Carbonara Macaroni or Macaroni Carbonara is comfort food that is cheesy, easy and delicious. Creamy yet with no cream used in the recipe it is a simple recipe with straight forward cooking techniques. Quick and easy to make with textural highlights from the mushrooms and bacon this is a make again and again recipe.
Recipes like my Garlic Prawn Spaghetti, Garlic Bacon Pasta and Fried Cabbage and Bacon all honour bacon as a tasty ingredient in their deliverance.
My Udon Carbonara and Carbonara with Mushrooms and Bacon offer alternatives to a macaroni based carbonara dish.
🤍 Recipe Highlights
I have summarised everything that you will come to know and love (LOVE ❤) about the recipe in the points below:
- Budget friendly: there is nothing in this recipe that will blow the budget. Bacon is cheaper than many types of meat and pasta is an economical ingredient any time of year 👍.
- Simple cooking method: most of the recipe requires loading ingredients into a fry pan and you can cook the pasta alongside the fry pan on a separate element. Then we simply stir to combine. No oven baking or resting meats with this one.
- Family friendly: this is a recipe that the whole family can enjoy together. A meal in one pan that gets everyone sitting at the table and chowing down together. So grab a fork for each of the kids and let them dig in!
- Comfort food: macaroni carbonara is one of the most satisfying meals you can devour. Not only is there pasta, there is a delicious and cheesy cream like sauce which smothers the dish. It is almost too good to be true 😍🥰😘!!
- Dreams of Mac and cheese: mac and cheese is an easy combo that everyone learned to cook as a starting point. This recipe brings us back to the basics of creamy mac and cheese but adds additional texture with the bacon and mushrooms and uses eggs to create a creamy no cream pasta sauce.
The photo below is to show you everything you need to make the recipe. Please refer to the printable recipe card for specific ingredient measurements as well as detailed instructions.
As you can see the recipe calls for:
- Macaroni: a budget friendly pasta that is readily available at all stores such as Walmart, Safeway, Aldi, Coles and Woolies. It doesn't take long to cook, won't break the bank and has a long shelf life.
- Eggs: these are the bases of the carbonara sauce. There is no cream in the recipe. The creamy like texture comes from whisking the eggs and adding parmesan cheese to them.
- Parmesan cheese: this gets added to the eggs to form the cheesy cream like sauce. You can also sprinkle a little over the finished dish when serving.
- Bacon: my preference and recommendation is to use store bought diced bacon for the recipe as it makes it so easy. You can also have a read through my substitutions and variations as I offer alternatives should you want an array of options 😉😘.
- Button mushrooms: not always used in traditional carbonara, yet a delightful way of adding another great texture to the dish. I recommend you purchase whole button mushrooms (or white mushroom cups) and slice them in halves or thirds. These get cooked in the fry pan and don't require oil (the bacon grease helps to cook them 👍).
- Cracked black pepper: sprinkled on top of the dish for serving, we don't need it till we are ready to serve the carbonara.
- Parsley: we need a fresh herb for flavour, texture and a pop of colour on top of the dish. Without it, whilst the flavour is there the colour of the dish is a bit boring! So use curly parsley finely chopped sprinkled over the top of the dish as a tasty visual delight. (Yes, you can use flat leaf parsley also if you want to 🧐).
Tasty tip: we do not use salt and pepper to season the ingredients as we cook them. This is because the bacon is high in salt and brings that flavour to the recipe and then we use freshly cracked pepper sprinkled on top for serving the macaroni. A non stick fry pan is the recommendation. This also means that there is no need to add oil at any stage of the cooking process 👍👍 .
Here at the step by step instructions to make the recipe. We start by frying off the bacon in a fry pan, you can use a wok or sauté pan also.
- Cook bacon (Photo 1)
- Add mushrooms and cook (Photo 2)
- Whisk eggs (Photo 3)
- Add cheese to eggs (Photo 4)
As I mentioned earlier, if you use a non stick pan, you won't need any oil for the recipe. This is seen in photos 1 and 2 above. The fat from the bacon will provide enough grease to keep things moving in the pan and impart flavour to the mushrooms as well.
👩🍳 How to Make Carbonara Macaroni
To make the pasta, start by cooking the bacon in a fry pan on the stove. It will take around 2 mins to cook, a little longer if you want crispy bacon. Without cleaning the pan, add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another 2 mins till the mushrooms are getting golden brown colours on their flat surface.
Read and follow the instructions on the packet to cook the macaroni. Use a pot on the stove with a little bit of salt in the water. You will likely be able to do this at the same time as cooking the bacon and mushrooms, using a separate element on the stove. Aim for al dente which simply means that the pasta has a little bit of bite to it (and is not super soft 😁👍).
- Whisk to combine (Photo 5)
- Cook pasta, drain and reserve the water (Photo 6)
- Add cooked macaroni to fry pan (Photo 7)
- Pour over egg mixture (Photo 8)
The stove (heating) needs to be turned off before you pour the egg mixture over the pasta. This is to ensure that the heat does not scramble the eggs. Don't worry, you can always reheat the dish for serving so it is hot and not warm for the eaters 👍😉.
- Add pasta water to macaroni (Photo 9)
When cooking and draining the pasta, we keep the pasta water. This is a light yellow colour and is full of starchy good stuff. It helps to bind the egg mixture to the cooked pasta in a slick manner. You can also keep the rest of the water in a jar in the fridge so that you can spoon a little of it over leftovers when reheating where the pasta has absorbed the sauce.
- Stir till the sauce is consistently mixed throughout the pasta (Photo 10)
🍽 Serving Suggestions
Don't hold back when garnishing this dish! Creamy carbonara macaroni calls for texture both in cooking and when serving the recipe. The combination of freshly cracked pepper, grated parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley is what makes the dish come to life.
If wanting a side the Ciabatta Garlic Bread or Garlic Pizza Bread offer delicious pairings or for a salad side the Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad offers Italian flavours and ingredients.
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Store leftovers of the dish in a sealed air tight container. They can be left in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
How to Freeze
Cook the dish, then let cool and freeze.
This is a handy recipe to meal prep and then portion into containers for nights when you want delicious homemade comfort food without the effort of cooking it on the night.
How to Reheat
You can reheat leftovers of the dish in the microwave. Thawed will take around 2 minutes to heat through. Frozen portions (in glass containers) will take 6 minutes to be heated through.
😉 Substitutions and Variations
Here are my sub ins and outs that you might be thinking about as you read the post and I will tell you if I think they will work or why they won't:
- You don't have to use the same pasta as me. If you want to use spaghetti or your favourite type, then go for it.
- Elbow macaroni is a popular choice (the one that curls) more so than standard macaroni. It is also has slightly bigger sized pieces. So some of the sauce slips and slides into the tubes in a so yum kind of way 🥰😉.
- You have options other than bacon for the protein in the dish. You can use thick pieces of speck, thin and crispy prosciutto pieces, pancetta, tuna or left over chicken.
- Microwave then add frozen peas to the dish for an extra veggie and pops of bright green colour.
💡 Tasty Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks that I want to share with you so that you master the recipe from the get go:
- A non stick pan is the best option to use for the recipe. This cuts out a need for oil and allows us to use the bacon grease to cook the mushrooms.
- Have everything prepped and ready to go so that you can simply combine the ingredients as you cook and you won't have to be chopping mushrooms and draining pasta at the same time 👍😉.
- Store bought diced bacon will cut some time out of chopping your own as well.
- Ensure that the pan is off the stove or the element turned off when adding the egg mixture to reduce the chances of scrambling the eggs.
- Have some extra parmesan cheese on hand for serving.
- Use kitchen scissors and a glass jug to finely chop the parsley so that you can easily sprinkle it on when serving.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
What type of pasta is used in carbonara?
Spaghetti is the most common and popular type of pasta used in carbonara. You can however, use almost any pasta to make it. So try using fettucine, linguine, noodles or your favourite type of pasta.
What's the difference between carbonara and macaroni cheese?
Carbonara has a cheese and egg based sauce whereas macaroni cheese does not have egg in the pasta sauce.
What is the secret to making carbonara?
Not letting the eggs scramble is the secret to making carbonara pasta. Ensure that you have removed the pan from the stove before adding the egg mixture to master this trick.
😍 More Easy Pasta Recipes
If pasta is your scrumdiddlyumptious and you love how many diverse recipes you can make with it, I get you 😍🥰😉. Here are some more recipes that I know you are going to love (LOVE ❤):
- Baked Pasta Bolognese
- Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese
- Garlic Spaghetti
- Pesto Pasta with Sausage
- Instant Pot Chicken Spaghetti
- Burst Cherry Tomato Pasta
- Pork Mince Pasta
- Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese
You can also find all of my pasta recipes in the one spot and enjoy a variety of options that are perfect any night of the week. It is time to get our carbs on my friend 😂😉. You see what I did there...carbs...carbonara, same, same, hee hee 😉❤😘.
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- 1 Fry pan or saute pan or wok
- 1 Silicon flexible turner
- 1 Mini Whisk or Fork to whisk the eggs
- 1 Heatproof jug to collect the pasta water
- 1 Saucepan to cook the pasta
- 1 Colander to drain the pasta
- 1 Wooden spoon to stir and combine the sauce
- 1 Grater for the parmesan cheese
- 1 cup bacon diced or roughly chopped, Note 1
- 1 ½ cups mushrooms sliced in halfs, thirds
- 500 grams/16 oz dried macaroni Note 2
- 1 cup reserved pasta water also Note 2
- 4 eggs free range
- 1 cup parmesan cheese loosely packed
- cracked black pepper for serving
- parsley to garnish
- Cook the bacon: add the bacon to the fry pan, turn to medium heat and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Note 2
- Add the mushrooms: add the mushrooms to the bacon and fry for 2 - 3 mins. Note 3
- Whisk eggs: crack all 4 eggs into a jug and whisk. Add the grated parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Then set aside.
- Cook the pasta: read the instructions on the pasta packet and follow those to cook the macaroni Drain using a colander with a heatproof jug underneath to reserve the cooking water.
- Combine and make the sauce: turn the heat off and add the cooked macaroni to the pan with the bacon and mushrooms. Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta followed by ½ cup of the reserved pasta water. Stir to combine then add another ½ cup of this pasta water. Stir using a wooden spoon till the carbonara sauce is consistently mixed throughout the dish.
- Garnish: add some more grated cheese over the top of the macaroni. Liberally add some cracked black pepper. Sprinkle the chopped parsley of the top of the dish to finish.
- Serve and enjoy: portion into bowls and serve with forks.
- Note 1 - Bacon: store bought diced bacon is the most conveinent option. Or you can purchase rashers and use a knife and chopping board to prepare yourself.
- Note 2 - Macaroni: we need 1 cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce. So once the pasta is cooked, use a colander over a heatproof jug to collect this water for later use.
Another great looking dish. Hubby will love. Thanks.
Thanks Belinda, that is great to hear! Hope it goes down very well!