Giada De Laurentiis' Secret Weapon Ingredient For Stunning Carbonara

The queen of Italian-American cooking and the Emmy award-winning host of "Everyday Italian," Giada De Laurentiis has plenty to say about carbonara. While a simple spaghetti carbonara recipe uses pancetta as the meat and a traditional Italian recipe may use guanciale, a cured pork, De Laurentiis combines bacon and pancetta to give her dish a unique salty kick. But she ups the ante even more with a secret ingredient — cinnamon. She adds a dash of the unique spice for a greater depth of flavor after browning the meat. 

"The cinnamon adds a little bit of sweetness and a lot of warmth because as the fat renders out of it, it sort of absorbs the cinnamon into the pancetta and the bacon," De Laurentiis explained to Food & Wine. If cinnamon sounds like a novel ingredient when paired with these meats, it might be in a typical American carbonara recipe, but the combination may be more recognizable in the U.S. with sugar in dishes like candied bacon. Sugar may be out of place in carbonara, but the cinnamon is right at home. You'll get just a little sweetness, but not so much that it overpowers all the savory elements of the dish.

How to make a decadent carbonara with cinnamon

If you're looking to add cinnamon to your carbonara at home, it couldn't be easier to do so. To follow De Laurentiis' cinnamon-pancetta carbonara recipe, first start by frying your bacon and pancetta together on the stove, per Food Network. Right before they get fully crisp, go in with a hit of cinnamon, then keep cooking until done. To complement the slightly added sweetness from the cinnamon, De Laurentiis also veers off from a classic recipe by using whipping cream.

While her more traditional version of carbonara incorporates whole eggs, separated yolks, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and pasta water to create a silky carbonara sauce, her cinnamon-based recipe mixes whipping cream, parmesan cheese, and egg yolks. The key here is to cool the meat (so you don't end up scrambling the eggs in a hot pan), then whisk in all the sauce's ingredients. Finally, add the pasta and top with chives for a little freshness. If you want to experiment with this recipe, try adding in nutmeg instead of cinnamon for a slightly nuttier and spicier taste. Or, substitute the meat for turkey bacon and the whipping cream for half-and-half for lighter pasta.