My Chicken Carbonara has Tender chicken, crispy pancetta and spaghetti all tossed together in a rich, silky sauce.
No cream is needed to get that thick creamy sauce. I'll show you how to ensure the egg doesn't scramble too.
A fantastic version of the classic carbonara - so great for date night!
Carbonara scared me for years. I had a few bad results (scrambled eggs and spaghetti anyone?) until I finally got the knack for getting a lovely smooth sauce every time.
Top tips for the best carbonara
- Use eggs yolks AND whites. Some people only use yolks, but using the whites too will help to thicken the sauce (I talk more about this below).
- Save the water from cooking the pasta! A cup full of that starchy goodness is essential for a sumptuous sauce that clings to the pasta.
- Toss the pasta in the egg and cheese mixture with the heat turned off. Too much heat = scrambled eggs.
- Don't try to go low fat! The butter and oil along with the fat from cooking the pancetta binds together with the pasta water and eggs to create rich sauce. The fat is essential for that emulsification process to occur.
What do we need?
- olive oil and butter - this will add richness to the sauce and will help to brown the chicken.
- chicken breast - we only need one as we're also including pancetta to the pasta
- Salt and pepper - the salt is to season the chicken (along with a bit of pepper. Only a small amount is needed as the cheese in the dish is salty. We also need extra pepper to add a bit of heat.
- Dried spaghetti - dried works best as we're going to want that starchy pasty cooking water
- 3 large eggs - yes we want the whites as well as the yolks.
- Pecorino Romano cheese and Parmesan cheese - you can use just one cheese if you prefer. I like to add a mix for an extra layer of flavour.
- Pancetta - this can be replaced by the beautifully rich and fatty guanciale - which is more traditional in carbonara. Or you could replace with streaky bacon.
How to make the best carbonara
Full recipe with detailed steps in the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Slice the chicken in half, season and fry in a little oil. Then remove from the pan and slice into strips.
- Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water.
- Mix together the eggs with Pecorino and Parmesan cheese.
- Fry the pancetta in a little butter, then add the garlic.
- Transfer the pasta straight from the water to the pan with the pancetta and add in a good splash of the pasta water and the cooked chicken. Turn off the heat.
- Add the egg mixture in a stream whilst lifting and lowering the pasta with tongs - until fully combined.
- Divide between bowls and sprinkle on Parmesan and black pepper before serving.
Egg yolks contain lecithin - which is a powerful emulsifier - meaning it will help to bind the oil (from the butter, vegetable oil and fat from the pancetta) with the pasta water to create a smooth sauce. The egg yolk also contains fat, which adds richness and flavour.
The egg white also acts as an emulsifier (to a lesser extent) and as a thickening agent - meaning you'll have a thicker, more sumptuous sauce.
❓❓ Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments below.
More fantastic pasta recipes
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- My favourite Spag Bol
- Alfredo Pasta Bake with Chicken
- My Penne Arrabiata with a chorizo and mozzarella twist
- Pasta with Salmon in a creamy lemon sauce
- Vegetable Pasta Bake < A definite winner with veggies!
- My Homemade Lasagne Recipe
- And if you're in the mood for homemade why not try making your own fresh pasta!
Watch how to make it
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large chicken breast - approx 6oz/175g
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 14 oz (400g) dried spaghetti
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup (50g) Pecorino Romano cheese (or swap for Parmesan or Grana Padano) – finely grated
- ½ cup (50g) Parmesan cheese – finely grated
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3.5 oz (100g) pancetta, chopped into small pieces
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- Place the chicken breast flat on a board and slice in half through the middle, so you have 2 equal-sized thin fillets. Dust with the salt and half the pepper.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet) over a medium-high heat.
- Place the chicken in the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through.
- Remove from the pan and place on a chopping board to rest, then slice into strips.
- Meanwhile place the spaghetti in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Whilst the pasta is cooking mix together the eggs in a bowl with the Pecorino cheese and half the Parmesan cheese. Put to one side.
- Place the butter in the pan that you cooked the chicken in. Heat over a medium heat until the butter melts.
- Add the pancetta and fry for 3-4 minutes, until starting to crisp up, then add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds.
- By now, the pasta should be ready (if it’s not, turn off the heat of the pan with the pancetta in, and reheat it for a few seconds when ready). Using tongs, remove the pasta from the water (reserving the water in the pan) and transfer to the pan with the pancetta. Don’t worry about excess water from the pasta dripping into the pan – that water will help give you a lovely saucy finish.
- Add the chicken to the pasta and toss the spaghetti in the pan over the heat for a minute, then turn off the heat.
- Add 4 tbsp of the reserved pasta water to the pan, then whilst constantly lifting and lowering the pasta with the tongs, pour the egg mixture in the pan with the pasta.
- Continue lifting and lowering until the egg mixture coats the pasta. Add a little more pasta water if needed, until you have a lovely creamy sauce.
- Divide the pasta between four bowls and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan cheese and black pepper before serving.
- Swap out the pancetta for guanciele or chopped streaky bacon
- Not authentic, but a do quite like a strong cheddar in place of the parmesan every now and then
- Add in steamed asparagus spears or petit pois for a bit of green!
If serving for 2, stick to the same ratios (instead of one and a half large eggs, just use two small eggs). If serving for 1, stick to the same ratios, but use 1 small egg Nutritional information is per serving.
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