I like to refer to this gouda spaghetti carbonara as adult mac ‘n cheese. Yes, it’s basically aged gouda mac and cheese, but better. Silky, creamy, cozy and full of flavor, this is mac and cheese for adults!
In keeping with the classic carbonara process, this spaghetti carbonara recipe uses whole-wheat spaghetti, Parmesan, eggs, aged gouda, pancetta and loads of cracked black pepper. Flavor, flavor, flavor!
Table of contents
What is spaghetti alla carbonara?
Spaghetti alla carbonara is a traditional Italian pasta dish featuring a creamy sauce made of eggs, Parmesan, cream, and bits of bacon. Occasionally, you’ll also find recipes featuring green peas as well. By and large, Carbonara is all about the process.
For my version I’ve lightened it up—but just enough to make it healthy-ish. 🙂 You’d never be able to tell it’s a bit better for you!
For this recipe I use whole-wheat spaghetti (like we do in our Clam Pasta), I skip the cream, and use olive oil instead of butter for cooking the pancetta. These are each small changes, but they do make a nutritional difference!
How to make spaghetti carbonara
Like I said, carbonara is all about process. It’s a simple process, but it is important to follow top to bottom, switching up the steps won’t work for this recipe!
- Combine the cheese, eggs, yolks, and pepper; set aside.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Spaghetti on standby.
- Cook spaghetti 1 minutes less than package directions specify.
- Reserve 2 cups pasta cooking water. Do not forget this step! I repeat, reserve pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.
- Meanwhile, cook the pancetta in some oil in a large sauté pan (12-inch at least) until golden brown and starting to crisp.
- Add hot pasta to the pan with pancetta and toss lightly to coat.
- Whisk some of the reserved pasta water into the cheese and egg mixture, then add the mixture to the pan with pasta and pancetta.
- Toss the pasta and sauce gently but continuously until sauce is thickened and silky. Add reserved pasta water by ¼ cup increments to reach desired consistency. You may add quite a bit of the reserved cooking water and that’s OK!
What is pancetta?
Pancetta is often referred to as “Italian bacon,” it’s cured with salt and spices but, unlike traditional bacon, it’s not smoked. Coming from the belly of a hog, pancetta is flavorful, salty and fatty.
Guanciale (cured pork jowl) is very common in carbonara, dare I say a bit more traditional than pancetta. But either can work here, as would bacon.
What cheese to use
Classic carbonara uses Parmesan and/or Pecorino Romano. I do use a bit of Parmesan for this recipe, but aged gouda certainly takes center stage. And although it’s not traditional, the aged Gouda adds richness, creaminess, and even a note of nuttiness—making this carbonara so damn good!
Like things smoky? Try smoked Gouda instead of aged gouda and you’ll basically have yourself smoked gouda mac!
If you’re a traditionalist, simply swap the Gouda out for Parmesan or Pecorino. Or check out this traditional Italian recipe for Carbonara.
Variations on this carbonara recipe
- Use a different pasta shape: bucatini, rigatoni, linguine, etc. Use whatever you have on hand!
- Make it smoky: use bacon and smoked Gouda.
- Freshen it up: add some petite green peas to the mix (stir in right at the end).
- Bulk it up: add some cooked ground turkey or mild Italian sausage.
- Make it a full-meal: add some cooked chicken or shrimp.
What to Serve with Carbonara
Fill out the menu with any one of these delicious and fresh side dishes.
- Our Herbed Green Salad is the perfect balance to this creamy, decadent pasta.
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts are always a fun side dish, and this recipe comes together quickly!
- Our Simple Fennel Salad is one of our most popular recipes. It’s quick, easy and super fresh.
- This Green Salad with Oranges and Candied Pistachios has everything going for it—sweet, tangy, and crunchy.
- Can’t beat a super Simple Celery Salad loaded up with nuts, herbs and cheese!
More Pasta Recipes to Try
- This Clam Pasta is elegant yet easy. The ideal Sunday night dinner.
- Love this Gouda Spaghetti Carbonara? Try our stove-top Gouda Mac ‘n Cheese.
- Our saucy Gochujang Noodles are spicy and luscious. Serve with grilled chicken for a full meal.
- Buttered noodles are a classic for a reason, and these Browned Buttered Noodles kick it up a notch.
Aged Gouda Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 ounces shredded aged Gouda about ¾ cup
- 1 ounce grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano about ¼ cup
- Black pepper & kosher salt
- 12 ounces dry whole-wheat spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta guanciale, or slab bacon diced
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and yolks until smooth, whisk in aged Gouda, Parmesan, and 7 turns of black pepper.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season liberally with salt (about 2 tablespoons). Add spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the package directions, stirring often to prevent sticking. Reserve 2 cups pasta water then drain.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium, add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden-brown and just starting to crisp, about 5 minutes; reduce heat to low.
- Slowly whisk ¼ cup reserved pasta water into cheese and egg mixture.
- Immediately after draining pasta, add hot pasta to pan with pancetta and briefly toss with tongs.
- Add egg mixture, tossing continuously (gently to avoid breaking the noodles), until pasta is well coated, about 3 minutes; add additional reserved pasta cooking water by ¼ cup to reach desired creamy consistency (you may end up using quite a bit of the reserved cooking water and that’s OK).
- Serve carbonara hot, sprinkled with additional black pepper to taste.
This recipe and article were originally published on September 17, 2020.