Monday, February 25, 2008

Fettuccini Alfredo (Fresh pasta with a creamy pepper and Parmesan cheese sauce)

Fettuccini Alfredo is a rich pasta dish said to be created by restaurateur Alfredo di Lello in Rome in the 1920s, and the recipe was kept secret until recently. As the story goes, when his wife became pregnant and lost her appetite, he created this recipe out of love and his need to nourish her and his baby. There is also a story that Signore Alfredo was given a golden spoon and fork by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford because they thought his pasta was so delicious and that tossing the fettuccini with those forks was the "secret" to the recipe.

The original recipe does not contain cream, pepper, parsley, or chives. It only contains butter and Parmesan (specifically Parmigiano-Reggiano) and maybe a pinch of salt.

The fettuccini noodles must be made fresh, or “fatte in casa” (made in the house). Fresh pasta is the key since it holds onto the sauce. The noodles should be 1/5-inch wide (5 mm). Traditionally, pasta is made with semolina flour, a coarse-textured flour that is high in gluten and makes a firmer noodle. Noodles must be cooked al dente, the Italian phrase meaning “to the tooth”, which means pasta that is slightly resistant to bite.

Fettuccini Alfredo is typically served as a first course, not a main course.

Did you know that there is a National Fettuccini Alfredo Day on February 7? You can even buy a t-shirt commemorating this day.

Recipe for Pâte Fraîches (fresh noodles) adapted from Le Cordon Bleu at Home

Makes 1 pound

2 cups all-purpose flour (You could use ½ cup semolina and 1½ cups all-purpose.)
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or olive oil)
¼ teaspoons salt
5-6 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter

Put a mound of flour on your work surface (or use a bowl). Make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks, oil, salt, and 5 tablespoons water to the well and mix with one hand to blend. Draw in the flour with a pastry scraper and mix until the dough comes together. Add the butter. If the dough is dry, add more water. With the palm of your hand, work the dough until it forms a smooth elastic ball, until it no longer sticks to your fingers or the work surface. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The longer it rests, the easier it is to roll out.

Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Roll out the pasta dough 1/16 inch thick. (Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel any dough that you’re not working with so that it doesn’t dry out.) Use the edge of the rolling pin or a ruler as a guide and cut the dough into long strips, 1/5-inch wide. Lay 2 or 3 dish towels on the work surface, dust lightly with flour and dry the noodles in a single layer on them for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Don’t dry them too long. They should be pliable and smooth, not brittle, moist, or tacky.

Note: You can use a pasta machine to roll and cut the fettuccini.

Recipe for the Original Fettuccini Alfredo from Link

Alfredo di Lelio

Serves 4

1 lb of fresh, fettuccini noodles
6 oz unsalted butter
6 oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (aged 24 months), grated

Cook the fettuccini noodles in 1 gallon (16 cups) of salted boiling water for three minutes.

Soak the serving dish in a bowl or sink of boiling or very hot water. Dry off the bowl and put the butter in the bowl to melt.

Strain the pasta leaving just a small amount of water (about 3 tablespoons) and toss the noodles with the butter and the grated cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Serve in a warm bowl so that the pasta doesn’t congeal.


To make it a main-course pasta dish, add chicken or salmon. You can also add mushrooms, garlic, and of course, heavy cream. Sprinkle with parsley and fresh ground nutmeg, if desired.

Tasting Notes

I enjoyed the fresh fettuccini noodles, but I found the Fettuccini Alfredo greasy and bland. I added some freshly ground pepper, but I think I prefer the Americanized version with garlic and cream. My kids enjoyed it though.

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $170.88 + $1.54 (pâte fraîches) + $7.08 (Fettuccini Alfredo) = $ 179.50

Butter used so far: 3 pounds, 30.5 tablespoons


Deborah said...

Wow - I learned a lot from this post, especially that what I thought was fettuccini alfredo is not!! I think I would prefer the American version as well, but it's always good to learn where things come from!

michelle said...

that was a really nice post, i definitely learned something.

that's almost exactly the way i make alfredo at home, with the addition of a little splash of cream and some black pepper. FYI, my family in italy uses cream as well, so it helps me feel authentic.

also, that photo is making me droool.

Shari said...

Deborah - I'm glad you learned a lot from this post. I've been learning a lot by going through the cooking school curriculum, and it's nice to share what I've learned. Thanks for reading.

Michelle - Thanks for the compliments, and for pointing out that Fettuccini Alfredo is not so "Americanized"! Alfredo sauce with cream is definitely tasty.