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.
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
- 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.
- First, whisk the egg and cheese together. Let stand at room temp while you cook the pasta and pancetta.
- 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.
- Stir the pasta, shrimp, meat and sauce together quickly at the end and serve right away.
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.
Parmesan cheese is a good substitute. Choose a high quality version, ideally Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.
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.
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
- Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta
- Salmon Piccata (less than 30 minutes!)
- Easy Shrimp Fra Diavolo
- The Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- Baked Italian Meatballs
- Bucatini Carbonara
- Mushroom Carbonara
- Browse All Italian Recipes
How to make Shrimp Carbonara
Whisk eggs and Pecorino Romano cheese together in a medium bowl and leave at room temperature.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- Guanciale is traditional for this recipe, but can be challenging to find. Pancetta or bacon stand in nicely.