The Cheat’s Carbonara

Gigi gives you her secret recipe for an exam-term carb-fest

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I’ve got carb loading on my mind courtesy of the London Marathon.

Disclaimer: I did not run a marathon. I just joined in the carb-fest. Gotta take one for the team, eh?

Exams are sort of like marathons – blood, sweat and tears; nerves on the big day; months of preparation. Well maybe not months of preparation, but definitely tears. I speak from experience.

In any case, and whatever your exam strategy, one thing is gospel. Brainpower requires carbs. Lots of them. I gift to you my Cheats Carbonara.

A traditional carbonara recipe requires eggs but I personally find that combining raw eggs with hot pasta can result in a kind of scrambled egg spaghetti if you don’t mix quickly and with skill. I’m not into that kind of stress. Hence the glories of cream.

It’s about as speedy as you can imagine. You simply fry your pancetta and mushrooms in garlicky goodness before pouring over cream and stirring in parmesan – all whilst waiting for your pasta to cook. I know it’s not exactly student budget, but I quite like to use fresh pasta. Mostly because it cooks faster and I get hungry. But it does taste noticeably more delicious too. You can sprinkle over chopped parsley if you’re feeling particularly fancy. If you’re health conscious, a side of tenderstem broccoli albeit scattered with obligatory Parmesan goes well. If not, I quite like eating this with garlic bread.

CC ingredients

Serves 2 VERY hungry students (or 4 normal portions)

Ingredients: 500g spaghetti (fresh or dried), 2 garlic cloves, tbsp. oil/butter, 150g pancetta (bacon will do), large handful of mushrooms, ½ cup of single cream, 3-4 handfuls grated Parmesan, black pepper


  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil ready for the spaghetti. Whilst it’s boiling, cube your pancetta/bacon and slice your mushrooms. I like to halve them again so they are bite size.
  2. Cook your spaghetti according to the packet instructions. While it cooks, crush your garlic and fry it in oil/butter until golden before adding the pancetta until crispy but not overdone. Then add in your mushrooms and fry for a further 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Drain your pasta, reserving a bit of the water in case you need to lubricate the sauce.
  4. Stir the cream into the pancetta mushroom mix before mixing in the Parmesan.
  5. Pour the creamy heaven back over your spaghetti and stir well. Grind over some black pepper and divide between bowls before joyfully scattering over more Parmesan. Dig in immediately: this is best eaten hot.