Bucatini carbonara is a classic Roman favorite, with a decadent addition of salty guanciale, creamy egg yolks and extra cheese!
This really started out as an "accidental carbonara", as we like to call it. One late night, after teaching a cooking class for a few hours, we were hungry (more like starving) and exhausted.
There was leftover cheese, (from making my cheesy boreka), a combination of mozzarella, egg and feta. We fried up some pancetta, boiled pasta and tossed everything together.
The results...outstanding. Thick, not not too thick. Creamy, decadent and the perfect cure to a late night craving.
What is Bucatini?
One of my favorite pasta shapes. Traditionally, bucatini is made with bucatani all' amatriciana. A thick tomato sauce with guiancale and onions (and noted to add this to my bucket list to make!)
The shape of bucatini is meant for it's counterpart. A thicker, long noodle with a small hole running down the center, which is perfect for catching a thicker sauce.
Guanciale or Pancetta?
Well that's start at the beginning.
Guanciale is cured pork that comes from the cheek or jowl of the pig. It's usually seasoned with salt and sometimes herbs and (personally), has a deeper, richer more pork like flavor. You'll usually find guanciale in slabs, versus cubes like pancetta, but you can also ask your butcher to cube it up for you, though I prefer to cube it up myself.
Pancetta, on the other hand is more common to find. It's cured pork that comes from the belly of the pig and you can often find it in slabs or cubed up. Pancetta is a good substitute for guanciale, but I find the cubed pancetta to be too small for my liking.
Extra Cheese Anyone?
Traditional bucatini carbonara doesn't have as much cheese as I've added here. But extra cheese is wonderful.
Use what you have is always my motto, and with that being said, an extra handful of melty mozzarella or leftover cubed salty feta (yes, its fantastic) is the perfect throw in.
A Few Carbonara Making Tips
Carbonara is a no cook sauce and the heat of the pasta is what gently cooks the eggs and melts the cheese. So be careful adding the sauce to a hot pan, which might cook the eggs too quickly, making them look curdled and not creamy smooth.
As with any pasta recipe, save some of the pasta cooking liquid and if your egg mixture is a bit thick, add a few teaspoons of water to thin out.
Have fun with cheese! Some of my favorite combinations are shredded mozzarella, crumbed feta, grated Parmesan and Pecorino, which is a hard sheeps milk cheese.
Other favorite pasta recipes to try: my Linguini with Clams,
Bucatini Carbonara with Guanciale and Extra Cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ pound guanciale cut into ¼ inch cubes
- ½ pound bucatini pasta
- Kosher salt
- 4 eggs + 1 egg yolk
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
- ¼ cup of crumbled feta or Pecorino or combination of both
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- ¼ cup reserved pasta cooking liquid from cooking pasta
- Bring a skillet to medium heat and add olive oil and cubed guanciale. Cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes until pork is crisp and fat has rendered. Be sure to stir every so often to encourage even cooking and so the fat doesn't burn.
- Once done, remove pork to a plate and if you have excess fat, carefully pour some of it out.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- While the water comes to a boil, in a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and egg yolks, shredded cheese and a good few turns of black pepper.
- Once pasta is done cooking (I always taste as I go for al-dente), use tongs to left the pasta our of the water and add directly to the egg mixture.
- Use tongs and toss the pasta with the egg mixture for a few minutes until thickened. If it's too thick, add a few teaspoons of reserved pasta water and toss again. If it's too thin, continue mixing and it will thicken up.
- Add cooked guanciale and toss again. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper and garnish with an extra shaving of Parmesan cheese.