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Shrimp Carbonara is an elegant main course that is sure to impress your guests, but easy enough to make anytime. It’s a seafood lovers riff on the classic Italian pasta dish, made in just 30 minutes with 6 simple ingredients.

Shrimp Carbonara served in a white bowl.

Pasta dishes like this, that are at once simple and extraordinary, call for high-quality ingredients and careful attention to easy, but precise cooking techniques. Cook mindfully, splurge on the best ingredients you can afford, and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts and expense with a restaurant quality dish every time.

Ingredients You Need to Make Shrimp Carbonara

Shrimp Carbonara Ingredients on a white marble board.
  • Eggs: large or extra large eggs
  • Pecorino Romano: or parmesan cheese
  • Olive Oil: good quality, extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pancetta: or guanciale or bacon
  • Shrimp: Ideally medium shrimp for the best flavor, but large shrimp work well too.
  • Bucatini: or spaghetti or other long, slender pasta
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Tried-and-True Carbonara Method

The perfect carbonara is piping hot and coats the noodles like a velvet blanket. To keep the sauce from clumping or curdling, remember these 3 key steps.

  1. First, whisk the egg and cheese together. Let stand at room temp while you cook the pasta and pancetta.
  2. Before adding the egg mixture to the pasta, whisk in a little bit of hot pasta cooking water to temper the eggs and prevent them from curdling.
  3. Stir the pasta, shrimp, meat and sauce together quickly at the end and serve right away.
Shrimp Carbonara served in a white bowl and photographed from the top..

FAQ

Do I have to use bucatini pasta?

No, there are plenty of alternatives if you can’t find bucatini pasta, such as: spaghetti, linguine, or fettuccine. Use any long, slender pasta you like.

What can I substitute for Pecorino Romano?

Parmesan cheese is a good substitute. Choose a high quality version, ideally Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.

What can I use instead of pancetta?

Bacon will work just fine here, but it will add a layer of smoky flavor (pancetta is not smoked). And if you can find guanciale, it’s the most traditional cured pork for this dish.

Is there cream in carbonara?

Cream isn’t a component of traditional carbonara sauce. Eggs can take on a creamy texture, similar to the process of crafting a delicate aioli. When the eggs are tempered correctly they won’t scramble, but instead bind to the cheese and starchy pasta water creating a smooth, velvety textured sauce. 

More Delicious Italian Recipes to Try

How to make Shrimp Carbonara

Whisk eggs and Pecorino Romano cheese together in a medium bowl and leave at room temperature.

raw eggs and pecorino romano whisked together in a bowl.

Cook the pancetta in sizzling olive oil, in a large, heavy pot over medium heat until the fat begins to render and the edges are starting to crisp. In the last few minutes, add shrimp and cook until just cooked through then remove from heat.

Cook pasta until al dente (according to package directions). Scoop out 1 cup of cooking water, then drain and immediately add to shrimp and pancetta in pot; set over and stir until shrimp and pancetta are heated through, then remove from heat.

Temper the egg mixture by whisking in a scant quarter cup of hot pasta water. Pour tempered egg mixture over pasta and shrimp mixture in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Keep stirring until well combined, adding more pasta water if you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve right away, garnished with more cheese.

Recipe Video

Shrimp Carbonara

5 from 5 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 16 minutes
Total: 26 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 670
Servings: 4 people
Completing prep ahead of time and quick work in the last few steps are the keys to creamy, delectable carbonara.

Ingredients  

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta or guanciale or bacon (recipe note),
  • 1 pound medium shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 12 ounces bucatini or spaghetti
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and Pecorino Romano; set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat. Add pancetta; cook and stir until the fat begins to render and the edges are just starting to crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Add shrimp; cook and stir until shrimp is just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Meanwhile, cook bucatini according to package directions until al dente (firm to the bite). Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta in a colander and transfer immediately to pancetta and shrimp in pot. Set pot over low heat; cook and stir 1-2 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk a scant quarter cup of hot pasta water into the egg and cheese mixture to temper eggs. Pour tempered egg mixture over pasta mixture in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until well combined, adding more pasta water as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately, garnished with more Pecorino Romano if desired.

Notes

  1. Guanciale is traditional for this recipe, but can be challenging to find. Pancetta or bacon stand in nicely.

Nutrition

Calories: 670kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 356mg | Sodium: 551mg | Potassium: 609mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 272IU | Calcium: 264mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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18 Comments

  1. Sonia says:

    5 stars
    I made this and added garlic to the shrimp and pancetta, it turned out amazingly.

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      That’s wonderful, Sonia! So glad you enjoyed this.

  2. Lisa says:

    5 stars
    I made this for our Valentine’s Dinner last night after I found freshly made bucatini nests at a local Italian market. Wow! The shrimp was perfectly cooked, the sauce was velvety and rich and the pops of pancetta added just the right salty, porky pop! A winner for sure and definitely saving this!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      aww, I love this, Lisa! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. And lucky you to come across fresh bucatini!

  3. Pauline says:

    5 stars
    This is actually my first time commenting on a recipe… because this is THAT good! Easy to follow and absolutely delicious. Also the portion sizes were perfect!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Pauline, you made my day! So glad you enjoyed this.

  4. Janice Shaul says:

    This looks amazing! I need to make it at home and take to my daughter’s house for her birthday. Will it be good warmed up?

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Hi Janice! Honestly, though you can reheat carbonara it’s a dish that’s best served freshly made. For a special birthday dinner, I recommend making a pasta dish that lends itself better to reheating. This decadent Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta would be a good option (see the post for specific reheating instructions). I hope that helps!