Ask an Italian: What are the unbreakable rules for making real pasta carbonara?

The Local Italy
The Local Italy - [email protected] • 6 Apr, 2022 Updated Wed 6 Apr 2022 15:48 CEST
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Fans of the traditional Italian carbonara recipe were outraged this week by a version including tomato sugo. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

In honour of world carbonara day on April 6th, one Italian food writer shares his advice on how to recreate the Roman classic without causing offence.


There are countless variations on the pasta alla carbonara recipe out there. But if you want to do as the Romans do, there are some rules to keep in mind.

READ ALSO: ‘Disgusting knockoffs’: Italians warn foreign cooks over carbonara recipes

Classic carbonara, typical of Rome and its surrounding Lazio region, is made with eggs, pork cheek (guanciale), pecorino cheese and pepper - and, as any Italian will tell you, absolutely no cream.

But unorthodox adaptations of Rome's signature dish famously leave Italian gourmands feeling nauseated - and furious.


Italian chefs recently reminded foreigners attempting the recipe to “keep things simple” in order to prevent their take on the recipe from becoming an “insult”.

The Local asked Italian food writer Roberto Serra from Eatalian with Roberto what exactly non-Italians need to know before they can call a dish a “real” Roman-style carbonara,

Here, Roberto gives us his translation of a widely-shared Italian social media post listing the 'decalogue', or the ten golden rules for making carbonara, which he describes as an example of “typical Roman humour”.

The ten carbonara commandments:

  1. "Always use guanciale, not bacon – if we meant bacon, we would have gone to the USA (guanciale is the pork cheek, while bacon is part of the belly).
  2. No parmigiano reggiano, just pecorino cheese. Anyone who says “half and half” has something to hide. (I love Parmigiano Reggiano, I even wrote a guide about it, but always remember that Italian food is regional: with carbonara you are in Lazio, so don’t use cheese from Emilia Romagna.)
  3. Never cook the egg, it is not an omelette! (That's why the final step is after you turn the heat off, it must be creamy...)
  4. No garlic, no onion, it’s not a ragù!
  1. No oil, no butter, no lard. Just the fat from guanciale. (Cook the guanciale at medium heat and it will release enough fat.)
  2. No spicy pepper, it is not Calabrian (i.e. not from the southern region of Italy famous for spicy foods).
  3. No spices other than black pepper are allowed.
  4. Anyone who adds cream should go to jail (you know, we take food seriously, sometimes too much…).
  5. Never, ever say ‘carbonara’ and ‘vegan’ in the same sentence.
  6. Tonnarelli, spaghetti, bucatini, rigatoni (four different shapes of pasta) are all good, just don’t overcook it!"

For more tips on executing the perfect pasta alla carbonara yourself, see here for Roberto’s classic recipe.



The Local Italy 2022/04/06 15:48

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