Pasta Sausage Limoncello CARBONARA

An addictively popular pasta CARBONARA meets with extended pairings
A shot of my homemade LIMONCELLO was also added for an especially unique dish.

After several attempts and many returning, satisfied guests...
this one pasta dish I'll be sharing might just sway you away from the classic ‘Carbonara‘.

Since I've been asked for my recipe several times...
I've finally decided to write it down and share it with you.

Although the touted 'Bucatini alla Carbonara' has been enjoyed by many...
I, as usual, had to tinker with this classic Roman pasta specialty dish.  
Yes, I've made this recipe with the originally asked for 'Guanciale' pork cheek. 
I've also used the popular and usually added Italian pancetta.
 On occasion, when stuck in a bind, I also integrated some Turkey bacon. 

I get the feeling that the legendary 'Carbonari', the Charcoalmen's secret society involved with the unification of Italy would be rolled over with shock at my twisting around their namesake pasta dish.

Oh my...
I can only imagine the 'Carbonara die-hards' thinking how terribly I've strayed from this culinary staple.

Well, fortunately, my DNA has pre-disposed me to not following anything perfectly...
even a classic and exceptionally loved pasta dish.

First off, I've never really fancied 'Bucatini pasta'...it always felt too fastidious to twirl around my fork.
Quite honestly, my delicate manners are usually nowhere to be observed with this awkwardness  ;o)   
Losing my patience during this experience, especially when I'm really hungry, is not unusual ;o)  I'll make this recipe either with 'Spaghetti' or my favourite choice of 'Linguine' pasta

Secondly, the 'Guanciale' [pork’s jowl (cheek)] is fairly difficult to come by and premium 'pancetta', although a great choice, is also not always readily available.  So, what's my favourite?  Well, after having tried many alternatives, I've held my ground on artisanal Italian mild sausage.  
Yes, any of your favourite Italian sausages will do.  Also, go ahead and replace it with your favourite bacon or even tender smoked ham if you wish.  Remember, this dish is very forgiving, especially if you always stick to the principles of excellent tasting products...you can never fail.

Also, just because I really appreciated the addition of 'crimini' mushrooms...
I decided to leave them as part of this re-vamped recipe.  
If you try this version...I'm sure you'll adopt it too.

The addition of a lemony liquor such as my homemade (only 40% proof) Limoncello ...
was the height of my experimentation with this type of ‘Carbonara’ pasta. 
The evaporated alcohol left just enough of its sweet essence and rendered this dish extra special. 

At some point through the many versions I've developed from this classic...cooking (15%) cream got added and it stuck with this recipe.  Shamefully, I also once used a combination of milk and arrowroot to be rewarded with a very surprising result.  This also had the extra bonus of offering a much lightened version of the 'Carbonara'.   Lately, I've also discovered a dairy-free and soy-free Nut cream alternative that would probably do very well in this dish also.   More on this new discovery at a later date.

What you cannot avoid is the selected premium Italian hard cheeses such as the 'Parmegiano Reggiano' and/or the 'Pecorino Romano'.  The eggs which bind the whole pasta dish together can't be altered either.  It is what makes this dish so respectful to its origins after all.  You see, I don't tamper with everything...I do keep some standards ;o)

Pasta Sausage Limoncello CARBONARA
serves 4

Click HERE for a PRINTER version

(American / Metric measures)

. 3 Tbsps. (45ml) e.v.Olive oil
. 4 Tbsps. (60ml) unsalted butter
. 1 large, sweet onion, thinly sliced
. 1 big garlic clove, minced
. 12 small (~350g) crimini mushrooms, sliced
. 2 large, mild Italian sausages, uncased
. 1/4 cup (60ml) Limoncello liquor*
. 1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) sea salt
. dried Herbs:  1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) each: marjoram, basil
. 1/2 cup (125ml) cooking 15% cream - (or evaporated milk)
. 2 xLarge eggs, beaten
. 1 cup (80g) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, packed (reserve some for garnish) 
. 1 lemon, finely zested (optional garnish)
. 1 lb. (450g) Linguini pasta
. 1 tsp. (5ml) sea salt (for pasta water)

Limoncello alternative:
This very fine liquor can be acceptably substituted with either a sweet white wine or also a fortified 'Sherry' cooking wine.  It would be a slight stretch, however, the 'Galliano' liquor as well as 'Strega' can also be used with satisfactory results.  Note: For info on making an easy and alcohol-lowered homemade Limoncello...please refer to this post.


1. In a large, deep pan, add the oil and butter to be slightly heated on MEDIUM-HIGH.  Add the sliced onion and caramelize before adding the chopped garlic and shortly after, the mushrooms.  Cook them well until lightly browned.
2. Meanwhile, prepare a large pot of salted water on HIGH heat in order to soon cook the pasta.
3. Also, during this time, prepare a medium bowl with whisked eggs, and most of the grated cheese. Some of the reserved cheese will be used for the garnish.
4. Once the onion-mushroom mix is browned, take most of it out of the pan and into a separate bowl. Set aside.
5. Add the sausages and slowly break up the meat as it's cooking.
6. Now, is the time to start the cooking of the pasta until it reaches the 'al dente' stage.
7. Once the sausage seems cooked, add back the onion-mushroom mix into the pan. Wait a few minutes, add the liquor and give it a stir as it de-glazes the pan.
8. Add the salt, dried herbs and finally the cream. Cook until a light rising boil surfaces and then lower the heat to MEDIUM.
9. Strain the pasta and remember to reserve 3/4 cup (175ml) of cooking water to lengthen the sauce.
10. Add the pasta to the mix and toss thoroughly while adding the reserved pasta water.
11. Turn the heat off and immediately pour the egg-cheese mix over the pasta and mix quickly.  Cover the pan for 2 minutes so that the flavours can properly blend together. 
. Serve hot with reserved grated cheese with a sprinkle of (optional) lemon zest and/or a touch of fresh parsley.   Buon appetito.

This pasta dish turns out special every time.
This is when I realize that swaying from ‘classic’ dishes is not only alright...
but it’s sometimes necessary to please our ongoing exigent palates ;o)

Let me know if you have a chance to stick to my recipe or decide to go ‘rogue’ on me too.

Have a fabulous and productive week everyone.

Flavourful wishes,

Comments or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at: foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com

Go HERE for more SAVOURY creations.

Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)

. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later. 

Here are some other related recipes that may be of interest:
- Pasta Miss ALFREDO with no cream