In Case of Emergency… Spaghetti Carbonara

spaghetti carbonara
Picture this: it’s 3 p.m. on a Friday. You’ve had a hectic week, with no time to go to the grocery store. Your fridge resembles the Gobi Desert. In some masochistic slip of the tongue, you’ve invited a few friends to dinner at your place… and now you’ve got to feed four people. Oh, did I mention you have about 30 minutes to spare between arriving home and your guests showing up? WHAT DO YOU MAKE?!

It’s just plain smart to know a recipe for something you can whip up on a moment’s notice, one that is both delicious and impressive. Spaghetti carbonara is my iteration of that “emergency” recipe. Even on slow, leisurely Sundays, the smell of sizzling bacon and onion will grab people by the nostrils and make their bellies rumble as they pass by your kitchen window. It is a recipe for any occasion and any season, and the best part is: you probably already have the necessary ingredients on hand!


serves 4; cooking time approximately 30 minutes

  • 1 white onion, chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6-8 oz pancetta; or bacon, chopped into small squares
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Black Pepper & salt
  • 3/4 – 1lbs of spaghetti, linguine, fettucini or bucatini
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • olive oil


  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, until just crispy. Remove from skillet, leaving about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat behind.
  2. While cooking the bacon, bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the spaghetti al dente, and then drain. Toss with a little olive oil so the strands don’t stick together.
  3. Add the onion to the skillet once you remove the bacon. Cook for 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent, and then add the minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute. 
  4. Add the drained spaghetti and the bacon back into the skillet with the onion and garlic. Toss the spaghetti noodles to coat it with the bacon and onion.
  5. Mix the beaten eggs with 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese in separate bowl. Remove the skillet from heat, and add the egg mixture to the spaghetti, stirring vigorously until the noodles are coated. 
  6. Season the spaghetti with salt and a generous twist of fresh, ground black pepper. Split the contents of the skillet among four bowls and garnish with parsley.


Spaghetti carbonara has a brief but storied history as a hearty meal for Italian coal miners. This classic version does not include the use of cream to make a sauce out of the bacon and onion, though it can certainly be done this way. It’s just as delicious! And it circumvents the most crucial element of the dish that tends to squick people out- yes, you do mix raw egg into the spaghetti. But the residual heat from the skillet and the cooked ingredients will make set the eggs to give the noodles a luscious texture that a cream sauce just cannot quite pull off.

Serve the pasta with a basic green salad and some garlic bread. This quick meal will satisfy and delight your guests, even if you haven’t had time to vacuum or tidy up before they arrive. Just watch out that you’re not on the hook to host more last-minute dinner parties!

One comment

  1. […] spaghetti carbonara, such as this recipe describes, calls for a raw egg added to the cooked pasta in order to give the dish a creamy texture. This […]

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