One of my favorite dishes in the world to eat is a nice bowl of pasta. Whether it’s a simple ragu, pesto, or cream sauce, the end result is a bowl of warm, soothing deliciousness. I’ve been making this Alfredo sauce for years, and once you’ve tasted it, you’ll say goodbye to the stuff in a jar!
The creamy Alfredo sauce that is the star of this dish was named by Italian restaurateur Alfredo alla Scrofa and served at his restaurant in Rome. Fettuccine literally means “little ribbons” in Italian. The ingredients in this recipe are affordable, simple, and easy to find. The method is also very simple. The main point of this recipe is the simplicity. In a short amount of time, you can make something very delicious and consistent.
This is my recipe. I put in a bit (okay, a lot) of work in for you on the testing end, so that the results will be the same every time it’s made. The cooking time has been repeatedly checked and all of the ingredients were measured out precisely so that this recipe is foolproof.
As a professional recipe tester with America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated magazine, you could say I learned a little something about the process of testing recipes. And it can be quite a process. For example, testing hard-boiled eggs—sounds easy, right? Well… it had challenges: the timing, different methods of preparation, five pots going at once, some with tops, some without. All of this to figure out the exact qualities of the perfect boiled egg, and the precise procedure for it. (I’ll share the recipe for the perfect hard-boiled egg in another post!)
Testing can be a very long process, taking days, even weeks, with one recipe. At America’s Test Kitchen a simple cookie recipe might be tested up to 100 times before going into a cookbook or magazine. This testing business is very serious indeed!
So, back to the fettuccine: I always make my pasta from scratch with homemade dough. I prefer it that way. But I won’t put you through that, unless… Homemade pasta = future blog post?
For this recipe, I recommend just picking up a package of good quality fresh fettuccine pasta from the grocery store. (If you’ve never bought this before, check the refrigerator section; usually near the cheese.) It costs more than the dry stuff in a box, but spending the extra dollar means you will achieve the most flavor, best texture, and the best results from this dish.
And it goes without saying that you’ll want freshly grated Parmesan, not the stuff in a can! Fresh, fresh, fresh, fresh. I can’t say enough about the importance of quality and freshness! Good professional chefs always use the freshest, highest quality ingredients available, and you should too.
As I mentioned, everything is measured out exactly in this recipe—except the salt and pepper. Use these to your own taste. Taste, taste, and taste again, because tasting the food while you cook is part of how you make it great. It’s also how you learn. That’s one of the most important techniques I picked up in cooking school: to taste the dish over and over, at every stage of the recipe, from start to finish. And, remember: Parmesan cheese has plenty of salt itself so don’t overdo it!
Special chef’s tip: adding a “liaison” at the end of the recipe, once the sauce has cooked down. A liaison is an egg yolk that is used to thicken the sauce, and also adds a velvety mouth-feel. This finish will give your noodles the perfect coat of creaminess. You could pour this sauce on a gym shoe, and it would still be awesome. And remember: No mushy noodles, okay? “Al dente” only!!! (Al dente literally means “to the tooth.” The pasta should be soft but firm, with a tiny bit of stickiness or resistance when you bite into it.)
Happy cooking, and happy eating!!!
~ Chef Kev
Chef Kevin Warren’s Fettuccine Alfredo
1/3 cup butter (this is the same as 5-1/3 TBSP, a little more than half-a-stick, or 76 grams)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
4 cups heavy cream
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1 pinch nutmeg (freshly grated if available; otherwise, the stuff in a jar is fine)
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
fresh parsley (chopped)
1 lb fresh fettuccine pasta
1. In a large shallow sauté pan, melt butter on medium-high heat. After butter is melted, turn heat down to medium. Add minced garlic; cook 20 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic.
2. Add cream, oregano, basil, and nutmeg. On medium heat, bring the sauce to a simmer. After sauce has just started to bubble, reduce the heat to low. Cook 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
3. After the first 15 minutes, while the sauce is still reducing: In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolk with a pinch of salt until creamy. Add a few tablespoons of the warm sauce into the egg yolk, whisking rapidly to combine before the egg cooks, and then add this egg-and-sauce mixture back into the sauce. Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, stirring well until combined. Continue to simmer the sauce on low for the last 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Turn off the heat, and let sit 5 minutes, the sauce will continue to thicken and slightly reduce as it sits. Sauce should be thick, and coat the back of a spoon.
4. While the sauce is sitting, cook the fresh pasta according to directions. As a general rule for store-bought fresh fettuccine: Bring 6 quarts of water plus 1 TBSP of salt to a boil, add pasta, bring to a boil again and reduce heat slightly so it doesn’t boil over. Stir occasionally. Cook 2-4 minutes (bite a noodle to test for doneness). Drain.
In a large mixing bowl, take a 1/4 portion of the cooked pasta and combine it with a 1/4 portion of the sauce. Use tongs to mix gently, just enough tosses or turns to coat the noodles. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with Parmesan cheese.
Yield: about 4 servings of sauce to cover 1lb of pasta