Try this easy Spaghetti Carbonara with spinach and fresh tomatoes for a summer twist on a classic. A rich and creamy splurge in just 20 minutes.
Spaghetti Carbonara is an old favorite of of my Dad’s so it brings back good memories for me. I love that it’s quick to make, it looks pretty and it’s a delicious one bowl meal.
My one complaint is that it’s too “beige” looking. So I decided to brighten it up with some some vibrant baby spinach and fresh tomatoes (ripe summer ones that actually taste like tomatoes). I’ve convinced myself this update adds a touch of healthiness to the dish as well 🙂
The trick to this easy spaghetti carbonara is mixing the hot pasta (immediately after draining) with a egg-Parmesan mixture. The heat from the spaghetti cooks the egg and forms a creamy sauce that coats the pasta. This all takes just a minute and is best done right before serving. Everything else can be prepped ahead though.
Tailor To Your Taste
- For a vegetarian or kosher version, you can simply swap the bacon with a vegetarian “bacon”.
- Experiment with adding different vegetables – grilled, fresh or stir fried.
- Use Pancetta instead of bacon.
- Some people add a little cream to the pasta to make it extra creamy.
How to Make Spaghetti Carbonara (step by step)
Here are the step by step instructions – with pictures – that include the summer version twist of adding fresh tomatoes and spinach. For a more traditional version, just leave out the spinach and tomatoes.
- Gather the ingredients: Spaghetti, bacon, eggs, garlic, Parmesan cheese and parsley. Plus a tomato and baby spinach for this summer version.
2. Prep the dish (all of this can be done ahead): Grate the Parmesan and combine most of it with the eggs. Chop the tomatoes, baby spinach, parsley and garlic. Cook the chopped bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Keep 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet (discard the rest) and stir in the garlic. Turn off the heat.
3. Boil the spaghetti in salted water while the bacon is cooking, adding the baby spinach in the last minute. Drain (not thoroughly), reserving about 1/2 cup pasta water. Add the hot pasta immediately to the pan.
4. Quickly stir the parmesan-egg mixture into the hot pasta in the skillet. Toss to coat evenly and form a creamy sauce. Add a little pasta water to thin it out if needed.
5. Add the tomatoes and parsley (and bacon if you set it aside). Toss. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Pass the extra Parmesan on the side.
- Spaghetti Carbonara has to be assembled at the last minute for best results. The ingredients, however, and the bacon can be prepped ahead.
Easy Spaghetti Carbonara Summer Version
- 8 oz spaghetti, spaghettini or vermicelli (225 gm)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (3/4 cup for recipe, 1/4 for garnish)
- 6 --7 slices bacon, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated (or 4 cubes frozen)
- kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
- 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
- chopped parsley, for garnish
- PREPARE EGGS AND PARMESAN: Whisk together eggs and 3/4 cup Parmesan in a small bowl. Set aside.
- COOK BACON: Heat skillet to medium high heat and cook bacon until crisp, about 5-6 minutes, turning a few times. Note 1 to bake bacon instead. Leave 1-2 tablespoons of fat for flavor in pan for flavor. Discard the rest. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds minute. Turn burner off.
- BOIL SPAGHETTI AND SPINACH: While the bacon is cooking, boil spaghetti in salted water according to package directions. Just before it's ready, add the baby spinach and stir once or twice (no need to cook it). Drain spaghetti and spinach. No need to drain too thoroughly. A little water on the pasta is good. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta liquid.
- ASSEMBLE SPAGHETTI CARBONARA: Add hot spaghetti and spinach to skillet immediately. Stir in egg-cheese mixture. Toss quickly and blend until pasta is coated well. Add pasta liquid a little at a time if needed until you get a smooth consistency. You may not need all of it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add tomatoes and parsley. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan on top or serve on the side. Serve immediately with remaining Parmesan.
- To bake the bacon: Lay strips of bacon on a foil-lined pan. You can put a rack on top if you like, but I don't bother. Place in oven and turn oven temperature to 400F. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crispy. Thicker bacon may take a couple of minutes longer. Drain on paper towels. Chop bacon and place in skillet with 2 tablespoons of grease. Continue recipe.
- Make Ahead: Spaghetti Carbonara has to be assembled at the last minute for best results. The ingredients, however, and the bacon can be prepped ahead as show in the pictures in the post.
This recipe, originally published in 2016, has been updated with tweaks, step-by-steps and new pictures.