This creamy spaghetti carbonara for two requires no cream and can be made in 15 minutes or less! It's a great classic pasta dish for a date night in or a simple, quick meal for lunch or dinner.
Pasta dishes are our go-to date night dinner ideas. One of our all-time favorite pasta is definitely this spaghetti carbonara for two, and we've been making this since back when we first met in culinary school!
Not only is this carbonara for two super easy to make, it only needs 4 ingredients, plus salt and pepper, and takes less than 15 minutes. More time for you to enjoy each other's company and less time in the kitchen. Win-win!
What does carbonara taste like?
Spaghetti carbonara is a rich, creamy pasta dish that's naturally seasoned by the cured pork, cheese, and black pepper. It should be silky and balanced. And to the contrary, it does not taste like eggs at all!
Ingredients to make spaghetti carbonara for two
Carbonara is a simple dish that's meant to be made quick and easy. It essentially only requires 4 main ingredients, along with salt and black pepper.
- Spaghetti - This is the most popular pasta choice for making carbonara. Hence the other common name, spaghetti alla carbonara. However, you can use another other pasta of your choice.
- Other pastas used are linguine, fettuccini, bucatini, and rigatoni.
- Pancetta - Aka Italian cured pork belly, one of the tradition cured meat used in carbonara, along with guanciale (cured pork jowl/cheek). You could also use thick cut bacon for a more accessible option.
- Pecorino Romano - Depending on what flavors you prefer, you could also use Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan).
- Pecorino Romano is a crumblier cheese made of sheep's milk. It's also a bit saltier and tangier.
- Parmigiano Reggiano is a softer, milder cheese made with cow's milk. It's less salty and has a slight nutty flavor.
- Eggs - Traditionally, whole eggs are used so that there's less waste. Our recipe also uses whole eggs, and it produced a carbonara just as creamy. For a richer carbonara, you could use egg yolks only or whole eggs with additional egg yolks.
- Salt and pepper - The salt is for seasoning the pasta water. Freshly cracked black pepper is highly recommend to help balance out the rich, creamy pasta.
How to make spaghetti carbonara for two
Spaghetti carbonara is incredibly easy to make. Only 4 ingredients are needed (plus salt and pepper) and takes 15 minutes or less!
To cook the pasta:
1. In a pot of boiling water, add salt to season. We recommend ½ to 1 tablespoons of Kosher salt for every 2 quarts of water.
2. Add ½ pound of spaghetti (or your choice of pasta) to the boiling water and cook until al-dente.
To make the carbonara sauce:
1. While the pasta is boiling, add the diced pancetta to a large pan over low heat. Cook until rendered and the cured pork is darker, richer in color and golden brown, about 5 to 8 minutes.
2. As the pancetta is slowly rendering, combine the eggs, grated pecorino romano, and cracked black pepper in a bowl. Mix until everything is well combined. Set aside.
3. Once the pasta is cooked to al-dente, add it straight into the rendered pancetta, along with ½ cup of pasta water.
4. Keep the pan on low and give the pasta and pancetta a couple of mixes with a pair of tongs.
5. Add the egg and cheese mixture and keep mixing and tossing the pasta until the carbonara sauce becomes thickened and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Make sure to keep the heat on low to prevent scrambling your eggs and just keep mixing. The sauce will get thicker and creamy.
6. Once the carbonara has become creamy, portion into two servings. Make sure to spoon on any sauce left in the pan.
7. Garnish the spaghetti carbonara with more grated pecorino romano and cracked black pepper. Enjoy!
- Avoid pre-grated parmesan - Don't ruin your perfect creamy carbonara with pre-grated cheese. Those cheeses use anti-caking ingredients that could turn your silky, creamy carbonara sauce into thick, clunky goop. Instead, buy a fresh wedge of cheese and grate it yourself. It'll only take a minute or two!
- Use freshly cracked black pepper - Believe it or not, freshly cracked black pepper helps to balance out a creamy carbonara so that you can eat more than a bite! It gives the pasta a mild spice and helps cut some of the fattiness.
- Keep everything on low heat - Besides boiling the pasta, it is crucial for the rest of this recipe to be cooked on low heat (play with medium low on electric stove tops). Pancetta cooked on low heat helps render it the best without burning. The carbonara sauce on low heat will keep it from scrambling the eggs.
- Use pasta water - After the pasta is done cooking, reserve ½ cup of the pasta water. This water has natural starch. It will help thicken the carbonara sauce and prevent the egg and cheese mixture from scrambling/curdling.
Serving spaghetti carbonara
When serving spaghetti carbonara, you can twirl the pasta with tongs to give the pasta a more elevated look. Also, grate more cheese on top and finish the dish a couple cracks of fresh black pepper.
Spaghetti carbonara is a great dish to make on a date night for two. You can serve the carbonara by itself or with a bottle of white wine, like chardonnay, riesling, or pinot grigio. But really, any wine you love will do. We sometimes even pair ours with a red wine.
Reheating leftover carbonara
Although nothing can compare to freshly made carbonara, you reheat leftover spaghetti carbonara.
1. Place a small amount of oil or butter in a pan over low heat.
2. Once the butter has melted, add the carbonara and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. If reheating a large amount, add a couple tablespoons at time until reheated.
3. Keep the pasta moving on the pan to prevent scrambling.
4. Serve immediately once the pasta is thoroughly reheated and creamy.
Classically, no cream is used in carbonara, and there's no need if the carbonara is properly made. All you need are eggs, grated cheese, rendered fat from the pancetta (or cured meat), and pasta water.
To most adults, if properly made, carbonara is perfectly safe to eat. However, because the eggs are not cooked to 160°F or more, it could pose as a danger to elderlies, children, and pregnant women.
To prevent carbonara from scrambling, use pasta water and make the sauce on low heat the entire time. The hot pasta water helps the eggs and cheese become "tempered" before touching direct heat. Cooking on low heat gently cooks the egg and cheese mixture. Also, make sure to keep the pasta moving so that no part of the sauce gets constant heat.
If you’ve made this recipe or any recipe from our blog, please tag us on Instagram @two_plaid_aprons! We would love to see your creations! It absolutely makes our day! 🥰
Spaghetti Carbonara for Two (No Cream)
- Boil the spaghetti:Bring a pot of water to a boil and season with salt.*We recommend about ½ to 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per 2 quarts of water. Don't over-salt it as the carbonara sauce will be naturally salted by the cheese and pancetta.*
- Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al-dente.*Al-dente means the pasta will still have a little bite and texture. The center of the spaghetti will still have a slightly pale, white core. Do not overcook!*
- Render the pancetta:While the spaghetti is boiling, heat a large pan over low heat. Add the diced pancetta and slowly cook until the fat are mostly rendered. The pancetta will look deeper in color and golden brown here and there.*If need to, turn off the heat to wait for the spaghetti to finish boiling.*
- Prepare the egg and cheese:In a bowl, mix together the 3 eggs, grated pecorino, and a few cracks of black pepper until combined. Set aside.
- Assemble the carbonara:Once the pasta is al-dente, add the spaghetti straight into the pan with the rendered pancetta. Also add ½ cup of the hot pasta water.
- Keeping the heat on low, give the spaghetti a few mixes then pour the egg and cheese mix onto the pasta.
- Mix the spaghetti and keep everything constantly moving until the carbonara sauce thickens and become creamy. This process will take about 3 to 5 minutes, but don't turn up the heat! Keep it low and slow to prevent scrambling the eggs.*We highly recommend using a pair of tongs to help with the mixing and tossing!*
- Serve the carbonara:Portion the spaghetti carbonara into two servings. Spoon on any sauce leftover in the pan.
- Garnish each portion of carbonara with more grated pecorino and fresh cracked pepper. Enjoy immediately!
- Pancetta - If you can't find pancetta at your local grocery store, thick cut bacon will work too.
- Pecorino romano - You can also use parmigiano reggiano or regular parmesan if you prefer.