Family meals: ‘Carbonara is a weekly life-saver in our busy home’

Carbonara takes only 25 minutes so is the ideal weekday meal

Cooking a meal from scratch can seem like such a daunting task. Our busy lives are mixed with work, school runs and after-school activities, all topped off with a mountain of homework. The mere thought of cooking from scratch among all of this can put even the most organised parents’ heads in a spin, draining what little energy we have left every evening.

First there are the ingredients to source, then the meal to prep, and this is before you actually even turn the oven on. Not forgetting the major clean-up operation when everyone has finished. However, when you strip it back and call it simply “cooking” (drop the “from scratch”) it sounds more doable already. The benefits of a home-cooked family meal totally outweigh the negative.

In modern day Ireland, where children are becoming less active, more consumed with screen time and childhood obesity is rising, it's a misfortune that our lack of time could be the deciding factor when it comes to not home cooking. Cementing our decision could be the memory of our mothers slaving over a hot stove that has us reaching for the frozen pizza.

Nevertheless, it does not have to be like that. The Irish palette has changed dramatically over the years. Our kids are more adventurous now when it comes to taste and we have a world of cuisine at our fingertips in our local supermarket. Pasta, rice and noodle dishes are huge family hits and are so quick and handy when it comes to meeting our daily helping of carbohydrates. We are no longer as reliant on the humble spud or “meat and two veg”.


It’s all about finding the right dishes that work with your daily routine and putting the ingredients on the weekly shopping list. Quick, healthy, nutritious recipes that take about 40 minutes to prepare and cook, from kitchen press to dinner plate, can be our saving grace. I haven’t met a parent yet who doesn’t want to feed their family well.

The key is to find an easy way that works for you amid the daily mayhem .


Carbonara is a weekly life-saver in our busy home. My version is very close to the original Italian dish. It doesn’t contain cream or oil; the oil released from the pancetta is just enough to flavour the recipe, making it all the more healthy. This family favourite can be made in 25 minutes flat, rivalling any restaurant for quality and taste.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves 4
400g spaghetti
2 eggs
3 garlic cloves, crushed
200g smoked pancetta
40g Parmesan cheese, grated
100g cheddar cheese, grated
A bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to season

You will need a large saucepan, a large mixing bowl and a frying pan.

Boil the pasta in the saucepan according to packet instructions.

In the large mixing bowl whisk the 2 eggs together.

Add in the grated Parmesan and cheddar cheeses, and the chopped parsley, keeping a little of the Parmesan cheese aside to sprinkle on top when serving.

Into the frying pan add the crushed garlic and smoked pancetta, and cook until it is sizzling beautifully.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and add it to the bowl containing the egg, cheeses and parsley mix. It is important to add the pasta to the egg and not the other way around.

Toss in the cooked pancetta and garlic, and season with a little salt and pepper.

The heat of the pasta will cook the egg, so you need to mix it only for a few minutes before it is ready to serve.

Top with the leftover Parmesan cheese.

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Carbonara is a weekly life-saver in our busy home

- Jolene Cox has a blog at