Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Spaghetti Carbonara

Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Spaghetti Carbonara
Illustrative image of classic spaghetti carbonara by Pinar Kucuk on Unsplash

Carbonara sauce is luxury from simplicity. Eggs, bacon (or preferably pancetta or guanciale), Parmesan cheese and that requisite grinding of black pepper make for a classic which, once tasted, will always be returned to.

Carbonara is quick to make and relies on y0u knowing what you’re doing and focusing intently on the brief but pleasurable job at hand. It’s so quick that you can be eating it in less than half an hour of entering the kitchen.

Pancetta is most commonly used, but guanciale (pancetta is cured pork belly, whereas guanciale is from the pig’s cheek/jowl) is prized too. But we don’t all have pancetta or guanciale in the fridge, nor do many of us want to go to the shops to hunt down a luxury item at a time like this when it’s safer to stay at home. So, use bacon if you need to, and don’t beat yourself up about it.

Purists will blanche if you dare suggest that cream belongs in a good carbonara. Outside of Italy, however, cream is often used. In truth, it tastes great either way if you get the texture and flavour balance right. So use it, don’t use it, it’s your choice, your palate and, really, does it matter if it’s a joy to eat either way?


Serves 2

250 g spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelle or bucatini, cooked al dente

2 thick slices pancetta or guanciale, about ⅔ centimetre thick, cubed small; or 100 g shoulder or streaky bacon, diced

Olive oil and a little butter, for the pancetta/guanciale

4 egg yolks

50 g grated Parmesan and more for garnish (or mature Pecorino)

50 ml cream (optional)

Black pepper


Set a pasta pot with plenty of water and a little salt on a high heat while you prepare the other ingredients.

Separate the eggs and plop four yolks into a bowl (refrigerate the egg whites to add to tomorrow morning’s scrambled eggs).

Add grated Parmesan to the egg yolks (and cream if using), and a good grinding of black pepper, and whisk together. Leave aside while you cook the bacon or pancetta/guanciale. Fry until crisp in 2 Tbs olive oil and a knob of butter.

Meanwhile, boil the pasta until al dente.

Turn off the heat on the bacon/pancetta pan. Blot up some of the fat with kitchen paper if there’s too much. Ladle the drained pasta into this and toss through so it’s all coated by the pancetta/bacon and its fat.

Pour in the whisked eggs/Parmesan and toss through, mopping up any sauce at the bottom of the pan.

Serve immediately with more grated Parmesan on top and a sprinkling of black pepper. No need to salt. DM/TGIFood

Our Thank God It’s Food newsletter is sent to subscribers every Friday at 6pm, and published on the TGIFood platform on Daily Maverick. It’s all about great reads on the themes of food and life. Subscribe here.

Send your Lockdown Recipes to [email protected] with a hi-resolution horizontal (landscape) photo.

Thank God It’s Food is sponsored by Pick n Pay.


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options