I like to refer to this gouda spaghetti carbonara as adult mac ‘n cheese. Yes, it’s basically aged gouda mac and cheese, but better. Silky, creamy, cozy and full of flavor, this is mac and cheese for adults!

In keeping with the classic carbonara process, this spaghetti carbonara recipe uses whole-wheat spaghetti, Parmesan, eggs, aged gouda, pancetta and loads of cracked black pepper. Flavor, flavor, flavor!

What is spaghetti alla carbonara?

Spaghetti alla carbonara is a traditional Italian pasta dish featuring a creamy sauce made of eggs, Parmesan, cream, and bits of bacon. Occasionally, you’ll also find recipes featuring green peas as well. By and large, Carbonara is all about the process.

For my version I’ve lightened it up—but just enough to make it healthy-ish. 🙂 You’d never be able to tell it’s a bit better for you!

For this recipe I use whole-wheat spaghetti (like we do in our Clam Pasta), I skip the cream, and use olive oil instead of butter for cooking the pancetta. These are each small changes, but they do make a nutritional difference!

whole wheat spaghetti, eggs, cheese, olive oil, diced pancetta, salt and pepper arranged on a counter

How to make spaghetti carbonara

Like I said, carbonara is all about process. It’s a simple process, but it is important to follow top to bottom, switching up the steps won’t work for this recipe!

  1. Combine the cheese, eggs, yolks, and pepper; set aside.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Spaghetti on standby.
  3. Cook spaghetti 1 minutes less than package directions specify.
  4. Reserve 2 cups pasta cooking water. Do not forget this step! I repeat, reserve pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the pancetta in some oil in a large sauté pan (12-inch at least) until golden brown and starting to crisp.
  6. Add hot pasta to the pan with pancetta and toss lightly to coat.
  7. Whisk some of the reserved pasta water into the cheese and egg mixture, then add the mixture to the pan with pasta and pancetta.
  8. Toss the pasta and sauce gently but continuously until sauce is thickened and silky. Add reserved pasta water by ¼ cup increments to reach desired consistency. You may add quite a bit of the reserved cooking water and that’s OK!

What is pancetta?

Pancetta is often referred to as “Italian bacon,” it’s cured with salt and spices but, unlike traditional bacon, it’s not smoked. Coming from the belly of a hog, pancetta is flavorful, salty and fatty.

Guanciale (cured pork jowl) is very common in carbonara, dare I say a bit more traditional than pancetta. But either can work here, as would bacon.

Overhead image of carbonara in a white bowl

What cheese to use

Classic carbonara uses Parmesan and/or Pecorino Romano. I do use a bit of Parmesan for this recipe, but aged gouda certainly takes center stage. And although it’s not traditional, the aged Gouda adds richness, creaminess, and even a note of nuttiness—making this carbonara so damn good!

Like things smoky? Try smoked Gouda instead of aged gouda and you’ll basically have yourself smoked gouda mac!

If you’re a traditionalist, simply swap the Gouda out for Parmesan or Pecorino. Or check out this traditional Italian recipe for Carbonara.

Variations on this carbonara recipe

  • Use a different pasta shape: bucatini, rigatoni, linguine, etc. Use whatever you have on hand!
  • Make it smoky: use bacon and smoked Gouda.
  • Freshen it up: add some petite green peas to the mix (stir in right at the end).
  • Bulk it up: add some cooked ground turkey or mild Italian sausage.
  • Make it a full-meal: add some cooked chicken or shrimp.

What to Serve with Carbonara

Fill out the menu with any one of these delicious and fresh side dishes.

Overhead image of carbonara in a white bowl

More Pasta Recipes to Try

Aged Gouda Spaghetti alla Carbonara

5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Yield 5 servings
Category Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Author Lauren Grant


This incredibly flavorful and healthy-ish carbonara is made with whole-wheat spaghetti, aged Gouda, Parmesan, and pancetta. A cozy, comforting dish perfect for date night in or cold winter nights! 


  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 ounces shredded aged Gouda about ¾ cup
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano about ¼ cup
  • Black pepper & kosher salt
  • 12 ounces dry whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta guanciale, or slab bacon diced


  • In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and yolks until smooth, whisk in aged Gouda, Parmesan, and 7 turns of black pepper.
    egg, shredded cheese and black pepper in a brown bowl
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil; season liberally with salt (about 2 tablespoons). Add spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the package directions, stirring often to prevent sticking. Reserve 2 cups pasta water then drain.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium, add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden-brown and just starting to crisp, about 5 minutes; reduce heat to low. 
    cubes of pancetta cooking in a skillet
  • Slowly whisk ¼ cup reserved pasta water into cheese and egg mixture. 
    egg, shredded cheese and black pepper in a brown bowl
  • Immediately after draining pasta, add hot pasta to pan with pancetta and briefly toss with tongs.
    spaghetti in a skillet with cooked pancetta
  • Add egg mixture, tossing continuously (gently to avoid breaking the noodles), until pasta is well coated, about 3 minutes; add additional reserved pasta cooking water by ¼ cup to reach desired creamy consistency (you may end up using quite a bit of the reserved cooking water and that’s OK).
    egg and shredded cheese mixture getting poured into a skillet full of spaghetti
  • Serve carbonara hot, sprinkled with additional black pepper to taste.
    carbonara in a skillet with tongs


It’s important to serve carbonara immediately after making it! 
For a traditional carbonara, use Parmesan or Pecorino instead of Gouda. 


Serving: 1/5 of recipeCalories: 504kcalCarbohydrates: 50gProtein: 24gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 197mgSodium: 750mgFiber: 6gSugar: 2.5g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
Overhead image of carbonara in a white bowl

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This recipe and article were originally published on September 17, 2020.

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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