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  • Writer's picturePasta Grammar

Cream Cheese “Carbonara” Recipe

Okay, okay: of course this isn’t really a carbonara. But it looks like a carbonara. In a way, it looks more like a carbonara than a real carbonara. It’s like if a food stylist used tricks of the trade to create the platonic ideal of a carbonara’s appearance… but it also tastes delicious.

Cream Cheese “Carbonara” Recipe

Like carbonara, this pasta uses guanciale (cured pork jowl), pecorino cheese and black pepper. The eggs are replaced with cream cheese and the brilliant, yellow color comes from a pinch of delicious saffron.

Watch the Pasta Grammar video:


Makes: 2 servings

Cook Time: 20 minutes

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 3 ounces (85 g) guanciale or pancetta, chopped (if using pancetta, you’ll need 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil as well)

  • Salt

  • 5.5 ounces (155 g) spaghetti

  • 6 ounces (170 g) low-fat cream cheese (you can substitute with normal cream cheese, but will need to slightly increase the amount of water used in the sauce)

  • A pinch of saffron

  • 1 ounce (30 g) grated Pecorino Romano cheese, or to taste

  • Fresh black pepper

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Meanwhile, sauté the guanciale in a large pan over medium heat until browned and slightly crispy. If using pancetta, sauté in olive oil. Turn off the heat.

When the water comes to a rolling boil, salt it generously and add the spaghetti. Set a timer for 2 to 3 minutes less than the recommended “al dente” cook time.

While the pasta cooks, place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Dissolve the saffron in about ¼ cup of the pasta water and add this to the cream cheese. Stir together into a creamy sauce. Finish the cream cheese sauce by stirring in the pecorino cheese and plenty of black pepper.

When the pasta is ready, use tongs or a spaghetti fork to transfer it into the guanciale. Stir all together over medium/high heat, adding some pasta water as necessary to maintain moisture and a slight simmer in the pan, until the pasta is al dente to your taste.

Turn off the heat and stir in the cream cheese sauce. Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

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Carol Lawrence
Carol Lawrence
May 10

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Rosalind Russell
Rosalind Russell
May 11
Replying to

Gee, one might get the impression that "Carol Lawrence" is part of a Russian bot farm!


Ozzie Rohm
Ozzie Rohm
May 10

I tried your recipe for pasta with cream cheese and guanciale last night and loved it! The only problem was the guanciale I used, which was incredibly tough and chewy to the point that it wasn't edible. I used Maestri brand guanciale and noticed that while sauteeing it, some pieces became opaque like the way tendons do and I concluded that maybe this brand of guanciale had more tendons than fat. What say you? Is guanciale supposed to be tough like that? Can you recommend a brand that is good and not tough like tendon?

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