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The Right Stuff

Over the years I have tinkered with the classic Roman dish spaghetti alla Carbonara. It requires just a few ingredients but the right technique. We are talking about eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, coarse black pepper and guanciale, cured pigs cheek as the sauce. These are the original ingredients although often guanciale may be hard to find in the states and more often than not pancetta is used. To make the dish properly, it is really critical not to scramble the eggs when they are added to the hot spaghetti. I have had a few flubs in the past but with trial and error I think I have the technique down. My trick is to keep the eggs cold before adding them to the hot spaghetti; this way they will not curdle and will still make a creamy and hot sauce.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Serves 4

¼ pound guanciale or pancetta, diced
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
12 ounces spaghetti such as Delverde or other imported brand
½ cup or more cooking water used to boil the spaghetti
Grinding coarse black pepper

Fill a pasta pot with 4 quarts water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and stir it into the water

Meanwhile in a saute’ pan large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti, cook the guanciale or pancetta in 1tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or lard until the guanciale or pancetta is crispy. Turn heat down to simmer and set aside.

In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks and whole egg together until creamy; whisk in the cheese until the mixture is very creamy. Set aside.

Cook the pasta until al dente and transfer it with a pasta fork to the saute’ pan and reheat slowly, stirring all the while

Take ½ cup of the pasta  cooking water and a stir it into the egg and cheese mixture and whisk until creamy.

Off the heat, rapidly stir the egg mixture into the pasta and guanciale, stirring to combine well. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and continue to stir vigorously until the sauce is creamy and coating the pasta. Add a good grinding of black pepper over the spaghetti and serve at once with additional grated cheese on the side.




  1. Giovanna Conte's avatar

    Giovanna Conte

    My dearest Marianne. I absolutely love you! I swear we could be related. You remind me of my mom and my grandmother and my aunts. All incredibly great cooks. Organic cooks. Cooks to take the ingredients of the season and turn the simplest things into the most marvelous dishes! I have several of your cookbooks and enjoy every single one. You are one of my heroes. My dream is to travel through Italy eating and cooking. I am there often and try to live my dream as often as I can! Keep traveling keep cooking! You are amazing! The other thing I admire so so very much is that you are true to the old ways. You are true to the old traditions. It's a shame most people in this generation won't ever know that. But with people like you and me will keep the tradition going. Again thank you.
  2. Linda Serafin's avatar

    Linda Serafin

    Mary Ann,
    I agree you are the best. I love all your shows.
    I went to Furtuna's market in Manchester, Vermont. The owners said you were in Italy at that time. The sausages are the best. I hope the next time you come to Manchester I will be able to drive up from NY.
    I would love to meet you.
  3. Anna Bucciarelli's avatar

    Anna Bucciarelli

    Dear Maryann, you have become my first and biggest TV friend over the years. Of all the cooking shows on TV, non can compete with you and the warmth, genuineness and true fondness for the food you present and the people you serve through your TV series and books (I own every single one from your very first). Watching you religiously as I do I am reminded of home, mama, 4 sisters, 2 wonderful aunts, the men in our family, all congregated in our basement kitchen every Sunday. Alas, most are gone, only one dear sis remains, but the memories are vivid and I thank you for keeping them alive for me - your recipes are all very close to what we did back then and I continue to do. At 83, I don't do as much, have passed a lot on to my daughters, hopefully they will hand it down to their own children. Finally, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Keep up the good work!
  4. ANNETTE PETERSON's avatar


    Dear Maryann - I too love your recipes and would like to be able to save them in my Pinterest file. However, I cannot find a Pinterest Icon on your website. Do you not allow us to post them, or is there another way to save them without having to print and, possibly, lst them.
  5. Patricia Powell's avatar

    Patricia Powell

    I just love you. i have learned a lot by watching yor program. You just do everthing so perfect, if there was anyone i could cook and eat with iit would be you, Italian food is my favorite in the world. Thank you so much.

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