This article was updated on the 8th of August 2023 for clarity and to improve text readability.
If you’re wondering what to serve with your carbonara, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I list 39 of the most popular side dishes for carbonara.
In a rush? Here’s the short answer.
The best side dishes to serve with carbonara are bruschetta, scallops, sauteed mushrooms, and parmesan crisps. Try sauteed spinach, stuffed tomatoes, or grilled zucchini for healthier options. You can also serve Caesar salad, roasted salmon, Mediterranean chicken, focaccia, or cauliflower bites.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
Bread and toppings
Carbonara is already filling on its own, but a side of bread and some toppings are guaranteed to take it up a notch. Garlic bread is the go-to, but I like going the extra mile and baking crispy focaccia.
And when it comes to toppings, you can’t go wrong with sauteed mushrooms for an umami kick.
Keep things simple and delicious with a plate of bruschetta. It’s a classic Italian appetizer that works with any pasta dish – and carbonara is no exception.
Pro-tip: I like to make the tomato topping ahead of time. Letting it soak for a couple of hours makes it even more delicious.
Easy Weeknight Recipes adds garlic to this tasty dish to amp up the flavors.
These delicate parmesan crisps will look oh-so-pretty on top of your carbonara. They’re elegant and add a delicious flair to your pasta dish, making it dinner party-ready.
And the best part? Making them is a breeze. All you need to do is mix some parmesan, flour, and a handful of fresh herbs to get started.
Pro-tip: the key is to use good-quality parmesan cheese, so don’t hesitate to splurge on it.
Mushrooms are like sponges — they’ll soak up any flavors you introduce.
In this recipe, The Kitchen Magpie uses a classic blend of garlic, butter, and balsamic to flavor the mushrooms. These additions infuse the mushrooms with a bold, savory flavor and a hint of sweet-tangy kick. YUM.
But if you’re looking to make these healthier (you’re serving it with a creamy carbonara after all), you can skip the butter and use olive oil for sauteing instead.
Psst… drizzle some of the sauce over the carbonara before you serve it for an extra boost of flavor.
Garlic bread is good, but focaccia is on another level. It’s crispy and herby on the outside with a light and airy crumb that makes it satisfying to munch on.
And it’s the perfect bread to soak up any remaining creamy carbonara sauce on your plate.
I keep the flavoring relatively plain when I’m serving the focaccia with carbonara, but you can jazz it up with various toppings. Sun-dried tomatoes are a popular addition, but you can also try olives, caramelized onions, or eggplant.
These homemade pickled jalapenos are an excellent addition to your carbonara.
They have a delightful tangy flavor with a hint of spice that helps balance out the rich and creamy sauce. Plus the green color will look great against it.
Just a heads up, though — the jalapenos’ heat mellows out the longer they sit in the fridge.
Carbonara is a versatile starchy dish, and you can pair it with any protein. Chicken is a popular option, but you can also go with seafood like scallops or shrimp for a lighter alternative.
Make your classic carbonara even fancier by preparing a handful of scallops. These juicy morsels will add the fresh flavor of the ocean to your carbonara.
Never cooked scallops before? Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. The key is to not leave them unattended because they only need a few minutes to cook. Any longer and they’ll turn rubbery.
These scallops are great with just a dash of salt if you want to keep them simple. But Wholesome Yum also provides a recipe for homemade garlic herb butter that’ll make them even tastier.
Grilled Mediterranean chicken
Creamy pasta and delicious grilled chicken — who can say no to that? This classic combination will be a guaranteed hit among your dinner party guests.
I like to make a Mediterranean-style marinade for my grilled chicken when I serve it with carbonara. It’s a fresh, light flavor that pairs well with the richness and creaminess of the pasta dish.
Roasted salmon is an excellent dish to serve with carbonara as a light protein. It’s quick and easy, plus you don’t have to stand over your stovetop and babysit the fish because the oven does the cooking.
I like roasting my salmon with lemon, butter, and seasonal herbs like thyme to add a bright, fresh flavor that complements the creaminess of my carbonara.
Pro-tip: flake the salmon and mix it into your carbonara for a one-pot dish.
Vegetables and salad
A plate of carbonara is loaded with carbs, so offsetting the richness with some veggies or a fresh salad is an excellent idea.
You can never go wrong with a classic Caesar. But if you want something warm, try grilled zucchini or a crispy baked eggplant.
Classic carbonara is hearty on its own — it’s just missing a veggie component, and that’s where Caesar salad comes in.
It’s easy to whip up and has a bright, garlicky flavor that pairs nicely with the creaminess of the carbonara.
Foodie Crush’s version includes homemade croutons and dressing, although you can cheat and go with ready-made versions if you’re in a rush.
Grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook zucchini. I know it’s extra work, but the added smoky flavor you get is simply irresistible and pairs nicely with a creamy dish like carbonara.
I usually season them with just a dash of salt and pepper, but you can follow Damn Delicious’s lead and drizzle the grilled slices with garlic oil instead for an extra flavor boost.
If you have kids or picky eaters who refuse to eat cauliflower, this dish has a good chance of changing their minds.
Thanks to the panko and parmesan, these cauliflower bites have delightful crispy exteriors that hide their true form.
And you won’t even need a dipping sauce when you serve them with carbonara. You can simply dip these cauliflower bites in the creamy sauce.
Psst… this recipe uses an air fryer, but you can also bake your cauliflower bites if you don’t have one.
Spinach goes well in a rich, creamy sauce, that’s why it’s a no-brainer to have it as a side dish for carbonara. It has a subtle bitterness that helps balance the richness of your pasta dish.
It’s also chock-full of nutrients that you need for a completely healthy meal, plus it’s a breeze to make. All you need is spinach, garlic, and olive oil, and less than 10 minutes to whip this veggie side dish.
These stuffed tomatoes are filled with gooey cheese and herbs that will remind you of a Margherita pizza, just without the crust (and the guilt).
I like to use mozzarella and basil for these stuffed tomatoes, but you can get creative and come up with any cheese and herb combo you can think of.
These stuffed tomatoes are usually baked, but you can also grill them if you want an extra dose of smoky goodness.
What To Serve With Carbonara [39 Ideas]
- 1 portion parmesan crisps
- 1 portion pickled jalapenos
- 1 portion grilled Mediterranean salmon
- 1 portion wilted spinach
- 1 portion roast salmon
- 1 portion stuffed tomatoes … and more
- Prepare your carbonara according to your favorite recipe.
- In the meantime, choose one of the following sides to serve alongside it.
- Side dishes include: bruschetta, caesar salad, pan-seared scallops, parmesan crisps, grilled zucchini, grilled Mediterranean chicken, sauteed mushrooms, cauliflower bites, wilted spinach, stuffed tomatoes, focaccia, vegetable spiral tart, and roasted salmon.
- Serve immediately and enjoy.