Sauce

how to make homemade carbonara sauce | Family Cuisine

As many Italian dishes as there are, making your own carbonara sauce is not one of them. That said, it's still worth the effort to learn how to make this rich and creamy pasta dish that will have you craving for seconds.
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Chicken Carbonara – It’s everything you love about carbonara! Lots of bacon, cheese, that silky sauce, all tossed with perfectly al dente pasta and chicken. An entire meal in one! With detailed instructions for making the perfect carbonara, you will feel like a professional chef at the end of this ridiculously easy meal.

sideview shot of carbonara with chicken and bacon in a black skillet with a pair of tons in it

Is there anyone who doesn’t drool over a creamy, dreamy plate of carbonara? Just saying the name aloud will send everyone in the room into a unison “mmmmm”. That sauce, so simple, so cheesy, tossed with bacon, and today, chicken! I may not be following the stringent rules of carbonara, but it is my kitchen after all!

While I love a big serving of carbonara, it always feels like something is missing. It needs a little extra protein to break up those carbs! For me, pasta is an all-in-one meal. I don’t go about making sides for it! Or, worse yet, having the pasta as a side. No. It needs to be the star on its own. That’s where this chicken carbonara comes in! It’s a wonderful and filling meal all by itself.

overhead shot of all the ingredients needed to make chicken carbonara

Ingredients

Keep scrolling down to the recipe card for a list of FULL ingredient amounts and instructions or click the “Jump to Recipe” button at the top of the page!

  • Spaghetti – Any long shaped pasta will work. Fettuccine, linguine, spaghettini, it will all work.
  • Pasta cooking water – Don’t drain all the water, save about 1 1/4 cups.
  • Eggs – I used two full eggs and two egg yolks.
  • Parmesan cheese – Use fresh Parmesan rather than canned. This will give you a melty, silky, sauce rather than a grainy one.
  • Salt & pepper – Season to taste.
  • Bacon – Use guanciale or pancetta if you’re looking for authenticity.
  • Chicken – This is a great opportunity to use up some leftover chicken.
  • Garlic – As much or little as you like.
  • Basil – Freshly chopped for garnish.
detailed process shots showing how to make chicken carbonara

How to make chicken carbonara

  1. Pasta: Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. Eggs: Whisk the 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks with 1 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Meats: Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium high heat. When almost crisped, add the chicken and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the bacon is done. Remove the bacon and chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Start the sauce: Reduce the heat in the skillet to medium. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the pasta cooking water into the skillet along with the spaghetti. Toss the spaghetti until the sauce starts to become thickened and glossy. Turn off the heat.
  5. Finish the sauce: Pour the egg and Parmesan mixture into the skillet, and toss the pasta. Continue to toss the pasta until the sauce is thick and the eggs are fully cooked. Add the bacon and chicken back to the skillet and stir to combine.
  6. Garnish: Top with the remaining cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
overhead shot of freshly made chicken carbonara in a black skillet with a pair of tongs in it

Bacon in carbonara?

Half of you will read this heading and think, “What’s wrong with bacon??” while the other half are reading the ingredient list, shocked and appalled to see it listed.

Believe it or not, bacon in carbonara is quite the controversy. Traditionally, carbonara is made with, ideally, guanciale, and if not, pancetta as an acceptable second choice. The problem many find with making a traditional carbonara is that these two options are neither easy to find nor affordable.

That’s where bacon comes in! It’s found at every grocery store, and it costs much less. It may not be traditional, but it is a fantastic alternative for those who would like to tackle homemade carbonara. At the end of the day, it’s your kitchen, and your rules!

sideview shot of chicken carbonara in a white bowl with a fork in it, garnished with parmesan cheese

What kinds of pasta can I use?

Carbonara is traditionally made with spaghetti. The long noodles are ideal for trapping the heat, grabbing the sauce, and cooking those eggs. Since we aren’t using direct heat for the eggs, we need to capture as much heat as possible in the noodles. Long noodles are your perfect insulator.

Other types you can use are linguini, fettuccine, spaghettini, tagliatelle, capellini, bucatini, or Italian vermicelli.

Are the eggs cooked?

The trick to making a successful carbonara is to create a silky, thickened sauce with a base of eggs and cheese without scrambling the eggs with direct heat. The best way to mitigate the worry of under-cooked eggs is to time your carbonara well.

Start frying up your bacon as the pasta cooks. This will ensure when the pasta hits the skillet, it will still be hot. Tossing it in the skillet, over heat, with the pasta water, will coat every single noodle and make them piping hot. This will retain enough heat to cook the eggs, without scrambling them, into a beautiful silky sauce that is safe to eat.

sideview shot of carbonara with chicken and bacon in a black skillet with a pair of tons in it

Leftovers

Transfer your leftovers to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

I don’t suggest freezing your chicken carbonara. Not only will the noodles become too soft after being frozen and thawed, the egg-based sauce will risk separating and creating an unpleasant texture.

Reheating

  1. Let the carbonara sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  2. Add 2-4 tbsp water to a saucepan or skillet and bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, and add the leftover carbonara.
  3. Stirring constantly, heat the pasta until warmed through then immediately remove from the heat and serve.
overhead shot of chicken carbonara in a white bowl with a fork and garnished with parmesan cheese

Looking for more drool-worthy pasta recipes?

  • Creamy Carbonara
  • Carbonara Mac n Cheese Soufflé
  • Ramen Carbonara
  • Shrimp Scampi
  • One Pot Creamy Parmesan Pasta
  • Aglio e Olio
  • Easy Pasta Alfredo
  • Bacon Leek Pasta

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