Apr 6, 2020

Bucatini Carbonara with Bacon & Peas

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
This version of the Italian classic carbonara recipe is made using bacon ends, peas and green onions for a more Southern-inspired twist.

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This version of the popular Italian pasta dish originating in Rome is made with bacon ends and peas and finished with green onions for a more “down home” taste. It’s inspired by my favorite iteration of the recipe from Gusto, the now closed Italian restaurant on West 3rd in Los Angeles.

It is about as easy as cacio e pepe but with the addition of eggs and bacon. Simple, humble ingredients are transformed into a pasta worthy of a fine Italian restaurant. The sauce comes together from the rich yolks of the eggs, fat from the cooked down cubes of bacon and a blend of Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese.

Bucatini Carbonara with Bacon & Peas

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Eggs – Eggs form the creamy, rich sauce which sets this recipe apart. The goal is to lightly cook the eggs when they are added to the hot pasta without scrambling them. I use 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks to create a rich and creamy sauce.
  • Bacon ends – I use bacon ends in this recipe. You can substitute ¼ pound thick-cut bacon, 4 ounces guanciale (salt-cured pork jowl) or pancetta (Italian cured pork belly). Bacon ends are cut from a large pork belly slab and are typically more irregular in size than bacon. I like how thick this cut is. Since the bacon is quite salty, you do not need much additional salt. While you salt most recipes as you cook, in this dish resist adding any salt until the pasta is tossed together, and you can taste test it.
  • Peas – While not always traditional, I like to serve my version of carbonara with the addition of peas. The vibrant spring vegetable is a fresh contrast to the fatty pork.
  • Pecorino Romano – Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty Italian cheese made from sheep’s milk. While I like the flavor of the combination of both cheeses in this recipe, it can easily be made with one or another.
  • Parmesan – Parmesan-Reggiano is definitely one of my favorite cheeses. It’s a hard cow’s milk cheese aged for different lengths of time. I’d recommend buying a roughly cut piece of wrapped cheese from the grocery store – it’s typically a higher quality cheese. In this recipe I’d recommend grating it just before adding to the pasta to get the smoothest sauce possible.
  • Bucatini – I serve this recipe using bucatini, the tube-like noodle. Spaghetti (which works as a substitute is traditionally served in carbonara recipes. I add an additional egg yolk on top mixed in just prior to serving, and green onions.

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How to Make Bucatini Carbonara

  1. Whisk together the sauce. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks until they fall like ribbons from the whisk. Then whisk in the pecorino, Parmesan cheese and pepper and set aside.
  2. Cook the bacon. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and return the pot to heat.
  3. Cook the peas. Add the peas and cook until bright green and tender, about 1 minute. Remove the peas to the bowl with the bacon and set aside.
  4. Cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of water to the boil; add the salt and bring back to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 7 minutes. Set aside 1½ cups of the pasta water then drain.
  5. Combine the pasta with pasta water. Add the pasta and ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to the Dutch oven over low heat, tossing to coat the noodles until warmed. Remove from heat.
  6. Toss with the sauce. Whisk ½ cup of the remaining pasta water into the egg mixture then slowly pour into the pasta mixture, tossing the pasta constantly with tongs until the cheese has melted and the egg sauce thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Add more pasta water if needed. Add the bacon and peas back to the pot and toss to combine.
  7. Serve. Divide the bucatini carbonara among warmed pasta bowls. Top with additional Parmesan cheese and green onion. Add an egg yolk to the middle of each bowl, if using.

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

  • For a more traditional carbonara use spaghetti and guiancale or pancetta.
  • I don’t recommend making this recipe ahead of time. The sauce will congeal. If the sauce does get clumpy, I recommend adding a bit of water and stirring to combine to loosen it.
  • Save your pasta water! The starchy water helps to create a creamy, glossy sauce.
  • Turn off the heat when you add the egg mixture! Adding the eggs when the pan is too hot can cause the egg mixture to scramble instead of forming a creamy, smooth sauce.
  • Use room temperature eggs. Cold eggs can lead to clumps in your sauce.
  • Be sure to throughly whisk your eggs!
  • Continually stir or toss the pasta as you add the egg mixture.
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Troubleshooting Carbonara

The sauce is too clumpy

Add additional pasta cooking water or warm water to loosen the sauce, tossing to combine.

The sauce is too thin

Letting your pasta sit for too long off the heat before adding the egg mixture can cause a thin sauce. Return the pan to the lowest heat setting, stirring constantly and keeping a watchful eye.

The sauce scrambled

Unfortunately there is no real way to troubleshoot a scrambled egg sauce without starting over.

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these classic Italian pasta dishes:

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Bucatini Carbonara with Bacon & Peas

Print Pin
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the carbonara:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ pound bacon ends, chopped into ¼” cubes, (or thick-cut bacon, guanciale, pancetta)
  • 1 cup shelled English peas
  • ¾ pound bucatini, or spaghetti
  • Kosher salt, as needed

For serving:

  • Freshly grated Parmesan, as needed
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 egg yolks (optional)

Instructions:

For the carbonara:

  • In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks until they fall like ribbons from the whisk. Then whisk in the pecorino, Parmesan cheese and pepper and set aside.
  • Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and return the pot to heat.
  • Add the peas and cook until bright green and tender, about 1 minute. Remove the peas to the bowl with the bacon and set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil; add the salt and bring back to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 7 minutes. Set aside 1½ cups of the pasta water then drain.
  • Add the pasta and ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to the Dutch oven over low heat, tossing to coat the noodles until warmed. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk ½ cup of the remaining pasta water into the egg mixture then slowly pour into the pasta mixture, tossing the pasta constantly with tongs until the cheese has melted and the egg sauce thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Add more pasta water if needed. Add the bacon and peas back to the pot and toss to combine.

For serving:

  • Divide the bucatini carbonara among warmed pasta bowls. Top with additional Parmesan cheese and green onion. Add an egg yolk to the middle of each bowl, if using.

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