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The Creamiest No Cream Carbonara Pasta

27/10/2023

A super easy Italian carbonara pasta without cream – ready in 20 mins! Make this ultra creamy dish with simple ingredients – just pasta, egg, pancetta (or bacon!) and pecorino romano cheese.

Golden carbonara garnished with pecorino romano and black pepper in a white bowl on grey tea towel.

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.

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Related:  Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta / Creamy Chicken Pasta Bake

Strands of golden fettucine mixed with pancetta in a saucepan.

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 the source in Parma, 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

  • Pasta – For the most traditional carbonara serve it with spaghetti no. 5 or use our favourite fettuccine / tagliatelle. But don’t worry, it will go well with any kind of pasta you have on hand. We also love it with tube pasta like penne or rigatoni.
  • 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 regular parmesan. 
  • Guanciale / Pancetta / Bacon – Carbonara is usually made with locally produced small goods such as guanciale if you can source it, pancetta or bacon. Whatever you use, choose the fattiest cut and buy it in a slab, then cook until nice and crispy to render out the fat for the best flavour to coat your pasta. 
Ingredients laid out to make carbonara pasta with no cream.

How to make Carbonara without Cream

First, gather your ingredients: See recipe card below for measurements.

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and cook your pasta following the packet directions. Stop cooking a couple of minutes before the suggested time, so it’s cooked al dente. Note: The pasta will keep on cooking in the next few steps. Reserve half a cup of pasta water for later and drain the rest of the water and return the pasta to the saucepan off the heat.
  2. Fry up the guanciale / pancetta / bacon pieces in a large frying pan over medium heat. No added oil required! Cook for a few minutes until the pieces start to crisp up around the edges, and most of the fat has rendered out.
  3. Pour the guanciale / pancetta / bacon pieces along with the oil straight over the cooked pasta and toss to coat.
  1. Next, crack the eggs in a small bowl and add the grated pecorino romano cheese. Whisk until evenly blended, then pour over the pasta and toss again really well.
  2. Finally, optional add in 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water for an extra creamy finish. Once again mix well to make sure the pasta is evenly coated, then serve immediately while hot in pre-warmed bowls. Optional – garnish with black pepper and extra pecorino romano.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Olive Oil – If you’re using a non-fatty pork section such as middle bacon pieces, add a tablespoon of olive oil when adding the bacon into the pasta.
  • Salt – We don’t recommend garnishing this dish with extra salt, as there’s quite a lot from the cured guanciale / pancetta / bacon.
  • 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 – Best eaten immediately, but will last for 2-3 days in the fridge kept in an airtight container. We don’t recommend freezing this recipe. To reheat, do it in bursts of 30 seconds in the microwaving, thoroughly stirring each time. This will reduce the chance of heating up a big clump of scrambled carbonara!

FAQs

Which cheese is best for carbonara?

Pecorino-romano, parmigiano-reggiano 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?

Taking it off the heat is essential so the sauce mixes through the pasta and gently cooks through without scrambling.

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

Try stirring through a little extra pasta water to thin it out. You always take out double what you need for a recipe just in case. So while we reserve 1/2 a cup, only 1/4 is popped through the sauce, so you’ll have a little wiggle room to add more if it’s not to your liking.

How can I avoid bland carbonara?

A recipe is only as good as it’s ingredients! Since there are so few ingredients in this one, it’s even more important. Sourcing a really good slab of guanciale or pancetta will give you the best depth of flavour.

Variations

  • 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 guanciale / pancetta / bacon.  
  • Protein – Try it with chicken instead of pork. If you do, you’ll need to season with salt and add a little extra olive oil. 
  • 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.
Ultra creamy and golden carbonara in a white bowl with a fork and plate.

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

Creamy, golden carbonara in a white bowl on a white plate.

The Creamiest No Cream Carbonara Pasta

A super easy Italian carbonara pasta without cream – ready in 20 mins! Make this ultra creamy dish with simple ingredients – just pasta, egg, pancetta (or bacon!) and pecorino romano cheese.
4.94 from 46 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 serves
Calories: 278kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $15

Ingredients

  • 300 g spaghetti 10.58 oz, sub fettucine / tagliatelle
  • 200 g pancetta 7 oz, sub guanciale or bacon
  • 3 eggs
  • 50 g pecorino romano cheese 1.76 oz / 1/2 cup, sub with parmigiano-reggiano or parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup pasta water reserved from cooking pasta

Instructions

  • Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and cook your pasta following the packet directions. Stop cooking a couple of minutes before the suggested time, so it's cooked al dente. Note: The pasta will keep on cooking in the next few steps. Reserve half a cup of pasta water for later and drain the rest of the water and return the pasta to the saucepan off the heat.
    300 g spaghetti, 1/2 cup pasta water
  • Fry up the guanciale / pancetta / bacon pieces in a large frying pan over medium heat. No added oil required! Cook for a few minutes until the pieces start to crisp up around the edges, and most of the fat has rendered out.
    200 g pancetta
  • Pour the guanciale / pancetta / bacon pieces along with the oil straight over the cooked pasta and toss to coat.
    200 g pancetta
  • Next, crack the eggs in a small bowl and add the grated pecorino romano cheese. Whisk until evenly blended, then pour over the pasta and toss again really well.
    3 eggs, 50 g pecorino romano cheese
  • Finally, optional add in ONLY 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water for an extra creamy finish. Once again mix well to make sure the pasta is evenly coated, then serve immediately while hot in pre-warmed bowls. Optional – garnish with black pepper and extra pecorino romano.
    1/2 cup pasta water

Video

YouTube video

Recipe Notes

  • Olive Oil – If you’re using a non-fatty pork section such as middle bacon pieces, add a tablespoon of olive oil when adding the bacon into the pasta.
  • Salt – We don’t recommend garnishing this dish with extra salt, as there’s quite a lot from the cured guanciale / pancetta / bacon.
  • 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 – Best eaten immediately, but will last for 2-3 days in the fridge kept in an airtight container. We don’t recommend freezing this recipe. To reheat, do it in bursts of 30 seconds in the microwaving, thoroughly stirring each time. This will reduce the chance of heating up a big clump of scrambled carbonara!
  • 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 guanciale / pancetta / bacon.  
  • Protein – Try it with chicken instead of pork. If you do, you’ll need to season with salt and add a little extra olive oil. 
  • 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.
 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
The Creamiest No Cream Carbonara Pasta
Amount per Serving
Calories
278
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
1
g
2
%
Saturated Fat
 
0.2
g
1
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
0.4
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
0.1
g
Sodium
 
5
mg
0
%
Potassium
 
167
mg
5
%
Carbohydrates
 
56
g
19
%
Fiber
 
2
g
8
%
Sugar
 
2
g
2
%
Protein
 
10
g
20
%
Calcium
 
16
mg
2
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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The Creamiest No Cream Carbonara Pasta

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Mark Hoffman
    19/04/2023 at 3:38 pm

    I added about 1/2 cup of homogenised milk to the egg and cheese and it worked OK – but still need to watch heat as the mixture will go doughy otherwise. My family didn’t notice the difference from the usual cream recipe.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/04/2023 at 3:19 pm

      If your stove runs hot, you can almost just turn the heat off and stir it through. See how that goes next round. Glad the family enjoyed it!

  • 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
      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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