Back when I worked at an Italian restaurant, I’d often get home late at night after a long shift feeling exhausted, but starving. Pasta carbonara was always the perfect solution: affordable, super satisfying, and easy to make. All these years later, it’s is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.
This particular recipe kicks classic pasta carbonara’s cozy factor up a few notches, replacing pasta with pillowy-soft gnocchi dumplings! Between the light and airy gnocchi and the creamy-dreamy carbonara sauce, it’s one of the most comforting dishes you can make. The fact that it comes together in 20 minutes or less is just a fun bonus!
If you’ve never made carbonara before, trust that you’re in very good hands here. This gnocchi carbonara is a quick adaptation of my Tried and True Pasta Carbonara, a recipe I developed using some of the tips and tricks I picked up during my restaurant days. A few secrets – like using egg yolks and tempering the sauce off the heat – help make it especially foolproof.
Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for a lot more detail on all of the hows and whys of this recipe. It’s quickly become one of my favorite “lazy girl dinners,” and I think you’ll love it as much as we do. ♡ Happy cooking!
- 16 ounces potato gnocchi (see Recipe Notes)
- 4 ounces diced pancetta (see Recipe Notes)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup finely grated pecorino romano
- ¼ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- optional: 1 lemon, zested
- for serving, as desired: additional grated cheese, finely chopped fresh chives, extra virgin olive oil, etc.
- Prep: Before you begin cooking anything, take a moment to read this entire recipe start-to-finish. Carbonara is a time-sensitive dish that comes together quickly once all the components are ready – it’s helpful to already have a sense of the process once you begin cooking. From there, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously season the water with salt. Next, take a few minutes to get everything measured, chopped, and prepped according to the Ingredients List, above: separate the eggs, finely chop the garlic, measure the cheeses, and gather all remaining ingredients. Set aside, within an arm’s reach of the stove for easy, enjoyable cooking.
- Render the pancetta: Add diced pancetta to a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the pancetta becomes golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped garlic. Cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, for 1 minute more, until the garlic is slightly softened and very fragrant – your kitchen will smell like heaven! Important: Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Prep the carbonara sauce egg mixture: Meanwhile, as pancetta renders, prep the carbonara sauce egg mixture. Add egg yolks, pecorino and parmesan to a large mixing bowl. Generously season with freshly cracked black pepper. Whisk to combine. The mixture will be thick. Set aside. [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="47609,47611"]
- Boil the gnocchi: Once the pancetta is rendered and the egg mixture is whisked together, cook the gnocchi. Remove the gnocchi from its packaging, using your hands to break apart the individual pieces as needed. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the gnocchi float to the top of the pot. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy water, then drain the gnocchi. (Learn more! ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)
- Toss the gnocchi carbonara: Transfer the cooked gnocchi to the skillet with the rendered pancetta and garlic. While whisking constantly, pour about ¼ cup of the reserved starchy water into the prepared carbonara sauce egg mixture. The hot water should loosen the egg mixture up quite a bit and begin to melt the cheeses. Transfer the egg mixture to the skillet with the gnocchi, tossing well to combine. Return the skillet to medium-low heat. Continue to stir and toss, adding additional starchy water little by little, until the gnocchi carbonara sauce is glossy and coats the dumplings well. Finish the pasta carbonara by tossing in the lemon zest, if using. Remove from the heat. [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="47618,47620"]
- Serve: Divide the gnocchi carbonara into two of your favorite pasta bowls. Top with extra grated cheese, finely chopped chives, ground black pepper, and a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Jess’ Tips and Tricks:
- Gnocchi: Feel free to use your favorite store-bought gnocchi or prepare a batch of homemade gnocchi for an extra-special treat. My favorite packaged gnocchi comes from DeLallo. Theirs is made in Italy with over 85% potato and it has a really beautiful light, airy texture. Choose between their classic Potato Gnocchi, Mini Potato Gnocchi (pictured – so cute! 🥰), or Gluten-Free Gnocchi – all are delicious!
- Pancetta is cured, unsmoked Italian bacon. Widely available at most conventional grocery stores, you can typically find pancetta already diced up in an individual container near the cured meats and bacon, or cut-to-order at the deli counter. Feel free to swap it out with regular bacon if that’s what you can find easily – thick, center-cut bacon works best for this recipe.
- Make it your own! While completely untraditional, given the richness of the egg yolk carbonara sauce and the heartiness of gnocchi, it can be nice to toss in a handful of finely chopped fresh herbs or leafy greens (e.g. parsley, basil, arugula). As always, have fun with it and make it your own!
- Storage and Reheating: Gnocchi carbonara is best enjoyed fresh, immediately once it’s prepared. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Reheat on the stovetop in a skillet over low heat, adding an extra splash of water or cooking stock to loosen up the carbonara sauce as needed, until warmed through.
Keywords: easy pasta recipes, easy pasta dinners, easy carbonara recipe