fettucine alfredo

When my sister and I were in high school, we had what we thought was a very special way of making fettucine alfredo. We’d start with a store-bought jar of alfredo sauce (our first bad move), add gobs of shredded mozzerella, and liberally shake on garlic salt. The resulting sauce was gloppy, stringy, and very salty and garlicky, if my memory serves me correctly. We used to rave about it to our friends and whip some up for them when we had sleepovers.

Since then, I like to think that my palate (among other things), has matured considerably. When I did a bit of traveling around Italy, one of the first things I noticed about the food was that Italians use significantly less sauce on their pasta than Americans do when we try to make Italian food. This fettucine alfredo recipe is truly Italian, and is thus not gloppy, stringy, or garlicky in any way at all. The predominant flavor comes from a quality parmigiano cheese, freshly grated. If you’ve never made alfredo from scratch, it is totally worth giving a try, as it is not complicated at all. It takes less than 30 minutes to throw together, and is so much lighter and fresher than the sauce you get in a jar. With a big green salad, crusty bread (recipe forthcoming), and a glass of white wine, it makes a wonderful summer dinner. 

Fettucine Alfredo

The only really labor-intensive part of this recipe is grating the cheese, and even then if you work quickly you can have the sauce ready to go by the time the pasta has finished cooking. The original recipe recommends freshly-made fettucine with this; I haven’t yet dove into making my own pasta (though I’m sure it’s only a matter of time), so I can say that dried fettucine works perfectly well. The only change I’ve made here is to increase the amount of cheese, as I felt the flavor wasn’t prominent enough the first time I made it. Proper parmigiano-reggiano is made only in a certain region of Italy, and is a protected designation of origin food (meaning that similar products made elsewhere must be called something else). I’ve never had problems finding it at standard grocery stores. Other cheeses called parmesan are made in a somewhat similar way, but aren’t quite as flavorful. I’ve used both kinds with success for this recipe, so what you use can depend upon how serious you are about good cheeses (I am pretty serious myself). But I wouldn’t recommend that pre-grated stuff that comes in a jar for this (or any other) recipe!

Serves 4

1 lb. fettucine (fresh or dried)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus extra at the table
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Whole nutmeg, for grating

Boil pasta until al dente according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, combine cream and butter in a saucepan. Heat just long enough for the butter to melt, then turn off.

After the pasta has finished cooking and you have drained it, add it to the saucepan with the cream and butter, and turn on the heat to low. Toss the pasta in the cream until it is thoroughly coated. Add the 1 cup grated cheese, salt and pepper, and a little freshly grated nutmeg (less than 1/8 of a teaspoon, or it will be too strong). Toss again until the cheese is thoroughly incorporated. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary, and you are ready to serve. Provide additional grated cheese at the table for sprinkling over the pasta.

Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

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2 Comments on “fettucine alfredo”

  1. My girlfriend would love this, apart from the fact it has a lot of cream :P. I wonder would it work with single cream or creme friache?

    • I haven’t tried it with single cream (or “light” cream, as it’s called over here in the States), but I think that might work-the flavor comes from the cheese, so that shouldn’t be affected by using a lighter cream. I’d be interested to hear about the results though! Creme fraiche, on the other hand, can have as much fat (or close to as much) as heavy cream, so that might not solve the problem. My usual approach to meals with lots of cream is to eat smallish portions, follow with a large salad, and hope for the best :).


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