Recipe: The Pope’s Fettuccine | Fettuccine alla papalina

Before I knew about Papalina-style noodles, I thought Carbonara was the bees knees. But it turns out that Papalina is the richer version of carbonara. It uses cream, Parmesan, and prosciutto instead of the pancetta or guanciale (pig jowl) from in carbonara.

One peppery bite in, and mac and cheese is a bland, happily forgotten memory.

Let me be clear. My translation of the Italian is not entirely accurate.

Papalina means skullcap, not pope. But I dubbed this recipe the Pope’s Fettuccine because it was literally created for Pope Pius XII in the late 1930’s.

And guess what he wore?

A skullcap.

Pope Pius XII in 1924, photo from the German Federal Archives.

Pope Pius XII in 1924, photo from the German Federal Archives.

Anyway, there are many versions of how the recipe was invented. The most common, is that the pope wanted to enjoy a very typical Roman meal. The chef in charge decided that carbonara was very Roman… but he decided that he wanted to make a special version, just for the pope.

So Papalina was born.

Beautiful, peppery papalina.


It makes for a fancy but easy dinner party meal.

It truly is the grown-up mac and cheese.

Tip: If the pancetta is too pricey, don’t let that stop you from the spirit of this dish. Use some ham instead, which makes it much more of a weeknight, budget-friendly dish.

Serves 4-6


3 Tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
4 ounces prosciutto, diced
3 eggs
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 cups parmesan reggiano

1 lb cooked fettuccine noodles
fresh cracked blacked pepper, as desired, but preferably a lot.


Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese. Set the mixture aside.

(Tip: use the best quality cheese you can afford: it will melt better and make for a creamier pasta dish).

Boil your noodles, drain, and toss them with a bit of oil or butter to keep them from sticking.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, fry the onion in butter until totally soft. Typically, the onion in this pasta dish doesn’t take on color. Be sure to adjust the heat lower so that the onion doesn’t take on color as it cooks.

Add in the proscuitto and heat it for a few moments until fragrant. 

Toss hot, drained noodles and turn off the heat.

Dump the egg mixture onto the hot noodles and toss thoroughly with fresh cracked pepper (or you can let your guests add their own).

As you stir the ingredients together, the eggs will thicken and the cheese will melt, all thanks to the residual heat of the pasta.

Be sure to add a lot of pepper. That’s half the fun of papalina.

There’s not much better in life than creamy, cheesy noodles with salty prosciutto, and plenty of fresh cracked pepper.

And that’s the truth.



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  1. So what’s happening here is that the only way the whisked eggs get cooked is after being “dumped” and then sitting in the hot noodles – for ….how long?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      They cook almost immediately, as you stir. The heat thickens them and the cheese melts. It keeps them from scrambling over heat.

    • aunty eileen says:

      haha… when I saw that word “dumped” it stopped me and I said to self… that doesn’t sound like a word Sasha would write…. didn’t sound flowing or graceful, etc. And then I couldn’t stop laughing thinking of that word “dumped”. Then I tried to think of another to describe…. and I couldn’t / still can’t think of another word…. I am still laughing when I think of how she incorporated that word into her description……….

  2. We make Spaghetti alla Carbonara all of the time and it’s a huge favorite in our house and we will definitely trying this!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Nice! Like I said to Stephanie below, take a picture and share it on our FB or Twitter with #globaltable. I love seeing pictures of people with their global table meals :)

  3. I love Spaghetti Carbonara too…I always make it with bacon though. I have 3 or 4 (very similiar but just a little different) recipes & they all call for bacon.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Ah yes, bacon is another good substitute, though it would take longer to cook (the prosciutto really just needs warmed). But we’re talking all of a 3 minutes difference!

  4. Stephanie says:

    This sounds delicious. I think I’ll try making it tonight!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Awesome! If you get a chance, share a picture on our Facebook page or Twitter with #globaltable :) I’m trying to get pictures of people with their global table meals to show on the site at some point!

      • Stephanie says:

        Will do! Leaving for the grocery store now to pick up more parmesan and cream. So excited. I’m sure my two girls (4 and 18 months) will actually eat this!

  5. aunty eileen says:

    This dish sounds great. I love recipes with only just enough salt and lots or sometimes less ground pepper. Eggs along with the dry cheese used in this recipe, makes this a high in protein meal. I would prefer a bit of bacon for the crunch (maybe)…. I would also include the onion and probably ad a few al dante cooked vegetables (lightly steamed or stir fried) such as very small pieces of tips of asparagus, and carrot, peas or whatever I would have on hand. It looks a bit dry, could I add more liquid/cream or use a light cream? But, I will take your word it is delicious as is, so for me It would be best to try your recipe first before playing around with it.

  6. aunty eileen says:

    this linc will help explain why this ‘mac & cheese’ recipe is healthier than typical ‘mac & cheese’ recipe: “Highest Protein Content (“cheese with a low moisture content tends to…”)” and “Lowest Carb Content (“The longer a cheese is aged, the lower its carbohydrate content will be…)”

    • aunty eileen says:

      I don’t know anything about the linc in the linc above. It looks to be a site trying to sell things. for those that may not realize, if not knowing the linc, then always copy and paste the linc into your search browser and do not click on lincs or answer questions on lincs you do not know.

  7. You did really well with these recipes, I would have no idea where even to start looking for recipes from the Vatican City.

  8. Hi! I’m an italian guy and I was looking for an english version of this recipe to show to an american friend of mine.
    First of all ty to have translated the recipe so english speaking people can cook and enjoy this wonderful dish.
    Still about translation I want to say that your translation of Fettuccine alla Papalina with Pope’s Fettuccine is correct.
    Papalina is not only the cap but also an adjective,and it means “of the Pope” or “of the Popes”
    In fact in Italy with “Roma papalina” we mean Rome of the Popes,the period when Rome was the reign of the Popes,after the fall of the Roman Empire and before the Risorgimento,the unification of Italy.


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