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.
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
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.
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?