Carbonaras can range from super creamy (six egg yolks and one whole egg) to just slicked (two whole eggs). More yolks means a richer sauce, but you also have to contend with leftover whites. Let your mood (a little rich or really rich?), refrigerator holdings (do we need to buy eggs soon or do we need to use up these eggs?), and capacity to deal with egg whites guide you. I personally have let too many leftover whites go bad—meaning and failing to make an angel food cake or meringue—but perhaps your no-waste kitchen practices are better than mine.
If you’re using mostly yolks, consider using a greater proportion of pecorino; it’s sharper than Parmesan and won’t get overpowered by the yolks’ fat. Guanciale is more traditional and delicately flavored, but pancetta is easier to find and, unlike cream, acceptable to the Italian purists. Whatever you do, don’t throw out all the drippings from the cured pork—their salty flavor is essential to cut through the eggy richness.
- Bring one large pot of salted water and one smaller pot of unsalted water to boil. Turn the smaller pot down to a gentle simmer.
- Heat skillet over medium heat and add guanciale or pancetta to a dry pan. Cook until guanciale is crispy and has rendered its fat. Turn off heat.
- Add pasta to boiling salted water and cook until almost al dente. Drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water.
- Whisk eggs and ½ cup grated cheese in a large metal bowl. Whisk in a couple tablespoons of pasta water to temper the mixture and set over the small pot of water (the bowl bottom should not touch the water). Add pasta and guanciale or pancetta with its drippings. Toss with tongs in bowl over simmering water, adding more pasta water and grated cheese so that the sauce thickens and clings to the pasta and tastes salty enough. Finish with ground pepper and serve with remaining grated cheese.
Mari Uyehara is a food and travel writer based in Brooklyn. She was previously a senior editor at Saveur, the food & drink editor at Time Out New York, and the food editor of Martha Stewart Living Radio.