In the gastronomic field, the term carbonara indicates an accompanying sauce for dry pasta . Generally, the pasta shapes that go best with carbonara are spaghetti , but there is no shortage of recipes with penne, linguine or fusilli.

The ingredients that make up the sauce are: pork cheek or bacon (the relevance of one or the other can be seen in the Historical Notes paragraph), pecorino cheese , eggs ( yolks and whites in a ratio of 3/4 to 1) and black pepper . Similarly to amatriciana , carbonara is also a typical recipe of central or central-southern Italy, more precisely of the regions of Lazio, Abruzzo and Campania. It is an extremely energetic food , rich in fats and cholesterol , but also in mineral salts and vitamins ; furthermore, once accompanied with pasta, carbonara acquires a notable portion of complex carbohydrates .

Nutritional Characteristics

Carbonara is a high-calorie sauce, with a prevalence of lipids which is complemented by the contribution of proteins (with high biological value ) and carbohydrates . The distribution of fatty acids is in favor of the unsaturated ones, but the saturated ones reach an alarming quantity to say the least; let’s be clear, in sporadic consumption and in adequate portions, carbonara is NOT a POISON for the body! However, if the diet is mainly composed of recipes from the same category, even occasional consumption can become a risk factor for the subject’s health. This notable presence of saturated fatty acids , correlated to a very high intake of cholesterol, in the medium and long term could be responsible for the worsening of lipemia, in particular the increase in total and LDL cholesterolemia ( bad cholesterol ); It is useless to remember that the alteration of these two blood parameters represents one of the most well-known and significant cardiovascular risk factors .
Regarding mineral salts, carbonara is particularly rich in sodium , respectively contained in the salt used for the processing of bacon (or pancetta ) and cheeses . This element, if constantly in excess, is responsible for the worsening of blood pressure , to the point of reaching (in certain subjects) the pathological state called hypertension . Overweight people , those with a history of the disease and those who are sedentary are more exposed to this risk . Hypertension also increases cardiovascular risk very significantly.

In addition to sodium, again among the minerals, the levels of calcium , phosphorus and iron are excellent .

Composition for: 100g of Classic Carbonara (See Recipe Below)
Nutritional values ​​(per 100 g of edible part)

Edible part 100%
Waterfall 37.7g
Proteins 14.4g
Prevalent amino acids
Limiting amino acid
Lipids TOT 40.8g
Saturated fatty acids 17.8g
Monounsaturated fatty acids 18.5g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids 4.5g
Cholesterol 289.6mg
TOT carbohydrates 1.3g
Starch 0.6g
Soluble sugars 0.7g
Ethyl alcohol 0.0g
Dietary fibre 0.0g
Soluble fiber 0.0g
Insoluble fibre 0.0g
Power 429.7kcal
Sodium 534.5mg
Potassium 128.5mg
Iron 1.2mg
Soccer 330.1mg
Phosphorus 287.2mg
Thiamine 0.2mg
Riboflavin 0.4mg
Niacin 2.1mg
Vitamin A (RAE) 107.1µg
C vitamin 0.0mg
Vitamin E 0.8mg

As far as vitamins are concerned, carbonara is very rich in them. The concentrations of thiamine (vit. B1), riboflavin ( vit. B2 ), niacin ( vit. PP ), pyridoxine ( vit. B6 ), biotin ( vit. H ), folate, retinol (vit. A) and calciferol (vit. vitamin D ); some of these are not mentioned in the table.
Ultimately, it certainly cannot be denied that carbonara is a rather nutritious food ; however, in light of what has been highlighted for saturated fatty acids, cholesterol and sodium, it is recommended to use it sporadically, not systematically and, above all, in portions that DO NOT exceed 50g of sauce for 80-90g of dry pasta. It should be totally excluded from the diet of hypercholesterolemics , hypertensives and obese people ; even pregnant women have to do without them, not so much for the nutritional content, but for the hygienic risk linked to raw eggs .

Traditional Carbonara Recipe

The classic carbonara recipe is quite simple. The ingredients for 4 people are:

  • diced pork cheek (120-150g)
  • egg yolks (3 or 4)
  • egg white (1)
  • pecorino romano (50-80g)
  • coarsely ground black pepper (QB)
  • semolina pasta (320g dry)
  • coarse salt (QB).

The traditional procedure is equally simple and involves: boiling lightly salted water and then throwing in the pasta; in the meantime, brown the diced bacon in the pan and, separately, beat together: the egg yolks, the egg whites, the pecorino cheese and the black pepper forming an apparatus. To conclude the sauce, it is therefore sufficient to incorporate the bacon into the appareil, which will be added to the well-drained pasta, mixing carefully in a bowl (NOT on the heat, as the egg would coagulate quickly).

Revisited with Less Fat and Calories

On the other hand, without distorting this formula too much, it is possible to obtain a decidedly less caloric dish ; Be careful though, as we will see in the description of the process, it is the attention to detail that makes the difference!

The ingredients for 4 people of a possible light variant are:

  • small diced bacon (150g)
  • egg yolks (2) and egg whites (1)
  • milk (3 tablespoons)
  • finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (2-3 tablespoons)
  • Pecorino Romano with large flakes (50g)
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • pasta with inulin ( pasta for diabetics , 320g dry)
  • coarse salt (QB).

Procedure: boil lightly salted water and then throw in the pasta; in a cold non-stick or lava stone pan , brown the bacon cut into small cubes with the lowest possible heat (more than 10 minutes will be needed, the time to boil the water and cook the pasta). In the meantime, separately, compose the mixture with egg yolks, egg whites, milk, Parmigiano Reggiano and pepper. Therefore, drain all the fat exuded from the bacon and pat the cubes with absorbent paper. Drain the “al dente ” pasta and sauté it on a low heat in the pan with the bacon. Then, add the appareil, mix, and also add the pecorino. Possibly (if too thick) adjust the consistency with more milk; on the contrary, if the pasta has not been drained well and has diluted the pasta too much, place it in a bowl and leave everything covered for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
It may seem like a variant of carbonara that is not very different from the previous one and, at first glance, it has anything but the appearance of a “light” recipe . Nonetheless, by correctly carrying out the procedure described, the estimate of overall lipids is easily reduced by 50g; in practice, each diner will introduce up to 12-13g less fat. If we then take into consideration the choice of pasta with inulin, the reduction of egg yolks and the incorporation of milk, the energy reduction can reach and exceed 15-18% compared to the first case.


Carbonara, unlike amatriciana, has rather confusing roots.
The hypotheses on its actual conception are different and all quite plausible, albeit very different. The first is, unbelievably, attributable to the American influence; in fact, analyzing the various texts that date back to the period preceding the Second World War, there are no traces of the carbonara recipe. Only with the arrival of the Allied (American) troops, and the consequent importation of bacon, did we begin to observe the progressive spread of the typical condiment based on bacon, eggs and cheese . The second hypothesis, which however cannot exclude the previous one, attributes the credit to the Apennine charcoal burners (Abruzzo, Umbria etc.). They, who used to consume a dish called “cacio e ova” during the long vigils of the charcoal burners, may have evolved the recipe by adding bacon (peppered) or lard ; this formula does not include the addition of olive oil , which is too expensive for this social class.

The third hypothesis, also relevant and which does not reject the previous ones, awards the merit to Neapolitan cuisine. This possibility is supported by the awareness that, in the Neapolitan gastronomic tradition, the condiment in question is widely used as an additional enrichment of many other recipes.
Depending on which conjecture you prefer, carbonara can include bacon or smoked bacon (alterego of American bacon).