Penne Carbonara

I was once told by an Italian that the way I pronounced penne actually sounded like pene, the Italian word for penis. And no matter how much I tried to correct my pronunciation, it always caused a riot of mirth whenever I started talking about pasta. So maybe I should only whisper the name of this dish in the vincinity of any Italian-speakers out there. Just in case.

I realise that this carbonara may be my first savoury recipe post of the year! Shock, horror! What a glorious thing it is too. As with most pasta-based dishes, it is surprisingly quick and speedy to concot, as well as being perfect for dinner à deux. I’d never cooked this before, so turned to Google for a quick skim. The sheer volume of different recipes out there, in all shapes, sizes and uctuousness, is quite mind-boggling.


In the end, I went for a trusty James Martin recipe, which requires a rib-sticking quantity of double cream. I had only a dribble left over from making this summer berry cheesecake, so substituted the remainder with single cream. The quantity we made could easily serve 4, but you can adapt it for 2 just by halving the ingredients.

I realise that the way I’ve made this, it’s not strictly speaking an authentic carbonara anymore. However, the mushrooms and spinach do add a zazzle of colour, texture and some veg so I’m not complaining!


By the way, the mirth I generated amongst Italians was not limited to pasta dishes alone. Chicken Katsu was thought to be very amusing too. I don’t think I should elaborate on this.

Penne Carbonara

Adapted from James Martin on BBC Food

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g pancetta, cubed
  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 25ml double cream
  • 75ml single cream
  • 50g finely grated parmesan (reserve some for sprinkling)
  • 350g penne
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a frying pan until hot, then add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Add the mushrooms and when almost cooked, throw in the spinach until just wilted. Set to one side.

In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks, cream and most of the parmesan, reserving some for sprinkling later. Season well with salt and pepper.

In a pan of salted boiling water, cook the penne until done. Drain, then add to the bowl of cream mixture, and stir continuously until smooth. Add the parsley.

Dish the pasta into bowls, and season again with salt and pepper. Garnish with a sprinkling of parmesan, and a little sprig of parsley. Serve outdoors in the summer sun, with a simple tomato salad on the side.


2 thoughts on “Penne Carbonara

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