Fettuccine Alfredo

There are many myths that circulate throughout the culinary world, most of them concerning the origins of famous dishes.  However, the raw beginnings of Fettuccine Alfredo are rather well-known and accepted.

As the story goes, Alfredo first made the dish for his wife, who suffered from terrible nausea during a pregnancy (it is an old Italian custom to “eat white” when you don’t feel well). Further down the road in 1920, he made it for Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. They were so impressed that they presented Alfredo with a gift before they left Rome. Soon the newspapers caught on and ran the story, thus cementing Alfredo’s restaurant and the entrée that bears his name to the world.

I like to order Fettuccine Alfredo whenever I’m trying out a new restaurant. It’s such a simple entrée that if you ruin it, maybe you should get out of the restaurant business. Too often I’ve seen this dish destroyed by either complicating it with extra ingredients, or by foolishly misunderstanding it and using the wrong preparation method. I especially cringe whenever I see jarred “Alfredo Sauce” in the supermarket. Once you read this recipe and its true technique, you’ll realize that there is no such thing as Alfredo Sauce.

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Ingredients:

1 16oz. box of your favorite fettuccine (regular or spinach or mixed)

1 cup of heavy cream or milk or half n’ half * (your choice will impact the cooking time of the pasta)

*If your pasta cooks in 8 minutes, then remove after 7 minutes if you’re using heavy cream, 6 for half n’ half, and so on.

2 tablespoons of room-temperature butter

2 tablespoons of grated cheese

Cooking:

While the water for your pasta is heating, heat the butter and cream mixture in a skillet. Don’t boil it, just get it above room temperature.

Drop your pasta into salted boiling water. Usually dried pasta takes 6 – 8 minutes to cook, but we’re going to remove it early. The pasta will be somewhat flexible but too hard to eat, but that’s exactly where we want it at this point.

Place the pasta into the skillet with the butter and milk and turn up the heat one notch. The pasta will finish cooking by absorbing the water content from the milk / butter mixture. This also thickens the sauce. Just remember to keep flipping and tossing the pasta about twice per minute.

Plate it and sprinkle your favorite grated cheese on top.

Buon Apetito!

I hope now you see why you can’t get Alfredo sauce in a jar. It takes dried pasta to create it. That icky stuff in the jar is usually made (and I’ve seen restaurants do this as well) with a butter and flour roux as a thickener. That pasty flour taste just does not belong in there.

Another major error I’ve seen is the use of garlic. Some chefs mistakenly think that tossing garlic into a recipe makes it more authentically Italian. Wrong! There’s no place for garlic in a butter and cream sauce.

Are you ever going to use “Alfredo Sauce” from a jar again?

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12 thoughts on “Fettuccine Alfredo

  1. Thanks for the excellent post! I especially agree with your comment on garlic. In the UK, we knew that anything portrayed as Italian would have tons of it. As it has such a strong flavor, the result was usually disastrous.

    Quick question: if you added some pancetta to the mix, wouldn’t you get a flavor close to carbonara, only much lighter?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Nicholas! Well the pancetta would provide a common flavor, but the taste of egg and onion would me missing.
      Also, you would have to cook the pancetta in a separate skillet.
      I have seen variations made with spinach pasta accompanied with small chunks of boiled ham and peas.
      Therefore, I’d say yes, they would certainly go together.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very interesting! And especially because I can eat fettuccine Alfredo at certain restaurants, but if I do eat the jarred sauce, I ALWAYS vomit. But what kind of cheese did you use? Is there a particular recommended kind? I think your way sounds MUCH better, and without the garlic, I can see why it would help with sickness. Now I want some of yours, as soon as you identify the cheese. 🙂

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  3. For the cheese I use a quality grated parmesan or pecorino romano. My favorite brand was Locatelli, but I can’t get it in Idaho. I was able to find it in Texas so you may have a shot at finding it.
    BTW a man claiming to be the grandson of chef Alfredo left a long post and message on my FB page.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I second the Locatelli – THE best! It looks and sounds delish (and I love any recipe that only leaves me with one pan to wash).

    Snce my diet is now confined to gluten-free alternatives, I plan to try this recipe with GF pasta and/or rice noodles to see if it will still work its magic (even though it won’t be authentic/classic Alfredo). I’ll let you know.

    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)
    -ADD Coach Training Field founder/ADD Coaching co-founder-
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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      • Thanks Ernesto – I’ll search for it. I haven’t even seen the flour (tho’ I haven’t really looked, since I’m not a big baker and have never eaten a lot of bread). Pamela’s Bisquick replacement has been fine for most “cooking” things that have required flour, so I have been able to avoid having to mess with Xanthan Gum, etc. to eat relatively similar to my old ways.

        After almost 2 years GF though, it’s time to branch out and really [re]learn to cook. I’m told I was once pretty good, and simple meat & veggies seem to have finally worn out their welcome (ditto, how many ways can one cook an egg?) The holidays have left me craving more than a few things I can no longer eat. THAT means “specialty” ingredients and new venues and techniques.

        The Pinterest Food Divas swear that the only way I can have bread that tastes good, has a decent mouth feel and doesn’t fall apart is to bake it myself. My health food store stocks a *great* one, however – $7.50 plus tax for a TINY loaf. Ouch! I miss sandwiches (and toast!) – but not really THAT much. And GF cookies and cakes are crazy expensive too. My sweet tooth misses those.

        Tinkyada’s brown rice has been my favorite “spaghetti” replacement so far (after more than a few mushy meals from other makers who include corn in their ingredients list). I eat my mistakes because even the thought of having to cook and clean twice for one meal for one person makes me crazy (er!).

        Spaghetti with a variety of sauces used to be my favorite go-to food. I will be interested to see what works with your recipe. I agree that the jarred stuff is pretty vile (and more than a few contain gluten). I couldn’t BELIEVE I found a recipe that sounded “authentic” and wonderful on your site – who knew?

        So thanks! I’ll report back, for any of your readers who have recently found themselves in my boat and might be interested.
        xx,
        mgh

        Like

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