A skillet of pasta carbonara with leeks and lemon.

I know what you’re thinking: Pasta carbonara? The week after Thanksgiving? Thanks, but no thanks.

But, and forgive me if I’m wrong, I think you might be thinking of an entirely different dish, one containing vast amounts of cheese and butter?

I had misconceptions, too. But true pasta carbonara is in fact light, and this recipe, from Everyday Food, calls for sautéed leeks, grated lemon zest, and freshly squeezed lemon juice, flavors that make this carbonara preparation particularly fresh and light. What I love most about this dish is the sauce, made with two whisked eggs, 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, and 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano, an incredibly creamy mixture (despite containing no cream at all) that coats the pasta so well, making every bite especially tasty. Oddly, it tastes not the least bit eggy. Just creamy and delicious. Yum.

With bacon and eggs on hand, dinner can be assembled in a flash. I’ve made this dish once a week since my Everyday Food magazine arrived in mid-October. Nothing makes me happier than whisking that pasta cooking liquid with the eggs and cheese, watching it transform into a magically flavorful sauce, and throwing dinner on the table. I think you’ll enjoy it, too.

PS: Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus

PPS: No-Bacon Carbonara with ALL the Greens

How to Make Pasta Carbonara, Step by Step

First, slice up some leeks. Transfer them to a large bowl of cold water to soak and to let the dirt settle — leeks can be very dirty.

Sliced leeks on a cutting board.

Then, dice up some bacon and …

Bacon diced on a cutting board.

… crisp it up in a pan.

Diced bacon in a skillet.

Set it aside; then cook the leeks in the bacon fat.

Sautéed leeks in a skillet on the stovetop.

Boil a pot of water; then cook whatever pasta you like till al dente.

A pot of water boiling with pasta in it aside a skillet of sautéed leeks.

I’ve been loving this Casarecce:

Casarecce pasta box.

This is the key step: be sure to reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid. You only need 1/4 cup initially, but I suggest reserving much more because it’s so nice having on hand for reheating.

A Pyrex measure holding pasta cooking liquid.

Whisk together the sauce: 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 cup parmesan, and 1/4 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid.

The sauce for the pasta carbonara in a bowl: eggs, lemon, parmesan, and pasta cooking liquid.

Drain the pasta.

A colander in the sink holding just-cooked pasta.

Add it to the skillet with the leeks, the crisped bacon, and the sauce.

A skillet on the stovetop with leeks, lemon, bacon, and parmesan.

Chop up some parsley.

Chopped parsley on a board.

Add it to the skillet and stir to combine.

A skillet of pasta carbonara with leeks and lemon on the stovetop.
A skillet of pasta carbonara with leeks and lemon.

Shave more parmesan and crack more pepper over top to taste.

A plate of pasta carbonara showered with parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.

Soooo good.

A plate of pasta carbonara with leeks and lemon on a plate.
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A plate of pasta carbonara with leeks and lemon on a plate.

Pasta Carbonara — Easiest Weeknight Dinner

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Adapted from: Everyday Food

Note: If you want to make this vegetarian, use 3 tablespoons of olive oil in place of the bacon. 


  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 6 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces or 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 leeks (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, soaked in cold water and drained
  • 3/4 pound pasta, such as campanelle, orecchiette, or gemelli 
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving 
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped 
  • 1 pound of asparagus, finely chopped (optional)


  1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil (I use 1 tablespoon kosher salt).
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons fat from skillet. (Alternatively use 3 tablespoons of olive oil in place of the bacon.) Add the leeks, season lightly with salt to taste, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until leeks are soft and beginning to brown at the edges, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add pasta to pot and cook al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1 to 2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Whisk 1/4 cup pasta water into egg mixture.
  4. If using the asparagus, add it to the pot of pasta, then drain the pot immediately. Add the pasta and asparagus to the skillet with the leeks and immediately add the egg mixture, along with the bacon, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add more pasta cooking as needed. Serve immediately with more parmesan and pepper on the side.  
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian, American