Cheap Carbonara Recipe: How to Make Italian Food on a Budget

All Things Mandy
by All Things Mandy

I have been trying affordable recipes from all around the world, and this week I am doing Italian! I am really trying to stick to things that I have not eaten or cooked before, that is not your basic spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, and all the other things that here in America we tend to think of as Italian food.

So what cheap Italian food could I make? I decided to go for Carbonara. This is the simplest and best carbonara recipe for you.

Carbonara is basically bacon and egg pasta. It is made from pasta with eggs, cured meat, and cheese. And so I was really excited about this.


  • Spaghetti
  • 2 Eggs
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Pasta water
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Pancetta, which I did not have, so I am using bacon

1. Cook the pasta

This dish comes together really fast because it is bacon and eggs. First, I am going to get the pasta water going.

Once it boils, I am going to throw in 8 oz of spaghetti and let those cook for about nine minutes or until they are al dente. I will reserve a cup of that starchy pasta water to help with the sauce.

Cooking the bacon

2. Cook the bacon

Next, I am going to get some bacon chopped and get it into the pan. I am using half of my package, which is four slices. I am going to dice it and get it in the pan to start our carbonara sauce.

To crisp the bacon perfectly, get it all out into a single layer, and use a low-heat pan so that a lot of that fat can render because that is going to be what creates the sauce. You do not want to cook your bacon too fast.

Making the egg mixture

3. Make the egg mixture

Let’s move on to the egg mixture that's going to help make the sauce. First, I am going to break and mix two eggs. I also need half a cup of the Parmigiano Reggiano, which is 4 oz – the entire container that I have bought. I am going to reserve just a little bit of this to put over the top.

After I mix the eggs and the cheese, I am going to add salt and pepper. Last, I am going to add two tablespoons of pasta water and give it all a stir until it is creamy and smooth.

Cooking the garlic in bacon fat

4. Cook the garlic in bacon fat

Once the bacon is done, I am going to get it out of the pan and on a paper towel-lined plate. I am going to leave all of the bacon fat in the pan and get my heat down on low. I am going to add a little bit of minced garlic.

Alternatively, you could use fresh garlic if you like, and I am sure that garlic powder would work, too. I am going to let that cook for just 30 seconds. This is the base for our sauce.

How to make carbonara

5. Mix everything together

Next, I am going to toss in my pasta. I will make sure it is coated with that garlic and the bacon fat. Then I am going to put my bacon pieces back in, give that another toss, and then cut off the heat.

Now, I am going to add another pinch of pepper, give it another toss, and then add in the egg and cheese mixture. You want to cut off the heat because you do not want the eggs to scramble, but rather to just coat and make the sauce, so we are just going off the residual heat here. I will add a little bit more of that pasta water, too.

Tossing the pasta

I am going to keep tossing the pasta so that the eggs do not scramble. I am even lifting my pan off the heat a little bit, and keep tossing until everything gets coated with the egg and cheese mixture.

Serving with Carbonara with Parmesan on top

6. Serve

Once the pasta is ready to serve, I am going to sprinkle a little bit more of that Parmesan Reggiano on top.

Cheap carbonara recipe

I am done, so let’s look at the results. This was my first time making carbonara, and I followed the recipe, but I think I might have scrambled the eggs. You can see little specks of eggs in it, instead of all of it just being the sauce. Still, it smells amazing, and the taste is pretty good, too. Who doesn’t like bacon and eggs?

Cheap carbonara recipe

This is a super simple budget carbonara, with most of the ingredients we already had in our home, so I really enjoyed making this Italian dish for the first time.

Do you have any tips for preparing the perfect cheap carbonara? What is your favorite Italian meal to make at home? Share your best recipes in the comments down below!

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