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The Creamiest No Cream Carbonara Pasta

23/06/2021 (Last Updated: 01/12/2020)

A super easy Italian Carbonara Pasta Recipe with only 4 ingredients – ready on the table in less than 30 minutes! Learn how to create this mouth-watering Italian dinner that costs less than $10 with plenty left over for lunch.

A bowl of carbonara pasta garnished with cracked black pepper.

Why We Love This

This is a creamy and satisfying yet super EASY carbonara pasta, made the Italian way with eggs instead of cream.

It’s such a quick and filling meal to make using staple pantry items, a great one to add to your easy dinners collection! 

Packed with flavour yet light and fresh, it’s perfect for weeknight meals or entertaining alike.

Still prefer cream based pasta sauces? Try our creamy Italian sausage pasta or chicken pasta bake.

Cooked pasta with bacon and no cream carbonara sauce.

What is Carbonara? 

Carbonara from the Parma/Bologna region of Italy is very different to how it’s made in other parts of the world. The sauce uses eggs instead of cream, and there’s usually no onions, garlic, or mushrooms either. Yet the result is a creamy and tasty pasta sauce that will have you licking your plate clean and looking for seconds.

Some regional variations of the recipe use egg yolks only, while others use a ratio of whole eggs + an egg yolk per person. Alberto’s nonno’s recipe uses whole eggs to keep it simple, while the egg whites also help give the sauce it’s smooth and creamy texture.

Where We Learned This

This recipe comes to you all the way from Parma in Italy. Alberto launched into recreating his nonno’s incredible no cream carbonara pasta when we stayed with him on our journey through this beautiful country.

Out came the spaghetti, guanciale, eggs and cheese. A sprinkling of black pepper, a flick around the frying pan, and dinner was on the table before you could say molto bene.

What You’ll Need

You’re likely to have all the ingredients ready and waiting for you to whip up your very own batch of carbonara pasta at home.

  • PastaFor the most traditional carbonara, serve it with spaghetti or fettuccine. But it will also go well with any kind of pasta you have on hand. We also love it with tube pasta like penne or rigatoni.
  • EggsWe use whole eggs in our recipe. You can use egg yolks only for a richer flavour if you prefer, however you’ll need to double the amount.
  • CheeseGo with finely grated parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino-romano cheese if possible, otherwise substitute with parmesan. 
  • Bacon Carbonara is usually made with locally produced small goods such as guanciale or pancetta, but when cooking at home, bacon is a super handy substitute. Whatever you use, cook until nice and crispy for the best flavour. 
Eggs and pasta nests.

How to make Carbonara without Cream:

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and cook your pasta following the packet directions. Stop cooking just as it becomes al dente, because it will keep on cooking in the next few steps. Drain, reserving some pasta water for later.
  2. Crack the eggs in a small bowl and add the grated cheese. Whisk until evenly blended, then set aside.
  3. Fry up the bacon or pancetta pieces in a large frying pan over medium heat. No added oil required!
  1. Transfer the drained pasta into the frying pan with the bacon/pancetta and toss through the bacon using a spoon and fork. Drizzle with olive oil and toss around once more.
  2. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting or even off (important!), then pour in your egg and cheese mixture and quickly toss it through the pasta until evenly coated, so it doesn’t scramble.
  3. Transfer into individual serving bowls and serve immediately. Optional: Garnish with a sprinkling of cracked black pepper, sea salt, and/or some extra grated parmesan.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Pasta – Cook until just al dente, ie slightly ‘firm to the bite’ and not too soft; usually 1-2 minutes less than on the pasta packet. This will stop the pasta from falling apart in the pan as you mix it through the carbonara sauce. If you still need help, check out this handy guide to cooking the perfect al dente pasta.
  • Sauce – We’re aiming for a creamy, glossy sauce – not scrambled eggs. Once you’ve fried up the bacon and thrown the pasta in the pan, you want to pour in your egg + cheese mixture and cook just long enough for the eggs and cheese to melt. If the sauce is too thick at this point, you can stir in a small amount of pasta water to help thin it out. 
  • Test the Heat – If you’re unsure about when to add the egg mixture into the pan, you can test it by adding a splash of pasta water. When you hear no more sizzling sounds, you’re ready to add the egg mixture.
  • Tiny Clumps in the Sauce? This may just be the cheese starting to melt when you first add the egg mixture to the pasta. Keep tossing the sauce through the pasta. As long as you’ve reduced the heat, you should end up with glossy carbonara sauce without scrambling the eggs. 

FAQs

Which cheese is best for carbonara?

Parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino-romano or parmesan are the best varieties for this dish, because they’ll melt into the creamy sauce without becoming stringy. It’s best to avoid mozzarella or pizza cheese blends for this reason. Make sure the cheese is finely grated – this will help it blend in with the eggs rather than becoming clumpy.

How do I stop carbonara sauce from scrambling?

Low heat is heat essential so the sauce mixes through the pasta and gently cooks through without scrambling. If you’re still unsure, turn off the heat completely.

How can I stop the sauce from drying up before serving?

Try stirring through a little extra pasta water to thin it out. 

How can I avoid bland carbonara?

Since there are so few ingredients in the recipe, each one stands out. For the best flavour and overall texture in the dish, use the highest quality ingredients you can source. Season with plenty of black pepper to taste, and add an extra sprinkling of sea salt if you prefer. See our variations section for more ideas.

How long does it last?

Carbonara is best eaten immediately, but will last for 2-3 days in the fridge if kept in an airtight container. We don’t recommend freezing this recipe.

Variations

  • Eggs – Use egg yolks instead of whole eggs for a richer, glossier sauce. Try it with a ratio of one whole egg per 4 people + 1 egg yolk per person. 
  • Season to Taste – Depending on the type of bacon or small goods you end up using, it may already be salty enough. Otherwise, season with cracked black pepper and high quality Italian sea salt flakes.
  • Herbs – Try finely chopping or blitzing fresh parsley in with the egg mixture before cooking as normal. 
  • Make It Your Own – Add your choice of extra ingredients like sundried tomatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms or spinach and fry along with the bacon.  
  • Protein – Try it with chicken instead of bacon. If you do, you may need to season with extra salt. 
  • For Something Different – Cook as normal then serve with a few slices of avocado and toasted pine nuts.
  • Add Heat – Sprinkle with chilli flakes, cayenne pepper or shichimi togarashi
  • Add Umami – Add a sprinkling of dashi stock powder into the egg mixture.
Carbonara on a plate next to a fork and spoon.

More Italian comfort food classics to try next:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Close up shot of finished carbonara pasta.

The Creamiest No Cream Carbonara Pasta

A super easy Italian Carbonara Pasta Recipe with only 4 ingredients – ready on the table in less than 30 minutes! Learn how to create this mouth-watering Italian dinner that costs less than $10 with plenty left over for lunch.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 serves
Calories: 598kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $5

Ingredients

  • 300 g spaghetti or substitute with your favourite pasta!
  • 200 g bacon pieces or pancetta
  • 3 eggs
  • 30 g parmigiano-reggiano cheese (1/3 cup) sub with pecorino-romano or parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

  • Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and cook your pasta following the packet directions. Stop cooking just as it becomes al dente, because it will keep on cooking in the next few steps. Drain, reserving some pasta water for later.
  • Crack the eggs in a small bowl and add the grated cheese. Whisk until evenly blended, then set aside.
  • Fry up the bacon or pancetta pieces in a large frying pan over medium heat. No added oil required!
  • Transfer the drained pasta into the frying pan with the bacon/pancetta and toss through the bacon using a spoon and fork.
  • Reduce the heat to the lowest setting or OFF (important!), then pour in your egg and cheese mixture and quickly toss it through the pasta until evenly coated, so it doesn’t scramble.
  • Transfer into individual serving bowls and serve immediately. Optional garnish with a sprinkling of black pepper and sea salt, and/or some reserved grated cheese.

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Use Quality Ingredients – Since there are so few ingredients in the recipe, each one stands out. For the best flavour and overall texture in the dish, use the highest quality ingredients you can source. 
  • Pasta – For the most traditional carbonara, serve it with spaghetti or fettuccine. But it will also go well with any kind of pasta you have on hand. We also love it with tube pasta like penne or rigatoni. Cook until just al dente, ie slightly ‘firm to the bite’ and not too soft. This will stop the pasta from falling apart in the pan as you mix it through the carbonara sauce. 
  • Eggs – We use whole eggs in our recipe. You can use egg yolks only for a richer flavour if you prefer, however you’ll need to double the amount.
  • Cheese – Go with finely grated parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino-romano cheese if possible, otherwise substitute with parmesan.
  • Bacon – Carbonara is usually made with locally produced small goods such as guanciale or pancetta, but when cooking at home bacon is a super handy substitute. Whatever you use, cook until nice and crispy for the best flavour.
  • Sauce – We’re aiming for a creamy, glossy sauce – not scrambled eggs. Once you’ve fried up the bacon and thrown the pasta in the pan, you want to pour in your egg + cheese mixture and cook just long enough for the eggs and cheese to melt and become creamy and glossy. If the sauce is too thick at this point, you can stir in a small amount of pasta water to help thin it out. 
  • Test the Heat – If you’re unsure about when to add the egg mixture into the pan, you can test it by adding a splash of pasta water. When you hear no more sizzling sounds, you’re ready to add the egg mixture.
  • Tiny Clumps in the Sauce? This may just be the cheese starting to melt when you first add the egg mixture to the pasta. Keep tossing the sauce through the pasta. As long as you’ve turned off the heat, you should end up with glossy carbonara sauce without scrambling the eggs. 
  • Storage – Carbonara is best eaten immediately, but will last for 2-3 days in the fridge if kept in an airtight container. We don’t recommend freezing this recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 598kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 200mg | Sodium: 1685mg | Potassium: 213mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 243IU | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 2mg
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The Creamiest No Cream Carbonara Pasta

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Kathleen Connellan
    13/07/2021 at 8:52 pm

    5 stars
    Heart warming! Just what we needed in front of the fire on a Tuesday night. We added crispy fried garlic for a bit of crunch. 💕

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      16/07/2021 at 3:19 pm

      Sounds amazing Kathleen – thanks so much for trying our recipe! 😀

  • Reply
    Melanie
    16/10/2020 at 5:52 am

    Thanks for sharing! I feel like every family has its own variant of certain things, and Carbonara might well be one of them. My paternal grandmother, whose dad’s family is from Ticino, Switzerland, taught me to make this. She taught me lots of things like that, but always the poor person’s variant (i.e. saltimbocca alla romana made with sage, bacon, and pork loin or tenderloin, not veal, so it’s actually stecchini alla ticinese)…

    Anyway, her Carbonara also includes plenty of parsley, so I was surprised not to see any in your recipe. It and the eggs (one per 100gr of pasta) go into the food processor, and the mixture gets poured over the drained pasta back in the hot pot (though the burner’s off). Then it gets tossed until the eggs are beautifully creamy, and the drained bacon gets crumbled on top. Usually the bacon is so salty, that no extra is needed, and then we add a bit of pepper to taste. Nonna’s family never added parmesan because they couldn’t afford it, but I’ve never missed it…

    Greetings from Western Canada!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      16/10/2020 at 5:49 pm

      Hey Melanie! G’day from Aus! 😀

      Yes, you’re totally right. I feel like the variations are even wider when it comes to popular dishes like this as well. How cool though, we’ve never heard of using lots of parsley in carbonara – we’ll have to try that variation next ;). This version is from Parma, Italy (the home of Parmesan cheese!), so it leans quite heavily on the parmesan to bring in that bitey cheese note. The Aussie version that we grew up with is COMPLETELY different again – lots of cream in the sauce and usually tasty cheese on top – sometimes no egg in it at all haha. Crazy hey?

      Thanks so much for sharing your stories, this was a great read!

  • Reply
    Cindy
    25/04/2020 at 3:09 pm

    5 stars
    I scrambled it 🙁 that will teach me for trying to multi-task! was still yum tho, will definitely try it again

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      27/04/2020 at 10:23 am

      Oh so close! It is lucky it still tastes good when it does that – we’ve done it before too!

      What a pity you have to cook and eat it again hehehe 😉 Thanks for letting us know how you went.

      As a quick tip, I turn it off just before I think it’s ready as it will still cook a little more from the existing heat anyway. Good luck on the next round!

    • Reply
      Scott Lambert
      28/04/2020 at 1:30 am

      Instead of having the heat in low have it off and use some of the pasta water to stop if frying, when you hear no sound then add your cheese/egg mix

      • Reply
        Wandercooks
        28/04/2020 at 10:17 am

        Thanks Scott – this is a great tip. We might have to give this a go next time too!

  • Reply
    Jackie Kiely
    12/11/2019 at 6:55 pm

    5 stars
    I always use 4 eggs 2 whole eggs and two egg yokes, I was taught by some Italian students that stayed with me. Delicious

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/11/2019 at 2:07 pm

      Great variation Jackie! This is a Parma version we learnt, I bet using whole egg yolks would give you quite a rich, golden sauce. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ronelle Tyson
    13/09/2019 at 7:55 pm

    Is it possible to just use egg yolks instead of whole eggs?
    I thought it might take the risk of scrambling the eggs away slightly

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      18/09/2019 at 9:42 am

      Hey, hey! Great question. Using only egg yolks might make the sauce quite thick. The best way to avoid scrambling is keeping the heat low, stir quick and serve immediately. 🙂

  • Reply
    Tonya Richardson
    26/05/2016 at 2:33 am

    5 stars
    I’ve always used eggs instead of cream! It was the way my mom taught me so I didn’t know it wasn’t normal until a couple years ago! This looks so delicious! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      26/05/2016 at 4:06 pm

      We wish we’d found out about it sooner, this version is super tasty and so much lighter than the cream version too. Win win!

    • Reply
      Mike
      15/07/2021 at 8:15 am

      Don’t worry, it *is* normal! There’s no such thing as carbonara with cream. If it has cream in it, it’s by definition not carbonara, it’s cream sauce! Your mom taught you right!

  • Reply
    Mandee Pogue
    25/05/2016 at 2:41 am

    5 stars
    I love a good carbonara, and you make it sounds so easy and delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      25/05/2016 at 9:45 am

      Thanks Mandee, this is such a handy recipe to have in your repertoire – super easy, totally delicious, win win!

  • Reply
    Molly Kumar
    25/05/2016 at 2:39 am

    5 stars
    Such a gorgeous looking Pasta Dish and so simple to make too. Bookmarking to make later.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      25/05/2016 at 9:44 am

      There’s nothing more satisfying in life than a massive bowl of pasta… unless it’s a glass of wine to wash it down with!

  • Reply
    Sharee @ Savory Spicerack
    24/05/2016 at 11:42 pm

    5 stars
    Wow you made a beautiful carbonara with no cream! Pinning for later!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      25/05/2016 at 9:43 am

      Hope you enjoy Sharee!

  • Reply
    Tara
    24/05/2016 at 9:51 pm

    You had me at creamy, glossy sauce. This looks incredible and I love that it is perfect for a weeknight meal!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      25/05/2016 at 9:42 am

      Thanks Tara! Who would have thought a no-cream sauce could be so creamy?? 😀

  • Reply
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
    24/05/2016 at 9:11 pm

    Nothing beats a great pasta dish, and this sounds awesome. Perfect for any night of the week.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      25/05/2016 at 9:41 am

      Thanks Gloria, it’s definitely got our vote for mid-week pasta awesomeness 😀

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