This easy, creamy Italian Tortellini Carbonara combines cheese-filled tortellini with a silky carbonara sauce, crispy bacon, peas and Pecorino Romano cheese.
This dish is absolutely decadent. The tortellini adds an extra element of richness to an already delicious dish. I’m always looking for a different way to serve tortellini and it’s a no-brainer that it would make a good carbonara.
You can make the tortellini yourself if you’re feeling extra creative. It’s not too difficult, though it is a bit more time-consuming than buying it pre-made. I usually just buy fresh or dried tortellini, because it’s easier. I like Giovanni Rana fresh tortellini. You can use any brand you like, and it can be the larger tortellini or smaller tortellini.
The sauce is an authentic Italian carbonara with eggs and Pecorino Romano cheese.
What You Need
I’ve bent the rules myself a little bit in this recipe, because I’ve used bacon instead of guanciale (it’s just too difficult to source for many people) and I’ve added peas because I like the addition of veggies in the dish. If you can find guanciale, you should definitely use it in place of the bacon. And you can obviously leave the peas out if you want.
With that being said, here are the ingredients you’ll need for your gnocchi carbonara:
- Tortellini – I suggest Rana Signature Cheese-Lovers Tortellini. Just keep in mind that not all tortellini is “good”. There are a lot of brands that are not great, so if you aren’t sure which to get, maybe do a taste test of a few before you decide. Cheese-filled is the way to go for this recipe, because a meat-filled version will compete with the flavors.
- Guanciale or bacon – Guanciale is a pork product which comes from the jowl or cheek of the pig. As I’ve mentioned already guanciale is a bit difficult to find in the states, so you might need to substitute with lardons or bacon.
- Peas – Just to add some freshness and veggies to the dish. You can leave them out if you wish.
- Pecorino Romano – Production of Pecorino Romano is allowed only on the islands of Sardinia, Lazio, and in the Tuscan Province of Grosseto. It’s a hard, salty sheep’s milk cheese. If you can’t find it, you can use Parmesan instead.
- Eggs – You do use raw eggs in this recipe. It cooks slowly and lightly so that it forms a sort of creamy sauce, rather than a scrambled egg.
- Salt & Pepper
How to Make Tortellini Carbonara
Step 1: Boil the pasta
Set a pot of water on the stove to get it boiling.
When the water comes to a boil, turn it down to get a slow bowl and add the tortellini to the pot. Let it cook on a light boil for about 5-7 minutes, until they start to float on the top of the water. This will take longer for dried pasta – about 10 minutes.
Drain the pasta, but keep some of the cooking water.
Step 2: Sauté the guanciale
In the meantime, heat a frying pan over medium high heat and saute the guanciale (or bacon) until browned.
Step 3: Make the Sauce
In a bowl, mix the egg, egg yolk, and cheese until fully incorporated.
Step 4: Mix the pasta and sauce
Place the cooked tortellini gently into the frying pan with the guanciale and add the peas. Toss to incorporate it all.
Remove the pan from the heat and count to 10. You want the pan to cool down slightly, so you don’t cook the egg when you add it.
After 10 seconds, add the egg mixture to the pan. Toss a few times to coat. Then add 1-2 tablespoons of the hot pasta water to the pan to loosen up the sauce. Toss a few more times. You want the egg to cook, but it doesn’t need to go back on the heat. This will take about 3 minutes. If the sauce starts to seize up and get firm, add a bit more pasta water.
Step 5: Serve
Serve the tortellini right away while it’s still warm and creamy. Grate some additional fresh Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese over the top.
What is Authentic Carbonara?
In Italy, carbonara is a typical pasta dish that contains guanciale, Pecorino Romano, eggs, and pepper. If you order spaghetti alla carbonara in Italy, this is how it will be served. In the U.S., we tend to bend the rules quite a bit and the result is something that doesn’t necessarily resemble carbonara.
The hardest part about making an authentic carbonara sauce is cooking the eggs right. Because you’re adding raw eggs to a hot pan, if you don’t do it just right the eggs will begin to resemble scrambled eggs. But there are some tricks to this.
Why Use Tortellini in This Recipe?
The most typical way you will see a carbonara is Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Spaghetti is a great choice for this sauce because it’s so long and slim, with so much surface area for the sauce to hold on to. That’s why I love substituting tortellini.
The tortellini offers a perfect surface for the sauce to sink into the folds of the pasta. The flavors also go really well with the cheese-filled pasta.
How Do I Keep From Scrambling the Egg?
It’s a fine line between making a nice smooth, creamy sauce with the egg in this recipe, or making it a bit too hot and scrambling it. No one wants a scrambled egg carbonara.
To keep from cooking the egg to much, our two best tips are to remove the pan from the heat then count to 10 before adding the egg sauce. Stir it constantly with a spatula until the sauce is incorporated into the dish. Then add some hot gnocchi cooking water to the pan and stir again to loosen the sauce.
How to Store and Reheat
I’m going to be honest here, this dish doesn’t reheat well. You can save it in a container for 3-4 days and it will make a good leftovers when served cold.
It can be reheated in the microwave, but the sauce won’t rehydrate, so the dish might be a bit dry. The best way to deal with that is to add a little bit of cream or milk while reheating and stir often.
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Italian Tortellini Carbonara
- 10 ounces (283.5 g) fresh tortellini for dried, see notes
- 3 ounces (85.05 g) guanciale chopped (or bacon pieces)
- 1/4 cup (36.25 g) fresh peas
- 1 egg whole
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup (50 g) Pecorino Romano cheese grated
- Salt & ground black pepper to taste
- Heat a pot of boiling water over high heat. When boiling, lower heat slightly and boil the tortellini just until it floats, about 5-7 minutes (10-12 minutes if cooking from dried or frozen). Drain (reserving a little bit of the pasta water) and set aside.
- In a frying pan over medium high heat, saute the guanciale until browned, then add the peas.
- In a bowl, mix the egg, egg yolk, and cheese until fully incorporated.
- Place the cooked tortellini gently into the frying pan with the guanciale and peas.
- Remove from heat and add the egg mixture to the pan. Toss a few times to coat. Then add 1-2 tablespoons of the pasta water to the pan to loosen up the sauce. Toss a few more times. Then serve with additional cheese grated on top.
- Fresh tortellini is best, but if you use dried, boil the pasta for 10-12 minutes.
A typical serving size per person is about 10 pieces.
- It can be reheated in the microwave, but the sauce won’t rehydrate, so the dish might be a bit dry. The best way to deal with that is to add a little bit of cream or milk while reheating and stir often.
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Laura is a home cook, with 25 years experience behind the stove, who spends an extraordinary amount of time in the kitchen cooking. She loves making new recipes and finding wonderful new things to eat, both at home or abroad. She spends a lot of time researching, crafting, and perfecting her recipes and currently has a cookbook in development.