fettucine Alfredo (PPN#119)

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summary: recipe for fettucine Alfredo, based on an article and recipe by Todd Coleman in SAVEUR magazine; information about Presto Pasta Nights (PPN); (click on image to see larger views and more photos)

fettucine Alfredo Okay okay!!! I’ll post about the Fettucine Alfredo we made!

I’ve always loved Fettucine Alfredo but found that it would often get gummy. And there was just too much cream. (I know. Can there really be too much cream?!) But this Fettucine Alfredo is different from any versions I’ve had before! If you’re on the “lots of butter” diet, you’ll love this version. Even if you’re not, you’ll love it….

Butter?!! In fettucine Alfredo? I bet you thought it was supposed to be cream, didn’t you? So did we.

It turns out that the only ingredients in real Fettucine Alfredo are fettucine, butter, cheese and – wait for it – pasta water!! A recent SAVEUR magazine (issue #120) article, “The Real Alfredo” by Todd Coleman set us straight:

The recipe was invented at [Alfredo’s restaurant in Rome] by a man named Alfredo di Lelio just after the turn of the 20th century. […] In the restaurant’s heyday, the dish was prepared tableside, with much theatrical flourish […] A tangle of steaming fettuccine, fresh from the pot, was placed on a warm platter dotted with pats of sweet butter. As the heat from the noodles and the platter melted the butter […di Lelio…] gracefully lifted and twirled the fettuccine with a gold fork and spoon, pausing to mix in copious amounts of finely grated parmesan.


[B]y 1966, the Pennsylvania Dutch – brand noodle company was marketing “Fettuccine Egg Noodles”, which came with a recipe for Alfredo’s sauce. It called for half a cup of cream and a quarter cup of swiss cheese, in addition to the butter and parmesan. Like many pasta dishes that migrated to the United States, this one was becoming richer — and more Americanized.


Di Lelio’s original [recipe] employed only three ingredients: fettuccine, butter, and parmigiano-reggiano. […] [The] tableside performance was more than mere showmanship: the warmed platter, in combination with a gentle but constant tossing motion, ensured that the butter and cheese melted and melded thoroughly; preparing the dish right there at the table meant that diners tucked into the noodles while they were still piping hot, before the individual elements could cool or separate. […] [T]his fettuccine alfredo delivered all the complex flavors that the cream in the other version had masked, along with a lighter but still luscious texture.

– Todd Coleman, The Real Alfredo, SAVEUR magazine #120, p. 39, 40

Reading that the original dish called for butter rather than cream made sense. And so we tried it. Amazingly, in spite of being made with so much butter, the sauce is incredibly smooth, much lighter and almost delicate – just as Colman says. In short, it’s fabulous.

And it’s easy! And very fast to prepare too.

Colemann did caution that it was better to use dried fettucine. But we just didn’t believe him. We made our own fresh pasta as usual and just barely precooked it. It was still quite firm before being added to the pan with the butter.

We still don’t believe that the dish is better with dried fettucine! Granted, we haven’t tried but we just can’t imagine this being any better than it is.

Oh yes, one other change we made was to use Portuguese Ilha Branca cheese rather than Parmiggiana. It may not be correct but the cheese is very good AND markedly less expensive than its Italian cousin.

fettucine Alfredo

Fettucine Alfredo
based on the recipe for Fettucine Alfredo SAVEUR #120

fresh pasta . Fettucine Alfredo

correction: The total amount of flour should work out to about one cup for every egg

fresh pasta

  • 1 c semolina flour
  • ¼ ½ c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ ½ c whole wheat flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
  • 2 large eggs

Fettucine Alfredo

  • fresh pasta, cut into fettuccine
  • salted water, boiling
  • ⅓ c unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) parmesan-like cheese, finely grated
  • reserved pasta water
  • pepper, to taste
  • fresh basil leaves, optional garnish


  1. Pasta Mix flours together. Stir eggs in with a fork. Knead with hands to form a ball. Cover tightly with plastic and allow to sit on counter for a couple of hours.
  2. Put dough through handcrank pasta maker. Cut into fettucine. Lay the noodles loosely on a tray. Sprinkle a little flour over top to keep the pasta from sticking to itself.
  3. In a large pot, boil well-salted water. Add noodles cooking them until just starting to get tender (very short time). Drain through a colander placed on top of a pot to catch some of the pasta water.
  4. Sauce Cut the butter into thinnish rectangles and place in a large stainless steel frying pan. Immediately transfer the drained pasta onto the butter in the pan and place the pan over VERY low heat. You DON’T want the cheese to get too hot or it will separate!
  5. Use a large fork and spoon to carefully toss the noodles to start to melt the butter. If the pan seems to be getting too hot, turn off the burner.
  6. Add some grated cheese and some of the reserved pasta water and continue to toss the noodles gently “lifting and swirling the noodles and adding more pasta water as necessary”.
  7. Keep tossing the noodles, gradually adding cheese and pasta water until the sauce is smooth and the fettucine are completely coated.

Serve immediately on warmed plates. Grind a little black pepper over top. Garnish with a few leaves of basil if you have it. Surround the fettucine with sugar snap peas.


:: The measurements for the sauce are approximate. Use what you think is right.

:: The amounts of flour for the pasta may differ from day to day. Depending on the weather and the size of eggs, you may have to add a little water or more flour. Our rule of thumb is: one cup of flour for every egg.

:: When par-cooking the noodles, the weather may play a factor. If it is coolish and dry in the kitchen, the noodles will take about a minute of par-cooking. However, if the kitchen is warm and humid, the noodles only need to be introduced to the boiling water and then immediately drained.

:: When tossing the noodles, do use a fork and spoon. (Tongs will break the noodles.)

:: If fresh basil leaves are not available, fresh marjoram is also very nice as a garnish.

recipes from OUR kitchen:

We had this again last night. But it didn’t look exactly like the photo. Because our herb garden has just started growing, I decided I had to leave the basil plants alone. But the dish looks so bare without an herbal garnish! So I stole a couple of sprigs of marjoram instead.

marjoram and purple basil Marjoram is FANTASTIC as a garnish for this! Next time, that’s what I’ll use even if the basil is shrieking to be trimmed.

But of course Fettucine Alfredo would be good without any herbs as well. Mmmm… Fettucine Alfredo….

Presto Pasta Nights - every FridayPresto Pasta Nights
Ruth (Once Upon a Feast) created this lovely event for people to share their favourite pasta dishes. Kait (Pots and Plots) is hosting this week.

For complete details on how to participate in Presto Pasta Nights (PPN), please read the following:

edit 27 June 2009: Kait has posted the PPN#119 roundup. Do take a look at all those wonderful pasta dishes!


Eeeeek!!! I just noticed that my subscription to SAVEUR runs out in August. I can’t believe that our mailbox isn’t indundated with notices about the necessity to renew. Because I MUST renew. I love that magazine and still, after all these years, find myself reading each issue cover to cover.

7 responses to “fettucine Alfredo (PPN#119)

  1. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Saveur is a great magazine. So if I’m not baking brioche we could have this once a month ;) Butter does beautiful things to pasta. Would have happily shared my basil with you, it’s huge and headed for hugeier soon.

    It’s not really that much butter. And butter is good for us, isn’t it? Doesn’t it have lots of vitamin A? :-D I’m suitably envious of your basil, Tanna. Our spring has been rather cool and rainy so our basil is just hanging on. In fact, two of the plants have developed root rot because of over-watering (not me being overzealous… just too much rain). -Elizabeth

  2. Joanne

    I found this out about fettuccine alfredo not too long ago as well and was quite surprised. I always thought that it was filled with cream! I prefer this simpler, more traditional version than the more Americanized one that you usually come across. I usually can’t handle too much of the creamy version because its just too rich but this I can eat for days on end!

    I know just what you mean, Joanne. It’s so much lighter and cleaner when it’s made with butter! Doesn’t make sense, really, but there it is. -Elizabeth

  3. Sarah

    I really should try to make home made pasta since I’m such a pasta nut!
    I love your alfredo sauce recipe. No cream or roux required! I’ll have to try it :)

    I hope you do try it, Sarah. It really is fantastic. I’ll be very interested to hear what you think. We love your idea of adding grilled of shrimps and scallops as a garnish for Fettucine Alfredo (as if it needs a garnish :-)). Maybe a little fresh tarragon as well…. -Elizabeth

  4. Ruth

    What a slurpingly delicious dish. Too bad it will have to wait a while before we can eat it …South Beach Dieting after gorging ourselves in Montreal & Toronto. Good thing I archive all the Presto Pasta Night Roundups ;-). Thanks for sharing this one and keep them coming.

    Thank YOU for thinking of this event! I hope you don’t have to wait too long to try this version of Alfredo, Ruth. It’s really fabulous – Alfredo sauce is MUCH better when it’s made with butter and pasta water than when it’s made with cream! Maybe you could make it in a very small appetizer size just to try? -Elizabeth

  5. T

    Hi MK – This is always a bit of a challenge. I find that if you’re adding enough of the pasta water (as this recipe requires) that the cheese does incorporate nicely into the sauce. Also make sure you toss the pasta continually.

  6. Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio

    We have the pleasure to tell you the history of our grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, creator of this recipe in the world known.
    Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in Rome in 1914, after leaving his first restaurant run by his mother Angelina Rose Square (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). In this local spread the fame, first to Rome and then in the world, of “fettuccine all’Alfredo”. In 1943, during the war, Di Lelio gave the local to his collaborators.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando (Alfredo II) his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo”, which is now managed by his nephews Alfredo (same name of grandfather) and Ines (the same name of his grandmother, wife of Alfredo Di Lelio, who were dedicated to the noodles).
    In conclusion, the restaurant of Piazza Augusto Imperatore is following the family tradition of Alfredo Di Lelio and of his notes noodles (see also the site of “Il Vero Alfredo” ).
    We must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome and in Italy do not belong to the family tradition of “Il Vero Alfredo” of Piazza Augusto Imperatore in Rome.

    Best regards Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio


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