Gnocchi a la Carbonera - Italian Sauce Recipe

Carbonara is amazingly easy to make! It is so creamy and decadent I didn't realize how simple it is. It's basically egg yolk, cream and parmesan cheese. That's it. Traditionally it has a type of cured pork in it, but I could see altering it easily in many ways.  

This dish was inspired by Closet Cooking's Butternut Squash Carbonara.  I fussed with the ratios some and I changed the spices.  I made two attempts at this recipe and I definitely learned from the first round.  My second try was much better.  Or maybe my attitude improved and so did the flavor?  The first round I made yesterday, I spent all afternoon making the gnocchi to go with it, so when I got to making the sauce I was kind of fed-up.  Plus my result just isn't as pretty as Kevin's.  I don't think he ever tossed the sauce with the bacon, squash and pasta.  (Mental note for future food photos.)  Carbonara sauce won't win any pretty awards, but it is delicious. 

Round two was lunch today.  I used less bacon and a lot more squash.  The flavors seem more balanced salty-sweet and the gnocchi to butternut squash ratio is much improved. 

I would definitely make this recipe again. I might even make the sauce and serve it just over butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. I'm thinking that would be very yummy.

There is the matter of the raw egg yolk.  The yolk is added after the sauce is off the heat.  This is where the dreamy creamy texture comes from, but with raw eggs comes the possibility of salmonella.

While I'm not worried about serving uncooked egg to my family, I would worry about serving it to guests or at a restaurant.  There are several solutions for this.  There are irradiated eggs out there that you could use that would greatly reduce the chance of salmonella.  It is also possible to flash boil/blanch the egg. Salmonella is only found on the shell of the egg.  So if you bring a pot of water to a rolling boil then drop your eggs in for 60 seconds pull them out and then use them you will reduce the chance of salmonella.  

The fresher the egg the less likely it is to have dangerous levels of salmonella.   I have also read that fresh eggs from free range chickens are less likely than battery chickens to have salmonella.  "The study showed that 23.4 percent of farms with caged hens tested positive for salmonella compared to 4.4 per cent in organic flocks and 6.5 per cent in free-range flocks."  It's good to know your options.   I buy local organic eggs and feel safe using them to make my carbonara sauce.  Decide what is best for you. 

On to the recipe, I hope I didn't scare you off with all that salmonella talk. If you’re really worried, go the irradiated egg route just so you can try this sauce. It's quite rich; it's a special occasion dish in my cookbook. 

Bacon Butternut Squash Carbonara Sauce

3 slices locally produced bacon, cut into squares
4 cups squash, cubed
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 cayenne pepper, ground
Pepper to taste
2 egg yolks, organic free range
2 tablespoons hormone free half and half
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated

Step 1: Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta or gnocchi. When you drop the pasta or gnocchi into the boiling water start frying the bacon. Fry the bacon until crispy. Then remove it from the pan, but leave a little of the grease behind. (Tip - I use a metal colander with a Pyrex bowl underneath to drain the grease off my bacon so I don't have to waste the grease or paper towels. Bacon grease is excellent for flavoring beans or sautéing vegetables. Don't throw it away; it's good stuff!)

Step 2:  Sauté the butternut squash in the bacon fat. When the squash turns a darker color and is starting to brown add in the garlic. Continue cooking until the squash is fork tender. When the pasta is done strain it out, reserve at least a cup of the pasta water for making the sauce. Prepare a small dish with the parmesan and egg yolks mixed together.

Step 3:  Take the butternut squash off the heat. Add a couple tablespoons of the pasta water to the pan. When the pan has stopped sizzling (a minute or so) add the egg yolk and parmesan cheese. Mix then add the cream and the bacon. Add additional pasta water if the sauce is too thick. You want the sauce to pour slowly from a spoon.

Step 4: Toss the sauce with your pasta or gnocchi, plate and serve immediately.  There is no reheating of this dish.  If you stick it in the microwave or back on the stove you'll cook the egg yolk and lose the creamy texture.  (Trust me I know!  After I took the photos my gnocchi a la carbonara was cold so I put it in the microwave and wound up with gross cooked egg.  Very sad.  I ate it anyway.  I couldn't waste it.)


  1. You can't go wrong with those simple ingredients. So rich and delicious!

  2. Yummy! Thanks for such mouth watering recipe.
    Keep posting! I am looking forward for others.

  3. Foy - Love love love Carbonara. Though my enjoyment has been reserved to the Italian traditional style (at La Carbonara on Campo de' Fiori -Roma!) on Spaghetti or Penne, with no cream, just Parm, egg, pancetta, and pepper. Ranks right up there with arrabbiata, and the original Alfredo - It's not good for you, but it's amazing (no cream here either). Check it out! http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/The-Original-Fettuccine-Alfredo

  4. Look wonderful, beautiful pictures. I will have to give this a try.

  5. OK--I just tried this tonight with spaghetti squash instead of gnocchi. It was pretty darn good for a "almost" vegetarian meal (sans the bacon!) !!!!! (I also added some halved cherry tomatoes.)

  6. Bacon and butternut squash just sound like they should go together! I love carbonera as well, but I've never made it at home. Thank you for the inspiration! I'm eager to try this.

  7. What a lovely dish, with pictures good enough to eat. Nice idea to dress the gnocchi with a carbonara sauce.

  8. Anonymous10/16/2010

    Never thought to add gnocchi to cabanara... yours looks awesome!

  9. Since I learned to make real carbonara, it has become an occasional dish for me (as opposed to the days when the low-fat TV dinner version was almost a weekly affair). It is so decadently rich that a little goes a long way. I'm not a huge squash fan, but the idea of making it with gnocchi is very intriguing. Thanks for the post!

  10. I love carbonara, it's such a sinful and comforting food..and once you make it yourself it just seems as if no other carbonara will compare. I will admit I have always been scared to make gnocchi, the butternut squash version sounds too good to resist!

  11. Wow, love the idea Carbonara & Gnocchi.. officially on my to do list! Thanks Foy

  12. Anonymous10/19/2010

    This looks so, so good. Violin girl loves gnocchi. I just love saying it. Gnocchi...gnocchi...gnoc...
    Kaukab's daughter

  13. Anonymous1/11/2012

    I just tried making this, and it cooled way faster than I had wanted it to, But I suck at cooking.

    Where in this recipe does it call for the marjoram!?

    Anyways, it was fun to try, gave me something to do! thanks