Leeks and Bacon Carbonara is a twist on an Italian classic. Eggs and Parmesan cheese create a silky sauce that coats al dente spaghetti, smoky bacon, and tender leeks.
What Is Carbonara?
Carbonara pasta originated in Rome, Italy. It's traditionally made with eggs, cheese, cured pork, and black pepper. Spaghetti is the most popular pasta to serve it with, but you can pretty much use any pasta shape you'd like.
Carbonara is a technically precise dish - it's all about timing! A mixture of raw eggs and grated cheese is combined with freshly cooked pasta to create a creamy, luscious sauce. You have to be careful to not scramble the eggs and keep mixing so the starchy pasta water can emulsify the sauce. It can be intimidating, but break each step down and it's totally do-able. And the effort is well worth it!
A Twist on an Italian Classic
This Leeks and Bacon Carbonara is an American twist on a Roman classic. Leeks and bacon are a traditional pairing, especially in quiches. So why not add the two into an egg-y pasta sauce?
In this Leeks and Bacon Pasta, the leeks add a mild sweetness and texture, while the crispy bacon packs a flavor punch. The combination of the two turns this dish into a surprisingly light and creamy bacon carbonara. It's a a fresh and flavorful pasta that's full of spring vibes. And once you nail the technique, this carbonara is really easy and will impress the whole family!
The best part about Leeks and Bacon Carbonara? You only need 6 ingredients!
- Bacon: Bacon is very commonly used in Carbonara, although pancetta and guanciale are the more popular pork components used in Italy.
- Eggs & egg yolk: The extra egg yolk creates an extra creamy and rich sauce.
- Parmesan cheese: Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano are interchangeable in this recipe (and most Carbonara recipes).
- Spaghetti: You can use any pasta shape you'd like.
- Leeks: Wash them really, really well since leeks hide a lot of dirt in its crevices. Use only the white and light green parts.
- Garlic: A controversial ingredient in Carbonara! Since this recipe is already a twist on the classic, I say why not!
How To Make Leeks and Bacon Carbonara
In order to nail the technique, read the recipe multiple times and have all the ingredients measured and ready to go. Once you start cooking, it moves really fast!
- Cook the bacon. Start with a cold pan to render more fat, resulting in crispier bacon. Drain most of the bacon grease.
- Boil the water. Moderately salt the water and use as little water as necessary. We want the water to be as starchy as possible. While waiting for it to boil...
- Start on the sauce. Whisk the eggs, egg yolk, cheese, and pepper.
- Cook the spaghetti. Drop the spaghetti into the boiling water and stir to prevent sticking.
- Meanwhile, cook the veggies. In the reserved bacon grease, cook the leeks and garlic. Add the spaghetti when it finishes cooking, along with the bacon.
- Finish the sauce. Add a splash of pasta water to the eggs, then add to the spaghetti. Mix very thoroughly.
- How do you make carbonara sauce thicker? If you accidentally add too much pasta water and it's runny, turn the heat up a little and keep stirring to help it evaporate. You can also add more grated cheese.
- How do you avoid scrambled eggs in carbonara? One of my biggest tips is to add a splash of pasta water to the eggs. This will help temper the eggs so there isn't as big of a temperature shock when you add them to the hot pasta. Then just make you don't stop mixing!
- Do you use the whole egg in carbonara? Yes! Using the whole egg creates more body. But adding an extra yolk will create that creaminess that's needed in Carbonara pasta.
Leeks and Bacon Carbonara is best served fresh since the sauce will seize and lose its creaminess as it sits. It'll taste fine but lose the texture. However, if you have leftovers, store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To reheat, boil about 1-2 tablespoon water in a large pan. Add the leftover Carbonara, and mix over medium heat until heated through.
Make It In Advance
I would not recommend making Leeks and Bacon Carbonara in advance. The sauce doesn't hold well and seizes. It's a quick dish so I recommend making it fresh!
Looking For More?
Pasta is an all-time favorite in my household. We eat it multiple times a week! So no fear, there are plenty more pasta recipes here. Here are some of my favorites!
- Pasta Salad
- One-Pot Chicken, Spinach, and Artichoke Pasta
- One-Pot Creamy Chicken Gnocchi
- Tortellini Caprese
- French Onion Chicken Pasta Bake
Leeks and Bacon Carbonara
- Start with a cold pan that's large enough to hold all the pasta. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper-lined plate and remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Save the pan for later.
- Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Try to use as little water as possible so it'll be extra starchy.
- While the water is boiling, whisk eggs and egg yolk in a mixing bowl until homogenous. Stir in Parmesan cheese and ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Set aside.
- Add spaghetti to boiling water. Cook until just shy of al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the pan you used for the bacon. Sauté the leeks until softened, about 3 minutes. Then add garlic to toast for 30 seconds. Season with a pinch of salt.
- When the spaghetti is done cooking, transfer directly from water into the pan with leeks. Turn the heat to low, season with pepper, and mix in cooked bacon.
- Add a small splash of hot pasta water to the egg mixture to temper. Then add to the pan (make sure heat is LOW or OFF) and mix thoroughly and constantly until creamy. This may take a couple minutes, just keep mixing. If too dry, add more pasta water. If too runny, add more cheese. Season to taste and serve immediately.
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