This is by far my favorite Italian dish. It's quite simple but the difficulty lies in execution and quality of ingredients. The better the ingredients, the better the carbonara.
  1. Ingredient amounts for 2 people:
    300 grams of pasta (I prefer rigatoni, but spaghetti is acceptable as well), two whole eggs, two egg yolks, 1/2 lb chopped guanciale or pancetta (if you don't have access to these, good quality bacon will work), 1/2 a diced yellow onion (optional), 1/4 cup fresh-grated pecorino Romano or parmigiano reggiano, dash of extra virgin olive oil, salt, fresh-ground black pepper. The amounts on here are all estimates. Don't be caught up trying to grate cheese into a little measuring cup.
  2. NEVER try to add cream or milk
    Suggested by @corey
  3. Cook pancetta and onion in a medium-sized pan over medium/medium low heat with a drizzle of olive oil.
    The goal here is to render the fat and cook the onions until they're melting. Adjust heat as needed. You don't want to get the pancetta too crispy (like where you could snap it with your fingers).
  4. In a small bowl, mix whole eggs, egg yolks, cheese, and pepper
    You really want to use a LOT of pepper. It's one of the main flavor components of the dish. If you're thinking to yourself, "wow this is a lot of pepper," it's probably not enough. Don't worry about salt. There's plenty of salt in the cheese.
  5. Cook pasta
    Refer to my list on how to cook pasta. Especially pay attention to the part on how much salt to use and when it's al dente. This could be the best tasting sauce but if the pasta is bland and over-cooked the dish is pointless. Side note: I like to leave the pan with the pancetta and onion on very low while the pasta is cooking so that the pan is still warm when the pasta is added
  6. Strain pasta from water and add straight into the pancetta pan (turn the heat completely off at this point) and toss to combine.
  7. Add egg and cheese mixture and stir vigorously.
    If you've done everything right up to this point, the residual heat from the pasta and pan should cook the egg just enough so it becomes a creamy sauce. If you need to you can turn on the heat for just a few seconds to get the egg to cook. You're really trying to avoid scrambling it so be careful.
  8. Plate and enjoy!