorite go to meals. Crispy prosciutto is also so good in this!
Oooh prosciutto! Such a good idea. Glad you love this one!
Love this healthy and easy version of a classic. I added a little extra parmesan, lots of red pepper flakes, and an extra splash of olive oil when mixing together. I am definitely going to keep making this again and again!
SO glad you love it! Thanks for the review ❤️
Sophisticated Name Simple Meal!! We made this is less than 30 minutes on a weeknight for my birthday dinner and it was AAAAAmazing!! This is a must try recipe!! I know we will make this one again!!
Oh yay! Happy birthday!! So glad that you loved it 🙂
Great recipe and tips.
Great recipe a family favorite! I slice the bacon before I cook it and when it is about half way cooked add in fresh chopped garlic omitting the powder. The only pasta dish my husband likes!
I’m so happy the whole fam loves this one — YAY! Thanks, Sara 🥰
Great simple recipe! I didn’t have peas so I subbed green beans which I boiled w the pasta, added fresh minced garlic instead of garlic powder and added some cheddar bc had only a bit of parm. Also added sliced cherry tomatoes at the end. Overcooked my bacon and the kids still loved it!
Those are perfect subs! Sounds absolutely amazing. Glad the whole fam loved it!
I’ve made this several times- with regular bacon and turkey bacon and both are delicious. My kids (5 and 2) DEVOUR this dish. I usually make a full pound of pasta and it always gets finished. In our regular rotation.