If you’ve had great carbonara, then you know that there’s nothing quite like the silky, creamy, savory harmony of cheese, eggs, pasta, and guanciale. One of our favorite Italian comfort foods, this pasta dish is absolutely timeless and an ultimate crowd-pleaser.
This rigatoni alla carbonara recipe is inspired by the best carbonara we’ve ever consumed, from Da Enzo al 29 in Rome (Headed to Rome soon? Check out our guide to the best restaurants in the Eternal City!).
There are several fantastic spots for good carbonara in Rome, but there’s something next level about the Rigatoni alla Carbonara at Da Enzo. The flavors are more pronounced, the pork cheek a little more crisp, and the creaminess of the saucy coating is absolute perfection. It’s no secret that the food here is delectable– make reservations or be prepared to wait an hour or more for a table!
Perfect Rigatoni alla Carbonara: Tips & Tricks
In our best attempts to replicate the Da Enzo al 29 Carbonara recipe (and all of the amazing carbonaras we’ve enjoyed in Rome), we’ve closely studied their method and made a few key observations:
- They use pecorino cheese. You’ll see both pecorino romano and parmigiano-reggiano in carbonara throughout the city, but Da Enzo uses pecorino which will give it a stronger flavor.
- Da Enzo makes their carbonara with Rigatoni. This isn’t uncommon, but you’ll also see carbonara served with spaghetti quite often. We love how the structure of Rigatoni has more surface area and a tubular shape, which allows more sauce to coat your pasta and both the sauce and guanciale work their way into its hollow insides.
- They keep things fairly straightforward. The pasta is cooked not quite to al dente before being combined with the guanciale. The cheese and egg are whisked together separately with a small amount of pasta water and then into the pasta/guanciale mixture it goes. No weird tricks, nothing super unconventional. And the best part is you’ll be done in 20-30 minutes tops.
So do us two favors. First, let us know what you think of this rigatoni alla carbonara recipe. It’s the perfect weeknight meal for couples, families, or if you’re dining solo just cut it in half. Secondly, make sure and visit Da Enzo al 29 next time you’re in the Eternal City. Enjoy!
Perfect Pasta Carbonara
- 12 ounces rigatoni or spaghetti
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 4-6 ounces guanciale*
- 2 ounces pecorino romano or parmigiano-reggiano, plus more for serving
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
- While the water is coming to a boil, prepare and cook the guanciale. Trim off the skin and cut into roughly 1/2 x 1/2 inch squares. Bring a large dutch oven to medium heat. Add olive oil and guanciale. Cook guanciale until crisp and golden brown, about 7-8 minutes, turning guanciale as needed to evenly cook, and remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove guanciale from dutch oven and set aside. Keep rendered fat in the dutch oven, about 1/4 cup. If fat rendered from pork exceeds this, discard and keep the 1/4 cup in dutch oven .
- Once water is boiling, add pasta. Cook until just barely al dente or a "hard al dente". This is oftentimes 1 or 2 minutes less than package instructions. Pasta should be cooked but still firm.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare cheese and eggs. Finely grate 2 ounces of pecorino romano cheese and set aside. Crack eggs/egg yolks into a medium-sized bowl and whisk eggs until smooth. Add grated cheese to the eggs and whisk together. Just before the pasta is finished, remove 3/4 cup of pasta water from pot. Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to the egg/cheese mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Bring reserved fat/oil back to medium heat in the dutch oven. Once pasta is done cooking (barely al dente), add it to dutch oven with fat. Gently toss together for about 30 seconds, integrating the pasta with the guanciale and oil.
- Add egg/cheese mixture to the dutch oven and toss to incorporate with pasta. If the pasta seems too dry, you may add more pasta water, a tablespoon at a time. If the pasta seems too thin, continue to cook over medium heat for a minute or two, constantly tossing until it thickens (watch carefully, too much heat or too high of heat will curdle your eggs). Once desired consistency is achieved (a silky, smooth coating) remove from heat immediately. Taste pasta to make sure it has an adequate amount of salt, and add more salt and toss if needed.
- Plate the pasta and top with a generous amount of fresh cracked pepper and pecorino romano. Divide crispy guanciale evenly between plates and place on top of pasta. Serve immediately.