Spaghetti Carbonara is a classic Italian dish that has endured for a reason: it’s delicious and deceptively simple. Michael Tusk, chef and co-owner of San Francisco’s Quince and Cotogna, says, “Dishes like that have stood the test of time for a reason: People like it. It also doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, so you can focus on what kind of spaghetti would be best, what kind of guanciale, black pepper, eggs, Parmigiano or pecorino. It’s a dish I like to make because it makes me think a lot. It’s got a lot of steps. It only takes 10 to 12 minutes, but a lot goes on in that 10-minute span. Sometimes I’ll test my cooks on it when they’re doing a tryout.”

Here’s a detailed guide to making the perfect Spaghetti Carbonara.

12 ounces spaghetti
4 ounces guanciale (or pancetta), diced
3 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (or a mix of both)
Freshly ground black pepper

2 cloves garlic (optional)
1. Prepare the Ingredients
Grate the Cheese: Grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese and set it aside.
Dice the Guanciale: Dice the guanciale into small pieces. If you can’t find guanciale, pancetta is a good substitute.
2. Cook the Pasta
Boil Water: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
Reserve Pasta Water: Before draining the spaghetti, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. This starchy water will help create the sauce.
3. Cook the Guanciale
Heat the Pan: In a large skillet, cook the diced guanciale over medium heat until it’s crispy and the fat has rendered, about 5-7 minutes. If you prefer, add 2 cloves of garlic to the pan for extra flavor, then discard them once they are browned.
Remove from Heat: Remove the skillet from the heat and let it cool slightly.

4. Prepare the Sauce
Beat the Eggs: In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and mix in the grated cheese. Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
Temper the Eggs: To avoid scrambling the eggs, temper them by whisking in a small amount of the reserved pasta water.
5. Combine Everything
Mix Pasta and Guanciale: Add the cooked spaghetti to the skillet with the guanciale. Toss to coat the spaghetti in the rendered fat.
Add the Sauce: Slowly pour the egg and cheese mixture over the pasta, tossing continuously to create a creamy sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add more reserved pasta water a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
6. Adjust and Serve

Season: Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and more black pepper if needed.
Serve Immediately: Serve the Carbonara immediately, garnished with extra grated cheese and black pepper.

Tips for the Perfect Carbonara
Use Quality Ingredients: Since Carbonara has few ingredients, the quality of each one is crucial. Use the best pasta, guanciale, and cheese you can find.
Mind the Heat: When combining the egg mixture with the pasta, ensure the skillet is off the heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling.
Work Quickly: The entire process should take about 10-12 minutes, so have all your ingredients prepared and ready to go before you start cooking.
By following these steps, you can master the art of making Spaghetti Carbonara, a dish that is both simple and sophisticated. Enjoy this timeless classic that brings the rich flavors of Italy to your table!