Fettuccine Carbonara

I know what you’re thinking — “Fettuccine Carbonara on a Nutrition Blog?!”  Well it’s true, and this is not a diet version.  I’m a firm believer in eating what you love in moderate portions.  This recipe is not light by any means, but it has a lot less fat than if you ordered it out in a restaurant, especially if you keep your portion size small.

Growing up fettuccine carbonara was one of my favorite dishes that my dad cooked…I know I can’t believe it either!  Of course it turns out that it is now one of my husband’s favorite foods as well.  When he’s craving it, I would much prefer to cook it myself than get it out since I know I can lighten it up while maintaining all of the flavor.  The traditional Italian way to make it is without heavy cream, it is still super creamy and in my opinion more flavorful. The main ingredients are pancetta, egg, parmesan cheese and pasta — simple right?


  • 1 cup sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 ounces pancetta, cubed*
  • 1.5 oz shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces fresh fettuccine
  • salt to taste


  • Bring a large pot of water to boil on stove.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 TB olive oil in large skillet.
  • In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs with parmesan cheese and set aside.
  • Add pancetta to oil in hot skillet, let cook approximately 3 minutes until edges start to brown.
  • Add onion to skillet; cook until translucent.
  • Add garlic to onion & pancetta; cook approximately 1 minute.
  • Turn skillet to lowest temperature.
  • Add pasta to boiling water and cook for appropriate time.
  • Drain pasta, reserving ~1/4 cup cooking liquid.
  • Increase heat to medium for onion, garlic and pancetta mixture and add in drained pasta.  Toss to coat in oil.
  • Slowly add in egg mixture.  It is very important to do this in small batches and stir quickly to prevent “scrambling” of eggs.  You also want to do this while the pasta is very hot so it cooks the egg appropriately.
  • Continue mixing pasta with egg mixture until it is all mixed.
  • Thin with pasta water to desired consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Enjoy!

*Vegetarians can leave the pancetta out, by using a little more oil and salt.  It is not the same, but does result in a delicious vegetarian alternative.

Carbonara Meal

This is a photo of my dinner plate: one serving of fettuccine carbonara with a side of sauteed swiss chard.   While it does not look like a huge portion, if you eat slowly, savor all the wonderful flavors, I promise it will leave you extremely satisfied!

Nutritional Information: Serves 4 (calculated without added sodium)

495 calories, 15 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 290 mg sodium, 69 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 20 grams protein

Nutrition Tidbit: Heavy Cream

  • American style restaurants use heavy cream in carbonara and alfredo sauces, resulting in extremely high fat and saturated fat contents.
  • Cheesecake Factory’s pasta carbonara contains 2,134 calories, 81 grams saturated fat, 1246 mg sodium, and 144 grams carbohydrates!
  • Olive Garden’s lunch portion of fettucine alfredo contains 800 calories, 48 grams fat, 30 grams saturated fat, 69 grams carbohydrate, 23 grams protein (this is probably the same size portion as the one I made since carbohydrates and protein are about the same – but check out the difference in fat!)
  • For every 1/2 cup of heavy cream used, expect to add 207 calories, 22 grams fat and 14 grams saturated fat.
  • It is recommended to keep saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total daily calories (20 grams for those on a 2,000 calorie diet).  As you can see, these heavy cream laden dishes at restaurants will put you over your limit just for the one meal!
  • Try choosing marinara or garlic & oil sauce the next time you are eating Italian food out.  If you want a creamy pasta, try this recipe in your own home where you can control the ingredients.

8 Responses

  1. This looks delicious, and it’s refreshing to see this on a RD’s site – even though it’s a treat, it is *real* food, and I’m sure it was great and super-satisfying to eat. If you’re going to have a goodie, make it a real goodie and enjoy it, right? Then get back to lots of lean proteins and fruits and veggies. A good lesson in moderation. Cheers!

  2. I love your view on eating and fitting in foods that you love in moderation.

    I also love this recipe. 😀 It looks absolutely wonderful!!

  3. Eve,
    I totally agree with your philosphy. I had spaghetti carbonara for the first time a few years ago in Rome and I was hooked! Totally different than what many restaurants try to pass off as carbonara – which is more like alfredo.

    Sometimes a little bit of the real thing satisfies like nothing else!

  4. Eve,

    We tried this recipe, and it was so delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Nice recipe

    I am definately going to try this next time. The last version of Fettuccine Carbonara I made was the below and that was quiet nice also.

    Thanks for Sharing.


  6. hi- are those stats per portion size or for the whole recipe? and again with the added cals with the cream – adding them to the portion or to the recipe and dividing?

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