Authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Every time I think of Carbonara it takes me back about 9 years or so, to my last visit to my Italian friend Mario’s house in Johannesburg.  His lovely wife had to go out so Mario was left in charge of the food .  He took this as the perfect opportunity to teach this Afrikaans boy the virtues of Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

First off he was very disappointed with the lack of authentic ingredients in South Africa.  You see the thing is, traditionally a proper Carbonara is made with Guanciale, which is an unsmoked bacon made from the cheeks of the pig.  It is a delicacy of central Italy.  At that stage my food vocabulary was very limited, and only really registered the “bacon” part.

Finding something like this in South Africa has proven to be very difficult.  Most people settle for Pancetta as an alternative, just like Mario had to settle for it on that glorious day. (I do have to state for the record that the man makes a MEAN Carbonara even if he is forced to use Pancetta).

Some time after that I befriended Google and with the help of my new friend I tracked down some more info on the mysterious ingredient that Mario was in such a state about.  I started looking for suppliers.  No luck, most people I asked didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.  To be honest I gave up on the idea of ever tasting the stuff.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  I was busy chatting with some people on twitter about the upcoming SAB & Eat In Night Market.  Enter Richard “The Boss of Bacon” Bosman.

The man was offering free bacon to the first 5 folks who retweeted his message to spread the word  of his wares available at the market.  My mind went “Free bacon? YES PLEASE!” So I immediately did what I was asked.

Since the man looked like a master of his craft to me I thought “hey, what have I got to lose?” so I sent him the following message “I know this is probably a long shot, but do you make Guanciale, or can you point me in the direction of someone who does?”

I expected a “do I make WHAT?” kind of reply, like I got so many times before, but much to my delight, the reply was “I actually just made a batch some time ago, want some?”

Want some? WANT some???  No my good man I NEED SOME!!  I immediately messaged him saying yes, yes a thousand times yes, and enquired about the price.  He said it’s not a big seller as not many people know what it is and only Real men knew what to do with it (I liked him already), but he’ll bring me some to the market Free of Charge so that I can sample it and share it with you lot.  This all seemed to good to be true. Free Guanciale??? You gotta be kidding me!!

When I arrived at the market I went straight to his stall and announced “I’m here about the Guanciale”.  Friendly greetings all round. After receiving the object of my obsession + the free bacon I was awarded for my good deeds (ok ok AND buying some other goodies that looked too good not to take home with me) I was in a sort of trance, just wishing away the time until I could cook the stuff…

Anywhoo, enough of this rant, let me show you what I did with it. Graham and Marc was the lucky diners this time (credit to Graham for the photography, and for Marc for kitchen assistance)  PS. They had it good hey, I even travelled to their house to make the stuff, private chef kinda luxury!

Now without further adieu, I give you the most authentic version of this classic dish I have made to date.

Authentic Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

You will need:

  • 250gm Guanciale, cut into small strips (Pancetta can be used, but contact Richard about Guanciale, we need to get everyone using this stuff, it’s amazing, seriously, do it! By the way, the man makes excellent Pancetta too, so you can’t go wrong :) )
  • 1 pack Spaghetti
  • about 1 and a half cups freshly grated hard Italian cheese (I used Grana Padana, but Parmesan or Pecorino can be used as substitutes)
  • 6 eggs (3 whole and 3 yolks)
  • A dash of good quality olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Here’s what you gotta do:

First off, get a big pot of heavily salted water (it should taste like the sea) going on high heat.

Cut the Guanciale into thin strips so that it resembles “normal” bacon.  Then cut it crosswise again so you have tiny little strips.

Heat a pan up to medium heat, add a dash of olive oil and chuck in the little strips, shaking the pan every now and then to move things around.  Cooking the bacon on medium heat allows it to go very crispy without burning.




By now your water is hopefully boiling.   Drop in the pasta and keep an eye on it.  Do not overcook the pasta. As soon as you can bite through a strand and not feel your teeth cut through a hard white bit in the middle it is cooked.

For this recipe specifically though, your pasta needs to stay hot, as it needs to cook the eggs.  So do not remove it from the pot before you are ready with the rest.  Come on, get a move on!

Crack your eggs into a bowl, split half of them (only keeping the yolks) and whisk together.  Then add the cheese and whisk together to form a paste of sorts.  Add more cheese if you think the mixture is too “loose”  You will get a feel for this soon enough.




By now the Guanciale smell should have filled your kitchen and you cant wait to eat it.  It’s ok, take one little piece and experience heaven.  It should be nice and crispy but not burnt. Drain off half of the oil in the pan, but leave some of the oil, it’s full of bacon flavour and will help with the consistency of the “sauce”.



OK now it’s action time.  Pour some of the pasta water into a jug and set aside.  You can use this to smooth out the consistency of the sauce if you find it too sticky.



Next quickly strain the pasta and chuck it in the bowl with the egg and cheese mixture.  Toss the pasta a couple of times to start mixing the sauce in.  I find that kitchen tongs work great for this purpose.



Add the Guanciale.  I repeat, add some of the oil from the pan, it’s full of flavour and now is not the time to think about your waist!

Add some cracked black pepper and mix the ingredients well using the kitchen tongs.



There you have it, a classic Italian dish.  Less is more really applies to this dish.  I wouldn’t mess about with too many additions, to me this is close to perfection! Serve it with some fresh crusty bread.




Sidenote: Hardcore Italian purists claim the cheese has to be pecorino and not parmesan or grana padana.  The verdict is still out, I am yet to try it with pecorino.



Author:Fritz Brand

Passionate Foodie, Blues Man, Photographer, Technology Geek and all round cool dude.

18 Responses to “Authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara”

  1. April 5, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    What a fantastic post. Having a look at Richard Bosman’s website now, thanks for spreading the word.

    • Fritz Brand
      April 5, 2011 at 8:58 am #

      Thanks Caylee! Try to get your hands on some of his produce, you won’t be disappointed.

  2. Graham
    April 5, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    This looks delicious! I wish I had been there, oh wait…

    Thanks Fritz, it was extraordinary!

    • Fritz Brand
      April 5, 2011 at 10:14 am #

      Bahaha. You are welcome sir, and good job on the pics :)

  3. April 5, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Grazie mille, it was super delicious!

    I tried my hand at it 2 nights later, but without the guanciale – it’s just not the same.

    I will also never again use cream to make carbonara. What was I thinking?

    • Fritz Brand
      April 5, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

      Thanks dude. Yea the Guanciale is something else hey, I think it has something to do with the sweetness of the herbs used when making it.

      Glad I could show you the way! And yes you clearly were not thinking :P

  4. April 6, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Perfect comfort food in a bowl – fabulous!
    :-) Mandy

  5. April 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    I want this right now. Seriously, nothing else will be good enough now. That Guanciale sounds amazing – I’ll need to give the bacon man a shout.

    • Fritz Brand
      April 19, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

      Thanks, the Guanciale really is something else. You have to try it yourself to understand. I am trying to get more people trying it so we can get some demand going so the Boss Man can produce more of it! Please do contact him and let him know you are interested in trying it!

  6. April 20, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    Oh my aching tastebuds. I think I just died and fell into pasta heaven…or should that be charcuterie heaven?? I am so confused. I wanna be in that bowl of pasta right now. HAHA! Awesome awesome post! Our man makes Guanciale? I WANT SOME NOW!!! Geepers….*rushes off to find “the Bos” on twitter and tweet him across the ear for not bringing me some*

    • Fritz Brand
      April 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

      Thanks so much Colleen! Yup the Bos Man does indeed make Guanciale, and yes you should give him a stern talking too. I guess you’ll enjoy hearing that I got the last block of the previous batch just yesterday, and you’ll have to wait your turn hahahaha. Thanks for stopping by!

      • October 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

        I just made your carbonara, using some of the Bos mans guanciale, for our supper and it was more than awesome!! Im hoping that the helping I kept over will be OK to photograph tomorrow in the daylight. Thank you so much for sharing. Hugs xxx

        • Fritz Brand
          October 26, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

          Thanks for the feedback Colleen! I hope the photo comes out OK as well. Guanciale is magical stuff hey, did you see how quickly the fat goes translucent? And that smell?

  7. April 26, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    Wow – Fritz – I am impressed with your guanciale hunting abilities. We are able, on the odd occassion, to get this from our local Italian deli – l’Edicola here in Durban. My feeling is that guanciale has nice tasty fat – and lots of it – which keeps the pasta moist and adds tons of flavour. We have lengthy discussions in the various quarters of the Tripepi family as to the ‘correct ‘ cheese to use – my hubby who is the Carbonara cook in my family insists on pecorino! Italians from the north will always disagree with those from the South! Just cos they love a good noisy debate!!! Your pasta looks absolutely fantastic!! Have a great day xxx jan

    • Fritz Brand
      April 26, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      Thanks so much Jan, I am honoured that my Carbonara gets your stamp of approval! I think I may have been Italian in a past life hahahaha. Oh yea the Guanciale is amazing. I think the sweetness of the fat from the herb crust also adds to it, but ya we will never be able to explain it, it is just magic! I thoroughly enjoy a loud debate as well!!

      I just got another block of Guanciale from Richard the other day, will be making Carbonara again soon :)

      Thanks so much for stopping by Jan, have a great day!

  8. Frieda Lloyd
    April 29, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Your illustration at the Cheese Festval was brilliant and made for excellent family dinner last night. In Hermanus we are well acquinted with Richard’s cured meats and I will stock up for the next authentic carbonara!

    • Fritz Brand
      April 29, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      Thank you SO much Frieda! I am really glad you enjoyed my demo, it was great fun and you guys were a lovely audience. Ah yes, Richard had the deli there for some time if I recall correctly, his stuffis top notch! Enjoy!


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