Spaghetti Carbonara, when made well is one of my all time favourites but, all too often this dish can be a disappointment. Like all simple food, a good result of the finished dish lies in the choice and quality of ingredients.

A regular mid-week supper for my children, Spaghetti Carbonara is really quick and to prepare using lardons (or chopped bacon), eggs and cream with garlic, seasoning and chopped parsley as you care. Results vary and I confess to a particular dislike when the eggs scramble about the pasta as opposed to a silky, creamy sauce.

I was delighted, this weekend of having the opportunity to chat at length to new friends – an Italian colleague of my husband, about what exactly constitutes a good, authentic carbonara sauce. An interesting conversation this was, the sauce having as many connotations as there probably are cities in Italy, but we did agree that a rich eggy sauce was all our preference. Cream is not required, the quality of bacon is paramount and the latent heat in the pasta will gently warm the beaten egg, removing any ‘uncooked’ flavour (however, do beware if you are adverse to raw egg, this sauce is very lightly cooked).

With a renewed confidence I set about Spaghetti Carbonara for lunch today, taking note of the salient points of yesterday’s conversation – spaghetti cooked to al dente, bacon gently cooked to crispy in its own delicious juices, beaten egg and freshly grated, slightly salty pecorino cheese. No longer will I add cream nor over-heat the eggs and spaghetti which in the past I have added directly to the hot saucepan, instead tossing through the gently warm pasta sitting in its serving dish.

The results were magnificent; a delicious lunch from 4 ingredients though unlike our friends, I sadly did not have the opportunity to cook with home-cured bacon so instead experimented with a little Parma ham which I found in my fridge.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Parma Ham

  • handful of dried spaghetti
  • 2 slices Parma ham, chopped
  • 1 egg beaten
  • freshly grated pecorino cheese

1. Cook the spaghetti to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the meantime, cook the Parma ham in a nonstick frying pan until just beginning to crisp then drain on absorbent kitchen paper.

2. Drain the spaghetti in a colander and tip into a warmed serving dish. Toss through the Parma ham and beaten egg, topping with a generous handful of grated pecorino cheese.

Serve at once, perhaps accompanied by a crisp green salad dressed with mustard vinaigrette.