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Spaghetti Carbonara Without Cream (Summer Twist)

Try this easy spaghetti carbonara without cream for a summer twist on the Italian classic. We added spinach and fresh tomatoes for a healthier, vibrant touch.

A rich and creamy splurge (without cream) in just 20 minutes with just a few simple ingredients.

spaghetti carbonara with tomatoes and spinach in bowl

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 🙂

Is this carbonara authentic?

No. An authentic carbonara only includes spaghetti, guanciale (or sometimes pancetta), black pepper, pecorino Romano and beaten eggs.

Our version uses bacon (or pancetta), pepper, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, beaten eggs – and fresh tomatoes and spinach. A little summer twist.

Neither has any cream even though the dish feels creamy.

Top tip for a good carbonara

The trick to making carbonara is mixing the hot pasta (immediately after draining) with an egg-Parmesan mixture.

Although the heat on the stove is turned off, the residual heat cooks the mixture into 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 product.
  • Experiment with adding different vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini – grilled or stir fried.
  • Use Pancetta instead of bacon.
  • For a shrimp carbonara recipe, add cooked shrimp.
  • Some recipes just use egg yolks. For simplicity, I use whole eggs. If you want an even richer sauce, use just egg yolks (and double them).

How to make a carbonara recipe no cream

Here are the step by step instructions and pictures that include the summer version twist of adding fresh tomatoes and spinach. For a more traditional carbonara recipe, just leave out the spinach and tomatoes.

spaghetti, bacon, tomato, eggs, garlic, parmesan, spinach, parsley
Gather the main ingredients: Spaghetti, bacon, eggs, garlic, Parmesan cheese and parsley. Plus a tomato and baby spinach for this summer version.
egg-parmesan mixture in bowl, chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, parmesan cheese grated, bacon grease, chopped cooked bacon, chopped spinach
2. Prep the dish (all of this can be done ahead) – grate cheese and add to egg, chop veggies, cook bacon and reserve a bit of bacon grease for great flavor.
cooked spaghetti and spinach in strainer
3. Boil the spaghetti in salted water while the bacon is cooking, adding the baby spinach in the last minute. Drain and add the hot pasta immediately to the large skillet (now off the direct heat). Reserve a bit of pasta water.
spaghetti and spinach tossed with cheese egg mixture in pan
4. Quickly stir the parmesan-egg mixture into the hot pasta in the skillet to make a creamy carbonara.
spaghetti carbonara with tomatoes and spinach in pan
Add the tomatoes and parsley and bacon, Adjust and add seasonings. Serve immediately with extra Parmesan on the side.
spaghetti carbonara with tomatoes and spinach in a bowl
Ta da! Creamy carbonara with zero cream!

FAQ

What is carbonara?

Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish made with eggs, hard cheese, bacon and black pepper. The nice creamy texture is made with the egg-cheese mixture which has no cream. In Italy, guanciale (a cured meat product) or pancetta is used instead of bacon.

Can I use other types of pasta?

Yes. Spaghetti is the most common, but you can also use rigatoni, fettuccini, linguine or bucatini.

What cheese is best to use for carbonara?

Hard cheeses like parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino-romano or parmesan are best as they will melt with the egg better and won’t get clumpy.

How do you avoid tiny clumps?

Use grated hard cheese, keep the heat in pan extremely low (or just turn the heat off) and make sure your eggs are at room temperature. Run them under warm water if you forget to take them out of the fridge.

What to serve with carbonara

Because the pasta is fairly rich, I like to serve it with a simple green salad and maybe a lighter dessert like peach crumble or no bake berry crumble to end the meal. A nice summery starter may be easy gazpacho (chunky or smooth).

Shortcut

  • Buy pre-cooked bacon or use pancetta

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.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. See how to reheat carbonara in recipe notes.

Other easy pasta dishes you might like

spaghetti carbonara with tomatoes and spinach in bowl
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Carbonara Without Cream Recipe (Summer Version)

Try this easy spaghetti carbonara recipe without cream for a summer twist on a classic. We added spinach and fresh tomatoes for a healthier, vibrant touch.
Prep Time8 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 8 ounce spaghetti, spaghettini or vermicelli
  • 2 whole eggs, room temperature (run under warm water if needed)
  • 1 cup grated cheese – Parmesan, Pecorino cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano (reserve 1/4 cup/15g for garnish)
  • 6 –7 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, 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

Instructions

  • PREPARE EGGS AND PARMESAN: Whisk together eggs and 3/4 cup/60 grams Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • COOK BACON: Heat frying pan to medium-high heat and cook chopped bacon until crisp, about 5-6 minutes, turning a few times. Note 1 to bake bacon instead. Leave 1-2 tablespoons of fat in pan for flavor. Discard the rest. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds minute. Turn burner on stove to very low heat or OFF.
  • BOIL SPAGHETTI AND SPINACH: While the bacon is cooking, boil spaghetti in salted water to al dente 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 bit of water on the pasta is good. Reserve a cup of pasta water.
  • 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 a splash of pasta water a little at a time if needed until you get a smooth creamy carbonara. You will likely 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.

Notes

  1. 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. 
  2. Variations
    • For a vegetarian or kosher version, you can simply swap the bacon with a vegetarian bacon product.
    • Experiment with adding different vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini – grilled or stir fried.
    • Use Pancetta instead of bacon.
    • For a shrimp carbonara recipe, add cooked shrimp.
    • Some recipes just use egg yolks. For simplicity, I use whole eggs. If you want an even richer sauce, use just egg yolks (and double them).
    • Shortcut: use pre-cooked bacon
  3. 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.
    • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
    • How to reheat carbonara: Put in microwave safe bowl, uncovered. Add a splash of water. Heat in bursts of one minute, stirring in between until heated through. 
Nutrition values are estimates based on a nutrition calculator. 

Nutrition

Calories: 485kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 122mg | Sodium: 927mg | Potassium: 579mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 4811IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 355mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This recipe, originally published in 2016, has been updated with tweaks, step-by-steps and new pictures. 

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6 Comments

  1. Please don’t call this carbonara. It’s not. Give it a new name, inspired by but NOT carbonara. Carbonara is a classic dish with few ingredients. Anything else is not carbonara, especially if it includes cream or peas.

    1. Hi DB, I’m sorry I offended you. Creating new recipes from old classics is pretty common these days, but I understand and respect you are not a fan of that. Just to clarify, there is no cream or peas in this recipe and I did call it a different name by including ‘summer version’ in the title. I also mentioned it is a twist on the classic carbonara in an effort to distinguish it from the classic carbonara. I hope you try one of our other recipes instead 🙂

    2. I agree with some of the readers. You define carbonara but then cook something different. Historically, carbonara may have gD cream…it no longer does. There is no garlic or tomatoes or anything green.

      1. Thanks for your comment – I always appreciate constructive reader opinions. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear enough in the recipe that is is a TWIST on carbonara, not an authentic recipe (even though the technique is the same). To make it clearer, I added an extra paragraph in the post pointing that out. I hope that helps readers decide if they want to try this version or not.