Alfredo vs. Carbonara – What’s The Difference?

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Alfredo and Carbonara are both primo pasta foods, which means they are served in the first course. While these sauces have gained a lot more recognition in the past years, there are still many misconceptions and vague ideas about both of them. And today, we will try to get to the root of things and clarify a few things for you (hopefully). 

Both Alfredo and Carbonara are quite simple to make and are usually made beside the table in most restaurants. People assume that Alfredo is a mainstream sauce in the US, but the Italians have no such idea. They simply call it Fettucine Alfredo. 

If you were to go to a restaurant in Italy and ask for the Alfredo sauce, you would be disappointed, and the waiter will be baffled. We know that sounds weird but, all of this will make more sense once you have gone through the whole article. So, let’s get into it.


Alfredo is perhaps one of the most popular words that come to mind whenever pasta is mentioned. This association is created through years of indulgence in the rich, creamy, and buttery Alfredo that we love to the core.

There is still some debate over how, when, or who came up with this awesome way of making pasta. Some believe that it is an American interpretation of Italian cuisine. At the same time, others believe that it was created by the Roman chef who lived in the early 1900s and made this delicacy to comfort her wife during her pregnancy.

According to a survey published by the Statista research department, it was revealed that a total of 718 million units of Italian sauce were sold in the US in 2015 alone. So, it is safe to say that the Americans love Italian sauces.

What Kind of Pasta Should You Use with Alfredo?

The most common pasta used worldwide is Fettucine. In fact, in Italy, there is no such thing as Alfredo sauce; people call it Fettucine al burro (Fettucine with butter). This difference is present because of the simplicity of this velvety sauce.

You have to cook butter in a saucepan, along with cream (if you prefer the more modern way of making it) and then serve with freshly cooked Fettucine Pasta. Or you can use this sauce with almost every kind of pasta you may have in your kitchen.


Fettuccine al burro is usually preferred without meat. But this is just the classic, traditional way of making Alfredo. Chicken breast is most commonly used, but some prefer to use ground beef with a lot of spices.

As tasty as it sounds, this technique just modifies the sauce to the extent that it can no longer be called pasta. Furthermore, it messes up the smooth flavor of Alfredo that we want. So, it would be better if you stick with chicken breast or just plain Alfredo with Fettucine.


You can make Alfredo sauce easily with simple ingredients. Some people prefer to buy it from a grocery store, but we assure you that making it at home will save you money and prevent you from consuming unnecessary preservatives and chemicals that brands usually use.  

Steps to Follow

  • The first step is to take a saucepan, add butter and heavy cream (If you prefer that) and bring it to a boil. When you see bubbles forming, immediately lower the heat and stir.
  • In the meantime, you can cook the pasta, and if your timing is right, both the sauce and pasta will be done simultaneously.
  • The next step is to add grated parmesan cheese to the butter mixture. 
  • Now toss the pasta in the sauce, mix and serve immediately.
  • Don’t forget to add salt and pepper according to your taste.
  • Some people usually prefer to add parsley and parmesan as a final touch. 


Carbonara is a classic, traditional recipe. According to a survey, Carbonera was the 2nd most popular food in Italy among millennials. Another survey revealed that Carbonara was among the most eaten comfort food in France in 2018. So, it seems people really like Carbonara; let’s find out why.

Carbonara has ambiguous origins. It first appeared in the cookbook “Cucina teorico pratica” in 1839. There was no origin or background story given in the book (as it was a cookbook), but people over the years have come up with various theories about where the Carbonara came from.

The most famous theory is that Carbonara was made by coal workers who had limited ingredients and had to come up with something. The term Carbonara means charcoal seller or burner, hence the theory.  

Carbonara is a creamy sauce with a velvety texture, but no cream is added. But that’s just the traditional way of making it. The ingredients required to make Carbonara sauce are eggs, cheese (Pecorino), cured pork, and a large serving of black pepper.

What Kind of Pasta Should You Use with Carbonara?

The most common and traditional way of using Carbonara is with spaghetti. It is believed that the coal miners or burners didn’t have the resources to use egg pasta as it is more expensive. So, to honor the tradition, it is best to use spaghetti with Carbonara, but you can still use other flour-based pasta.


Simple bacon is the most famous type of meat used in Carbonara recipes. But to make the dish a little fancier, chefs usually use Pancetta (Pork belly, cured not smoked) to make the sauce taste simple and clean. But the traditional way is to use Guanciale (cured pork neck and cheek) as the meat.

Guanciale is more popular in Italy and the Italian cuisine while it’s still emerging as something new in the Us and North America. So, it might be hard to find, and you may have to stick with bacon or pancetta.

So What’s the Difference Between Alfredo and Carbonera?

  • The key ingredients used in Alfredo are butter, parmesan, and cream (in America).
  • The Key Ingredients used in Carbonara are Eggs, parmesan, guanciale or other cured meat.
  • Alfredo has a creamy buttery flavor while Carbonara has a rich salty flavor
  • Cooking time for Alfredo is 15 minutes, for Carbonara it’s 30 minutes.
  • The type of pasta used with Alfredo is Fettucine and with Carbonara it’s spaghetti.