Spaghetti Carbonara with Caramelized Onions

By popular demand from my Facebook friends, who were drooling over the pictures I posted of this recipe.

After a very stressful week (transit to and from NYC, lack of a car when I returned home, and a tornado ripping through my town and right near my work), I was craving some comfort food on Friday afternoon.

And nothing says comfort to me like bacon (well, pancetta)….and cheese….and caramelized onions. Not to mention that this is incredibly easy to make, at least until the very last step. After draining the pasta, you return it to the pot and toss with a scrambled egg and Parmesan cheese, which cook, melt, and adhere to the strands forming a “sauce”. If you have an extra set of hands to toss while you pour in egg and cheese, I’d recommend enlisting their help. Read through the whole recipe and do as much prep as you can before starting; though it looks hard I promise it’s really, really easy.

The measurements are approximations….I think I “followed a recipe” the first time I made this, but since then have just thrown it together by eyeballing all the ingredients.

Warning: This is NOT a waist-friendly recipe!  There are a few things you can do to add some nutritional value to this monster of egg, bacon, cheese, and awesomeness. Use whole wheat rather than white pasta. Instead of 2 whole eggs, try using 2 egg whites and one yolk. Though I haven’t tried it, you could also use Egg Beaters in place of the eggs. Bulk it up with extra veggies, like asparagus or mushrooms. Or go completely crazy and replace the bacon/pancetta with turkey bacon (that last sentence was painful to type, just so you know).

Spaghetti Carbonara with Caramelized Onions

Based on a recipe by Julie Van Rosendaal of Dinner with Julie

Serves 2

  • 1/2 lb of spaghetti (I recommend whole wheat)
  • 4 + slices of bacon or pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped up
  • Sliced onions or shallots (amount depends on your personal tastes. I used about a quarter of a white onion)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of grated or shredded Parmesan cheese (I prefer shredded, but grated will melt easier and be less stringy)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Additional shredded Parmesan, for sprinkling
  • Olive or canola oil (optional, if you don’t want to use bacon grease to caramelize onions)
  • Assorted veggies (optional)

Set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil. While the water is coming to a boil, cook the chopped bacon or pancetta in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. (Note: you may have to adjust the heat down as the pan warms up. Keep an eye out for burning.)

When bacon reaches desired level of doneness (I like mine more on the crispy side, but you may prefer fatty bacon), remove from pan and place on a paper towel to cool and drain off fat. It’s important to leave as much of the fat/grease in the pan as possible.

At this point, your water should be boiling. Toss in your pasta. If necessary, turn down heat slightly. Stir occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking together. Cook  following the instructions on the package. Before you drain the pasta, set aside a cup of the starchy cooking liquid.

While the pasta cooks, caramelize your onions, using the same frying pan you cooked the bacon in. Do not drain off the grease. Turn the heat down to medium and add your sliced onions (caution: because onions are so watery, they may cause the grease to splatter so be careful!). To speed up the cooking time, throw a pinch of salt on the onions (it draws out the moisture). Cook the onions over medium heat until browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Give the onions a stir every minute or so so prevent sticking and burning. If you notice the edges starting to burn, reduce the heat. Remove from heat and set aside.

Gently mix your eggs in a cup or bowl that is easy to pour from. Place eggs, reserved pasta water, and Parmesan cheese close to the stove, or wherever you anticipate mixing up your pasta and sauce.

Drain your pasta, but do not rinse the pasta! You need the starch to help the sauce adhere. Return to the pan immediately.  I recommend putting the pan back on a warmed (but turned off burner), but this is up to you.

Pour about half of the eggs and cheese into the pasta and quickly toss and mix with two large serving forks.  Pour the rest of the eggs and cheese into the pasta and continue to mix until pasta is coated with the cooked eggs and cheese.  This should take about 1 to 2 minutes. If you like your sauce a little bit thinner and “saucier”, you can mix in some of the reserved pasta water.

Note: 2 eggs is a little bit too much egg for this recipe; if you use two eggs you will get some cooked egg stuck to the bottom of the pan. It will look a little bit like this, and it is delicious:

After your sauce is created, pile the onions, bacon, and any veggies you decided to use on top of the sauced pasta.

Mix it all together. Before serving, sprinkle some extra shredded parm cheese and grind black pepper over each serving. Eat immediately!

How easy does that sound? If you try it, let me know in the comments section!


3 comments so far

  1. Sara on


    • TBD on

      Amazingly awesomely NOM NOM!

  2. Courtney on

    Cannot wait to try it =)

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