This shrimp and bacon pasta carbonara is an absolutely delicious, easy-to-make weeknight meal the whole family will love. Made with just a few simple ingredients, this dish comes together in less than 30 minutes, making it a perfect option for busy weeknights. And because it's so tasty, you'll definitely want to make extra so you can have leftovers for lunch the next day!
With this post, you'll learn how to easily make learn how to make your own restaurant quality carbonara right at home – even better than Olive Garden! Make this amazing recipe for dinner tonight – I know you'll love carbonara!
Pasta is a staple dish in our household, but it can get rather boring to have the plain old spaghetti sauce all the time. Making pasta carbonara is a great alternative to the usual tomato-based pasta dish.
Pasta carbonara has been compared to an alfredo pasta by some, but they are just a little bit different. Alfredo sauce is usually made with a cream base whereas carbonara uses a bit of reserved water from the pasta and a few beaten eggs.
The eggs used in the dish don't make it taste “eggy” – the eggs and starchy pasta water make the bacon, garlic and parmesan cheese stick perfectly to the pasta and shrimp.
In this version of the dish I used bacon strips and shrimp but it would also work really well with thinly sliced strips of chicken as well. Keep in mind that if you use chicken you'll need to cook it for a bit longer than the shrimp.
Next time you're running short on time and you need a quick meal try this recipe!
I hope you enjoy this recipe! ❤️ If you give it a try, please let me know how it turned out for you in the comments section at the bottom of the page or share a pic of your om noms on Instagram and tag @dishesanddustbunnies! ❤️
*This post has been updated from an earlier version to include new photos and a few tweaks to the original recipe to make it even more scrumptious!*
Why do they call it carbonara?
Carbonara is named after the Italian word for coal, because this dish was originally created by poor Italian coal miners. And what makes this dish so special is that it only requires a few ingredients that are easily accessible, yet it results in a truly unique and delicious flavor.
Is Carbonara the same as Alfredo?
What's the difference between Alfredo Sauce and Carbonara?
Carbonara is a different dish from Alfredo. Many people may confuse the two because they are both an Italian pasta dish served with parmesan cheese, and both have a light in color, creamy-white look to them. However, their taste, texture and ingredients are quite different.
Carbonara also has a more complex, saltier flavor as a result of the bacon (or pancetta), which is not found in Alfredo.
While both dishes feature pasta, carbonara typically uses spaghetti while Alfredo uses fettuccine.
Whereas Alfredo is a cream-based sauce, carbonara is an egg-based sauce. Carbonara does not use cream at all, the use of egg instead is what makes the texture and flavor different.
Alfredo sauce uses heavy cream as its primary ingredient, making it more moist and, well… creamier than carbonara. Carbonara tends to be a little less moist and makes the pasta more the star of the show, with egg, bacon and parmesan cheese sticking to the pasta. As opposed to Alfredo where the fettucine noodles are virtually smothered and covered in sauce.
What is carbonara sauce made of?
What ingredients are used to make carbonara?
Carbonara is made with eggs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, butter, pasta, a little salt, some reserved pasta water and crispy bacon. That's all there is to this simple yet totally unique pasta recipe!
Carbonara is traditionally made with pancetta, but we like to use bacon because it's more readily available. And let's be honest, everything is better with bacon! Flavor with salt and black pepper to taste.
How to make Shrimp and Bacon Pasta Carbonara – Overview
You can find the full recipe details, including ingredient amounts and the full instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but first, here's a quick overview of how to make homemade shrimp and bacon pasta carbonara!
In a large skillet over medium, combine the butter, olive oil and the minced garlic. Cook for a minute on medium heat to infuse the butter with the garlic flavor. Add shrimp peeled and deveined and cook until the shrimp turns pink on all sides. Depending on the size of your shrimp, cooking time should only take a few minutes.
Be sure to season with salt and pepper, to taste. Once shrimp has cooked remove from the pan and set aside in a dish. Make sure that you also add garlic infused butter into the bowl along with the shrimp too.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions, reserve some of the starchy pasta cooking water, and drain. Set aside until needed.
In the same skillet that you cooked the shrimp, cook bacon over medium heat until it's browned. Then, place on a paper towel lined plate to drain any excess grease and fat from the bacon. After removing the bacon from the pan, pour out any remaining grease and fat so that only clean oil remains in the pan.
Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the skillet, then gently toss with the beaten eggs so that the eggs are evenly coating the pasta. Do this as quickly as possible so that the eggs don't clump together. You want them to evenly coat the pasta – try to avoid creating “chunks” of egg – everything should be smooth.
Add the parmesan cheese and toss with the pasta. Return the reserved shrimp with garlic butter, and the bacon to the skillet.
Serve immediately and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
Why shouldn't you put cream in carbonara?
The creaminess in carbonara comes from stirring the eggs and parmesan cheese with reserved pasta water along with the spaghetti/pasta noodles. Adding cream on top of that would just make the sauce too heavy and too creamy. We like our carbonara light and flavorful.
Do you scramble eggs for carbonara?
The eggs should not be “scrambled” into a carbonara. It's important to avoid cooking your eggs in visible chunks.
Stir up your eggs in a small dish, making sure the yolk is combined with the whites of the eggs. Eggs should be gently combined with the pasta so it becomes more of a creamy sauce of egg rather than solidified pieces of egg. The eggs should be incorporated with pasta and reserve pasta water so it becomes a velvety smooth pasta sauce.
Does carbonara use whole eggs or just yolks?
Carbonara uses whole eggs, both the whites and the yolks. It won't give you the results you are looking for if you use only egg yolks.
Why do you put egg in carbonara?
Eggs play a key role in the carbonara. Eggs help to thicken and bind the sauce, making it rich and creamy. The signature creamy egg contrasts very nicely with the salty pork, and is the signature feature of carbonara. Additionally, the egg yolk adds an appealing golden color to the dish.
Are egg yolks raw in carbonara?
The key to a good carbonara is all in the eggs – specifically, getting the yolks just right. If you're wondering whether or not you can use raw egg yolk in carbonara, the answer is yes!
Raw egg yolks will give the sauce a silky, creamy texture. However, while the egg yolks start off raw, they will quickly cook as they are incorporated with the cooked pasta.
So the eggs will start off as raw, but will end up as cooked, so you don't have to worry about them being raw!
Shrimp Carbonara Recipe Variations
Technically this shrimp carbonara recipe is already a variation on the typical carbonara where the only meat is bacon (or pancetta) but I think this shrimp and bacon variation is the way to go, it's just as creamy and delicious as regular carbonara but with the added bonus of succulent seafood!
The bacon (or pancetta) is pretty much essential, so don't swap out the bacon but you could add some additional proteins such as ham, pork cheeks or seafood. Seafood that plays nicely in carbonara would be chunks of lobster, shellfish and the aforementioned shrimp – jumbo shrimp is great too! Chicken carbonara is also a delicious variation as bacon and chicken pair well together.
Adding some pine nuts would give an earthy crunch, giving some additional flavor and crunchy texture.
Parmesan is traditionally the cheese used but it can be swapped out for freshly grated pecorino romano. You can always add in more and more parmesan or pecorino romano to make the whole thing extra cheesy if you're feeling indulgent.
Instead of using spaghetti you can vary it up by using many types of pasta you may have on hand including the thicker bucatini pasta or fettucine.
For extra sweetness you can add some roasted red peppers, or for some extra spice you can sprinkle in some red pepper flakes.
Can I make shrimp carbonara ahead of time?
Shrimp carbonara is best made and served fresh, but leftovers are always delicious! It's so easy to make this recipe, you won't need to prep ahead, other than laying out your ingredients!
Leftovers – How to Store and Reheat.
How long is pasta carbonara good for? in the fridge, freezer.
Pasta carbonara leftovers should be stored in an airtight container. In the refrigerator, they will last for 3-4 days.
Frozen carbonara leftovers will last 2-6 months. Thaw overnight in a refrigerator before heating up. When reheating leftovers heat them until they are steaming hot.
What to Serve with Shrimp and Bacon Pasta Carbonara?
This salty, meaty, garlicky intensified pasta dish is so full of varied flavors that it doesn’t really need anything else to complement. It's truly a complete meal on its own! A simple green salad, would be lovely with carbonara.
Also don't forget to serve with a side of crispy garlic cheese bread!
Other Recipes You'll enjoy:
- 1 lb linguine pasta, cooked according to package directions and set aside
- ⅔ cup of reserved water from the cooked pasta
- 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste (just a little is good)
- 6 bacon strips, cut in 1″ sections
- ⅓ cup of grated parmesan cheese
- 2–3 eggs, beaten (I used 3 for the dish in the pictures but it's up to your preference)
- chopped fresh Parsley, for garnish
- In a large skillet or frying pan, combine the butter and the minced garlic. Cook for a minute on medium heat to infuse the butter with the garlic flavor. Add the peeled and deveined shrimp and cook until they are pink on all sides. Depending on the size of your shrimp, cooking time should only be a few minutes.
- Be sure to season with salt and a little pepper, to taste. Once shrimp has cooked remove from the pan and set aside in a dish. Make sure that you also pour the garlic infused butter into the bowl along with the shrimp too.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions, reserve some of the pasta water and drain. Set aside until needed.
- Cook the bacon over medium heat in the skillet until it's browned. Then, use a paper towel to blot up any excess grease and fat from the bacon. After removing the bacon from the pan, pour out any remaining grease and fat so that only clean oil remains in the pan.
- Add the pasta and reserved pasta water to the skillet, then gently toss with the beaten eggs so that the eggs are evenly coating the pasta. Do this as quickly as possible so that the eggs don't clump together. You want them to evenly coat the pasta – try to avoid creating “chunks” of egg – everything should be smooth.
- Add the parmesan cheese and toss it with the pasta. Return the reserved shrimp with garlic butter and the bacon to the skillet.
- Serve right away and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
- Cook Time: 30 mins