Chicken alla Carbonara

by Cat,  Oct 2007 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)



See also Brining ChickenPreparing Chicken or Other Cutlets;   Classic Carbonara (with Pancetta or Guanciale)Vegetarian Carbonara

You can find more  of my chicken cutlet recipes, as well as links to cutlet recipes on other sites, on the Poultry & Fowl Main Course Menu, under Chicken Cutlets.

Carbonara is a rich, creamy sauce that clings to pasta and tastes divine. It originated in Italy where it is typically made with olive oil, garlic, eggs, cheese, and pancetta (Italian bacon). Pancetta is made from the same cut of meat as bacon, but the resemblance ends there. The flavor is distinctly Italian. See Classic Carbonara (with Pancetta or Guanciale) for an authentic recipe.

In America, we typically add cream and use meats such as ham, turkey or chicken instead of pancetta. Or, we make it vegetarian (but not vegan) by omitting the meat and adding mushrooms, nuts or onions. But to be truly authentic, no cream is used; only eggs, oil and cheese make up the ‘creamy’ sauce. (Pancetta or guanciale, both from pork, is the meat).

I provide two variations:

  • Variation 1 includes chicken as cutlets, with more egg and no cream in the sauce (although the recommended amount of cream is suggested, should you wish to add it.
  • Variation 2 includes both pancetta and chicken, with the latter as shredded leftover chicken. it also includes walnuts and cream, with less egg.

Many people are daunted by making this dish because if not done right, the sauce turns into scrambled eggs instead of a creamy sauce. But really, it’s not hard as long as you follow directions. Keys to success:

  • Eggs should be at room temperature before stirring in the cheese and adding to the sauce;
  • The pan should be hot, but off-flame when adding the eggs. Let the hot pasta thicken the eggs, rather than the heat of the pan.
  • This is done by adding egg/cheese mixture to pasta in the pan, rather than onto the bottom of the pan; then, using 2 wooden spoons, lift the pasta to allow the sauce to coat all sides and thicken. Let the pasta fall back into the pan and lift again. Repeat until all the pasta is coated with the thick sauce.


The best pasta for Carbonara is spaghetti, bucatini or linguine. Fettucine can be used in a pinch, but the skinnier the better – and the more sauce it can hold. Tubular pastas (like macaroni or penne) do not work well with carbonara. (Linguine photo, left, from Wikimedia Commons).

Chicken Carbonara Version 1

This is a delicious American version of the Italian dish. It is based on my Vegetarian Chicken Carbonara recipe (adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two, by Anna Thomas (1)), with chicken added. If you wish to make it more saucy, add a cup of cream to the egg/cheese mixture.

In addition to the chicken, you can add diced or sliced mushrooms (such as chanterelles, crimini or morels), to the onion saute.

Serves 2 – 3


  • 2 chicken breast halves, prepared as cutlets or diced, and dusted with flour
  • 3 medium-sized eggs (free range)
  • 1/4 lb parmesan, finely grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • any chicken-friendly herbs, such as basil or parsley (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Unrefined Sea Salt, to taste (less if you brine the chicken)
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti (or other thin pasta)


  • medium bowl
  • cast iron skillet
  • large saucepan
  • colander
  • two wooden spoons


  1. Brine chicken breast meat, slice on diagonal, 1/2″ thick as for cutlets; dice if desired, then dust with flour/starch. Set aside.
  2. Beat eggs until fairly smooth, then stir in grated cheese. The mixture should have the consistency of a soft paste.
  3. Peel, quarter and slice the onions, or chop very coarsely. Mince garlic.
  4. Heat olive oil in skillet; add onions and chicken, and saute over medium-high heat until they begin to turn golden brown. Add garlic and mix well.
  5. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in vigorously boiling water until just barely al dente. If onions are done before spaghetti is ready, remove skillet from heat until about a minute before the spaghettis will be drained, then quickly reheat.
  6. Drain spaghetti thoroughly in a colander. Remove onions from heat and add spaghetti to the hot skillet. Pour egg/cheese mixture over spaghetti (not directly into skillet). Mix together quickly by lifting pasta with two wooden spoons, for about 1 minute. The heat of the pasta, onions and skillet will thicken the eggs and melt the cheese, and the pasta will be thoroughly coated. If eggs are still runny after about a minute of lifting, just continue process until the right consistency is reached.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve immediately.

Chicken Carbonara Version 2

This recipe is adapted from The Food Network (recipe by Giada De Laurentis (2)); Serves 3 – 4. I’ve not yet tried this version. It is considered ‘not authentic’ because the sauce includes cream. However, I like the addition of walnuts.


  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • fresh lemon
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 oz thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 2 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken (leftovers)
  • 2 or more cloves garlic (enough to make 1 tsp or more, minced)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 4 oz parmesan, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 large egg yolks (or 2 whole eggs & 1 yolk)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 6 – 8 oz spaghetti or linguini
  • Unrefined Sea Salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • medium bowl
  • cast iron skillet
  • large pot
  • 2 wooden spoons (for tossing)


  1. Chop walnuts, then toast in a hot skillet or in oven until fragrant.
  2. Grate zest of lemon, about 2 tsp (save lemon juice for another use).
  3. Chop herbs together and set aside.
  4. Shred chicken and set aside.
  5. Mince garlic and chop pancetta.
  6. Whisk together the cream, cheese, eggs and herbs, to blend.
  7. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and garlic and saute until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes.  Add chicken and warm, stirring to combine. Remove from heat but keep warm until pasta is drained.
  8. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling water over high heat until almost al dente. Drain well in colander. If chicken mixture has cooled too much, warm again over medium-low heat.
  9. Add pasta to skillet; pour cream mixture over pasta. Quickly toss until the sauce coats the pasta thickly, about 4 minutes; be careful not to boil, or the eggs will scramble.  Reduce heat or remove from heat if necessary.
  10. Season to taste (careful with the salt, as pancetta is quite salty), and serve, sprinkling walnuts and lemon zest over each serving.

Assembly or Serving Ideas, Both Versions

  1. Serve with a salad of greens, ripe tomato slices, and a light vinaigrette
  2. A side of brined olives is a great accompaniment.



  1. The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two, by Anna Thomas
  2. The Food Network:



About Cat

See my 'About' page
This entry was posted in Dairy, Eggs, Fat or oil, Herbs, Nuts and seeds, Onion family, Pasta, Pork, Poultry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply