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How To Thicken Carbonara Sauce? A Few Useful Tips

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Carbonara is a very delicious dish, and at least in my country, it is the most well-known pasta dish. When making carbonara, it is important to know how to thicken the carbonara sauce since this is one of the most common mistakes when making a good delicious carbonara.

It is important to talk from the beginning that there is original carbonara that is made with eggs, parmesan, guanciale, and pasta water which can be a bit trickier to thicken the sauce. Also, there are what I would call commercial carbonara, some would say fake carbonara, that a lot of people are making; the one with heavy cream or milk, flour, parmesan, bacon, and sometimes garlic or garlic powder.

You can get them in the restaurants as well. I saw in an Italian restaurant that they had “traditional carbonara” and “carbonara” at different prices.

So that being said, I know the difference between them, but I will talk about both ways of making carbonara even if some Italian Chef will roll his eyes while saying, “This is pasta crime” even to call them carbonara(the ones with heavy cream and bacon).

The thing is that most probably, a good part of people asking how to thicken carbonara sauce are making the “fake carbonara” not the original recipe. So I will talk about how to thicken that one too.

carbonara sauce

How to thicken carbonara sauce?

To thicken traditional carbonara sauce, you have to make sure that you keep a bit of pasta water that contains starch and add it to the pasta or add a bit more parmesan or pecorino romano.

Unfortunately, the traditional/original way of making carbonara doesn’t give you a second chance if you get the sauce wrong. This is one of the main reasons people prefer to make the carbonara most people know with heavy cream and flour.

The most important thing when it comes to the consistency of the carbonara sauce is how many egg yolks you are using. The general rule of thumb is to use one egg yolk per person.

To thicken the carbonara sauce that has been made with heavy cream and flour, you can do the following things.

-Simmer the sauce a bit more until you get the desired consistency. Keep in mind that when you mix the sauce with the pasta, the sauce will get thicker due to the starch from the pasta.

-Add a bit more flour and stir the mix very well.

-Add a bit more cheese, parmesan, or pecorino romano, depending on what you have used the first time.

-Add some cornstarch. This also can work great, and while this is not the original recipe, there is no one to judge you anymore for the fact that cornstarch does not belong to carbonara sauce.

Read Also: How To Reheat Carbonara

Carbonara with ready-made sauce

If you want to thicken the ready-made carbonara sauce, you have to add a bit more flour and stir it very well or add a bit more parmesan cheese to the mix.

Adding cornstarch can work as well but don’t add too much.

If an Italian Chef rolls his eyes when it comes to carbonara made with heavy cream and bacon, you can imagine his reaction when he sees you making carbonara with ready-made sauce.

But let’s be honest, it can have a pretty good taste if done well, and it is way cheaper than making original carbonara. For students that live on their own, it can be a great dish that is easy to make and cheap.

ready made sauce

Original vs. “fake” carbonara

When it comes to thickening the sauce, the traditional way of making carbonara will give you no chance of thickening the sauce after it’s done without altering the recipe, taste, and texture considerably. While the “fake” carbonara, due to its heavy cream/milk and flour content, will give you a second chance if you haven’t mixed the sauce with the pasta already.

So if you haven’t cooked carbonara before, make sure you don’t make them for the first time when it’s an important moment for you, like having guests or impressing your loved ones, since it has a bigger chance of failing.

We now live in Arad, which is a city in Romania with a lot of Italian cuisine influence and also a pretty big number of Italians live here so I know what a good carbonara should look and taste like. However, I grew up in a different region where the fake carbonara was the only way that you could get your carbonara, and I got accustomed to it.

Now that I have eaten both of them many times, I can say that I like the fake ones more. I know we all have different tastes, and maybe the thing that I grew up with them has an influence as well, but this is the truth. So I would never argue with someone that makes carbonara with heavy cream and bacon, even if I know that it is not the traditional recipe.

fake vs real

Read Also: Pasta In Sauce Or Sauce In Pasta ?


So, in conclusion, to thicken the “fake” carbonara sauce, you can use a bit more flour, cornstarch, or cheese, but in the case of traditional carbonara, I would say that you can use this fail as a lesson for the next time.

I hope this article will help you thicken the carbonara sauce and also will help you to understand what type of carbonara you are making there and why both types can be good or at least good enough depending on your preferences.

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