Fettuccine Alfredo is one of Italy’s most wondrous exports. A perfect pairing of rich, creamy sauce and perfectly cooked pasta that serves equally well as a main dish or as a side to nearly anything you feel like serving with it. It’s complex yet simple, filling and decadent. What could be more wonderful?
Now what if I told you that every recipe that you’ve probably ever seen for Fettuccine Alfredo was wrong? What if I told you that it was probably the most simple dish in the world to make? What if I told you that Mr. Alfredo’s Fettuccine has been done a glaring disservice by a million cooks, including renown chefs around the world. Would you believe me?
If you won’t believe me, would you believe Saveur magazine? Their May issue features an article by Tod Coleman titled “The Real Alfredo”, which details the history and creation of this iconic dish from its birth just after the turn of the century. Alfredo, it seems, created the dish for his wife, who had lost her appetite after giving birth to their son. His modified Fettuccine al Burro featured far more butter than the original, a combination that “…neither his wife or his customers could resist.”
While most versions I’ve seen are fairly complex and require a fair bit of attention to detail, the original Fettuccine Alfredo has just four ingredients and takes mere minutes to make, but results in a dish far more complex and wondrous than any Alfredo I’ve ever eaten in an Italian restaurant anywhere… Ever. And I’ve eaten a lot.
So please be so kind as to take a moment to meet the real Alfredo. You’ll never think of this dish the same way again. But you may find you eat a lot more of it.
The original recipe for what might just be the perfect pasta dish. (Adapted from a recipe in Saveur magazine, may 2009)
- 18 oz. fresh fettucine, cooked, drained and piping hot
- Aproximately 3/4 cup pasta water
- 1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, cut in small cubes
- 3 1/4 cups grated Parmesan Cheese (Roughly 1/2 lb.)
Bring 6 quarts salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook until it is just al dente. (for fresh pasta this takes approximately 2 minutes. For dried pasta it will take approximately 8 minutes.)
Drain pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water.
Bring 3/4 cup pasta water and butter to a boil in a large skillet. Add pasta and sprinkle with cheese. Toss until a rich creamy sauce is formed, adding more water as necessary. (about 2 minutes)
What I would have done Differently had I thought of it at the time:
Aside from the fact that I used fresh pasta because it’s what I had on hand, I will NEVER change this recipe. It’s too simple, too perfect. It is sheer and utter decadence and should not be adulterated in any way.
It’s spoiled me from ever eating Alfredo in a restaurant again… But I’m not complaining.
*NOTE: For those of you who were looking for a cream based Alfredo sauce, check out the following videos!
Links to other recipes like this:
- Pasta Al burro (pasta with butter and Parmesan), from briciole
- Spaghetti Con Burro e pomodori (Spaghetti with Parmesan and tomato sauce), from SlashFood