Last updated on March 30th, 2022 at 02:30 pm
Oooh how I love fettuccine Alfredo! Thick noodles and white creamy sauce is a delicious and very popular Italian dish in the United States. Upon traveling to Italy in 2009, I was stunned to notice that none of the restaurants that we dined at offered fettuccine Alfredo. Well. there’s a good reason for that, Italians most commonly refer to this dish as “pasta al burro (with butter)” in southern Italy and “pasta in bianco (in white)” in northern Italy. Unlike spaghetti with it’s long history, fettuccine is a rather new phenomenon.
The restaurant’s story is that the dish was invented by di Lelio at his restaurant Alfredo alla Scrofa in 1914 as a variation of fettuccine al burro. When butter was added both before and after fettuccine was put in the serving bowl, the butter was known as doppio burro (double butter). Di Lelio’s original contribution was to double the amount of butter in the bowl before the fettuccine would be poured in (thus atriplo burro- triple butter effect instead of double) which he started doing for his pregnant wife who was having difficulty keeping food down. Alfredo added the new dish to his restaurant’s menu when his wife began eating again.
A long-time customer recounted that di Lelio’s restaurant became famous when Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks stopped in and fell in love with the dish while on their honeymoon in 1927. To express their gratitude, they gave him a golden fork and spoon along with a photo of them eating in his restaurant. He proudly displayed the photo on the wall. Pickford and Fairbanks served his dish to their friends and associates when they returned to Hollywood. Word about the new dish quickly spread. (Cookist)
Do not mistake store bought jars of Alfredo sauce as the real thing. Like so many ethnic cuisines, American consumers have done a wonderful job of stripping everything authentic out of fettuccine Alfredo. Do not despair dear readers! Presented here is an authentic fettuccine Alfredo recipe. Note the simplicity of it- no heavy cream, milk, egg yolk, or other thickening agent.
Alfredo di Lelio
1 lb. of fresh, very thin Fettuccine noodles
6 oz butter, unsalted
6 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (aged 24 months), grated
1- Cook the fettuccine noodles in 1 gallon of salted boiling water for three minutes with sea salt.
2- At the same time, mix the butter at room temperature in a bowl with the grated cheese until the cheese almost dissolved, forming a smooth cream. If using a mixer, this should not take more than three minutes at which time the noodles will be ready.
3- Strain the pasta leaving just a small amount of water and toss the noodles with the Alfredo sauce ( which is more like a cheese compound butter). Plate and sprinkle additional grated cheese on top if desired.
Note: The sauce should be barely thick enough to coat the pasta without pooling on the bottom of the plate, but it should not be so thick like spackle. The sauce can be made the same time that it takes to bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the pasta. I know some versions that put the bowl on top of the water as it is boiling and the pasta is cooking to heat the cream and butter then when the pasta is done draining it and adding the hot pasta to the warmed cream and melted butter and add the cheese and seasonings.
If you want to learn more about fettuccine Alfredo, check out this interesting article from the New York Times.
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