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My bacon mushroom carbonara is a Italian restaurant-quality dish that gives a delicious and comforting twist to the classic carbonara. Crispy bacon, sliced mushrooms, and a creamy sauce coating al dente pasta, it's simple, cozy, and will satisfy the pickiest eaters at your dinner table.
As summer draws to a close (already?!) I can hear the siren calls for a cozy, rich weeknight dinner. One filled with creamy pasta and golden mushrooms, that isn't authentic pasta carbonara...
...and yes, I do have a carbonara recipe that is nonna approved from a few of my Italian friends...this version of carbonara is another Americanized version. So don't yell at me, Italians. I've given the disclaimer
While not made with heavy cream this time, this bacon and mushroom carbonara recipe has a more classic glossy sauce made with starchy pasta water, bacon fat, and egg yolks to mix in all that parmesan cheese.
If you're looking for an easy recipe done on the stove top in under 30 minutes that is incredibly satisfying, this is the one.
What is carbonara?
Carbonara is a rich egg, pork, and cheese based pasta dish originating in the Lazio region of Italy.
Traditional carbonara uses guanciale, or cured pork jowl, but many non-Italian dishes use bacon as a substitute since it can be hard to find.
Reserved pasta water. If you want to really add extra flavor, add chicken broth to your pasta's cooking liquid. It's going into our carbonara sauce, remember?
Mushrooms. I used cremini mushrooms, they and button mushrooms are really easy to find at any grocery store, but the more exotic ones like oyster mushrooms or shiitake can be used, too. If you want to use portobello, make sure to cut them into bite sized pieces since they're so large.
Bacon. Use good quality thick-cut bacon. You want plenty of streaky fat, but more meat so you have tasty bacon to eat with your pasta.
Lemon Zest. This is a level of bright and fresh you need in this dish, since it's so rich. Adding in lemon juice ain't a bad idea, either!
Garlic cloves. Not a garlic fan? You can keep them out!
Parmesan or Pecorino Romano Cheese. I say it every time: buy a wedge and grate it yourself! They're affordable, they last a while, they aren't cheese-and-cellulose dust in a can.
Black Pepper and Kosher Salt.
Boil your water in a large pot while you sauté the bacon in a frying pan until crisp.
Remove the bacon carefully and add the sliced mushrooms, but don't add any salt just yet. After a couple minutes, add the onions. Once they start getting browned, add a hearty pinch of salt.
In a medium bowl, whip together your carbonara sauce with the eggs and parmesan cheese while the mushrooms and onions cook and the pasta boils. Add a little lemon zest and black pepper to the egg mixture, I love the vibrant citrusy flavor and the rich oils of the lemon zest and pepper.
Once the onions and mushrooms are golden brown and delicious, add the garlic, zest, and bacon and turn off the heat. The residual heat of the cast iron, pasta, and sauce will cook the minced garlic through.
Add the cooked pasta and cheese mixture to the pan and toss well with a pair of tongs. Add in about ¼ cup of pasta water to make a silky smooth sauce.
Give a taste, season as needed and serve the whole thing with more lemon zest, shavings of parmesan cheese, and black pepper.
Use a food processor to grate the parmesan cheese. It's so much easier than grating it by hand!
Serve with a fresh side salad to cut the richness of this dish...also it's healthy so you can have more pasta, right?
Frequently Asked Questions
While the egg yolks are only cooked by the heat of the hot pasta and cooked ingredients, studies have proven that raw egg yolks are safe. The odds of buying a commercial egg contaminated with salmonella in the U.S. at 1:30,000.
And even in tests where yolks contaminated with salmonella were used, the heat of the dish still was able to inactivate the salmonella.
If your carbonara isn't as sauce as you'd like, add more pasta water! The starch in it helps keep it creamy, but the water loosens up the sauce.
More Pasta Recipes
- Creamy Cherry Tomato Pasta alla Vodka
- Lobster Pasta with Garlic Butter Sauce
- Slow Braised Beef Ragu with Pappardelle
- Creamy Garlic Mushroom Pasta
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- 12 ounces linguine pasta
- 8 slices thick cut smoked bacon, sliced into 1 inch pieces
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- ½ medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Zest of 1 lemon, divided
- 3 egg yolks
- ¾ cup parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add pasta, cooking according to package directions.
- While pasta is boiling, add bacon to a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crisp, then use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked bacon to a plate. Set aside.
- Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and let cook unbothered for 3-4 minutes to release the water. Stir and add the diced onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the onions are turning golden brown.
- Turn off the heat and add the garlic, cooked bacon, and half of the lemon zest to the pan. Stir and let the garlic cook in the residual heat.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, grated parmesan cheese, the rest of the lemon zest, and black pepper until well combined.
- When pasta is done cooking, save ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and use tongs to take the pasta from the large pot into the frying pan.
- Using the tongs, mix the cheese mixture into the pasta, tossing the pasta. Add in a few heavy splashes of the reserved pasta water and mix in to create a creamy sauce.
- Taste for seasoning and season as needed.
- Garnish with more lemon zest, parmesan cheese, and black pepper and serve hot.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 320Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 165mgSodium: 499mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 17g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.