Creamy penne all carbonara is a 20 minute quick and easy recipe to make on busy weeknights for a delicious, light meal your family will love. It's budget-friendly, requires no fancy cooking equipment, and it's made with comforting ingredients.
⭐ Why this recipe works
This penne carbonara recipe only takes 20 minutes from start to finish, making it ideal for a quick, delicious weeknight meal. And it's so easy to prepare that any home cook can make it without a fuss.
My method of making Penne Carbonara is sort of traditional. I did have an Italian friend look at this recipe and she was concern by my method, but I swear eating this dish is equivalent to some of the best I’ve ordered in restaurants.
The sauce is made up of a parmesan cheese and egg mixture gently cooked on low heat for a silky smooth texture and tossed with penne pasta and crispy bacon pieces.
It's a simple pasta dish that uses minimal pantry ingredients and a single frying pan to prepare them, making penne carbonara a budget-friendly recipe to feed a family for less than $10. That's why I added to my list of best pasta recipes with few ingredients.
Like all pasta dishes, they are versatile with the ingredients you use and can be made to suit everyone's taste buds by adding some extra protein, veggies, or nuts for additional flavor.
Carbonara is the perfect meal to serve for lunch, dinner, or appetizer to the main course.
🍽 Key Ingredients
Penne carbonara is one of the easiest and quickest pasta recipes you could possibly make because it uses few ingredients and a skillet.
The sauce - Carbonara sauce is a mixture of heavy cream, eggs, and parmesan cheese. It's light and creamy.
Pasta - We're using rigate penne pasta because it holds the sauce well.
Bacon - Buy the block of bacon rather than sliced, as we want to cut it into small cubes and reserve the saturated fat.
An equal substitution for bacon in carbonara recipes is pancetta.
If you don't have rigate pasta, you could use spaghetti instead, as it is excellent for soaking up the delicious sauce.
🔪 How to make
Penne carbonara is a delicious Italian recipe created in Rome that takes 15 minutes to make, and you can learn how to make it with my easy-to-follow instructions, walkthrough video, and helpful cooking tips.
It's a simple method of boiling pasta and making a silky, smooth sauce with eggs and cream.
- Chop the bacon into small pieces
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente (still chewy in the center). Drain it and keep half of the pasta water for later.
- Whisk the eggs, cream, and ½ of the Parmesan together in a small bowl. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Melt the butter and olive oil in a hot skillet over medium-high heat and add the bacon, cooking until it is browned and beginning to turn crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel, reserving the fat in the pan.
Set the pasta pot above high heat and add about 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Add the drained pasta, toss it together, then remove the pot from heat.
Quickly pour the eggs mixture and bacon over the pasta, and toss together quickly for about 1 minute - until the sauce thickens. (if the sauce is too thick, slowly add a bit more of the reserved pasta water)
Serve immediately with a lot of cracked pepper, and garnish with remaining Parmesan and basil leaves.
💭 Cooking tips
Reduce heat to make the sauce
To avoid your eggs mixture turning into scrambled eggs, remove the pot from the heat or turn the temperature to very low heat and mix the eggs thoroughly to gently cook them. They will become creamy and smooth once mixed with the hot pasta.
For a creamier sauce
If you want your sauce extra creamy, use 2 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs. The egg yolks give the sauce a beautiful yellow color and make the sauce extra smooth and creamy.
📖 Recipe Variations
Penne carbonara with bacon is absolutely delicious, but if you want to upgrade your pasta, here are some tasty variations to try.
You can turn this carbonara recipe into an alfredo by cooking a handful of spinach leaves and mixing it with the carbonara sauce and pasta.
Chicken breast is also a common addition to add some protein to your meal. Just cook a butterflied chicken breast in the large skillet and chop and stir it into the carbonara.
Alternatively, chicken & shrimp is a wonderful combination of surf and turf that blends well with carbonara. Add garlic (1 clove chopped) to the sauce and a squeeze of lemon at the end for a decadent sauce.
Mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers are great additions to carbonara.
🥗 What to serve with
Penne carbonara is perfect on its own as a light lunch, or it can be served with other light dishes for dinner. Here are some quick and easy, delicious side dishes to pair with it.
Garlic bread and pasta are a common combination in Italy. It's easy to make with a baguette and garlic butter, or you could make these cheesy, garlic pull apart knots that are delicious and soft.
I love to pair homemade pasta recipes with Mediterranean flavors of tomatoes, olive oil, mozzarella, and herbs like basil and parsley. These two easy salads of bruschetta with mozzarella and tomato, basil and mozzarella are so tasty and full of Italian flavors to go with this great pasta.
🙋 Frequently Asked Questions
How do you stop carbonara scrambling?
Removing your frying pan from the heat while pouring the eggs mixture into the hot pasta will ensure the eggs don't scramble. The scrambling happens when the eggs are mixed with the pasta over direct heat and not stirred enough to make them smooth and liquified.
Do you use whole egg or yolk for carbonara?
For the best creamy texture, a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks is recommended. Although, you can use beaten whole eggs and still achieve a perfectly smooth sauce.
🧊 Storing and ♨️ reheating
Penne carbonara is best eaten fresh, as it loses its texture after being stored, but if you have leftovers, you can store them in the fridge.
Refrigerated - For best results, only mix the pasta with the eggs mixture for the amount you intend to eat and store any leftover al dente cooked penne pasta in an airtight container separate from the eggs. It will last 3 days in the fridge.
Reheating - When you want to reheat the leftover penne pasta to make carbonara, simply boil a pan of water and drop the pasta into it for 1 minute to heat it, then mix the eggs mixture with the reheated pasta in a pot until the sauce thickens.
🍳 Related Recipes
If you like my style of penne alla carbanara you should try one of these pasta recipes on your next meal.
👪 Serving Size
With this penne carbonara recipe, you can expect to get 6 servings, or you could double or triple the recipe to cater to more guests.
Penne carbonara is a simple but delicious recipe that always gets rave reviews when I make it for friends and family. It's perfect comfort food to enjoy in 20 minutes flat!
If you are looking for more pasta inspiration I highly recommend you to try my olive garden giant cheese stuffed shells recipe, it is super easy to make and it taste unbelievable!
🎥 Watch how to make it
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
Try one of my comfort dinner recipes for your next family meal! And if you have any questions, I'm here to help!
Easy Penne alla Carbonara (20 minute)
- 1 pound penne rigate
- 4 large large eggs
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup parmesan cheese - finely grated, separated
- to taste salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pound bacon - thick cut or pancetta, cut into pieces
- a small handfull - shredded basil
- to taste - freshly cracked black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. (while the water is heating up, you can start preparing the bacon and the eggs.)
- When the pasta water has begun to boil, cook it until al dente.
- Whisk the eggs, cream and ½ of the Parmesan together in a small bowl, add some salt, then set aside.
- Melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the bacon and cook until it is browned and beginning to turn crisp, then use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel, reserving the fat in the pan.
- When the pasta is ready, drain it, reserving some of the pasta water (about ½ a cup). Do not rinse the pasta.
- In the pasta pot, above a high heat, put about 2 tablespoon of the pasta water and 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Add the drained pasta and toss together well, then remove from heat.
- Quickly pour the beaten eggs and bacon over the pasta, and toss together quickly and evenly for about 1 minute - until the sauce begins thickens. (if the sauce is too thick, just slowly add a bit more of the pasta water)
- Serve immediately with a lot of cracked pepper, and garnish with remaining Parmesan and basil leaves.