Fabulous Fettuccine RecipesCelebrate National Fettuccine Alfredo Day on Februay 7 with one of these tasty variations on the ultimate carb comfort food
Nothing can beat the winter blahs like a hearty dose of comfort food. So it’s probably no coincidence that “National Fettuccine Alfredo Day” falls in early February (the 7th, specifically).
Now, some people will tell you fettuccine alfredo is Italian. And...some people will say it's an American concoction. The actual truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle, making the history of the dish (like all good origin stories), a bit apocryphal...but no less delicious.
As legend has it, Fettuccine Alfredo was created in the early 1900s (some say 1908, some say 1914) by Italian restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio. There are slight variations to the story, but the thrust of it is that di Lelio created it for his wife Ines, and it was a simple pasta dish of butter, noodles, and fresh parmesan.
One version of the story is he made it for her when she was pregnant and suffered from terrible nausea, and was the only thing she could keep down. She loved it so much, di Lelio added it to the menu.
The OTHER version states that it wasn't until after giving birth that Ines lost her appetite, and di Lelio created the signature dish to help her keep her strength up. This version says only after some amount of time, and at Ines's suggestion, did di Lelio add it to the menu.
Okay, you may be saying, that accounts for the Italian half, but where's the American part of the origin story...and why is today's "fettuccine alfredo" NOT just butter noodles with cheese?
Good question! And again...some of the true facts are lost to time, but the crux of the story remains.
By the 1920s, the dish was wildly popular--so much so that American tourists retuning home reported having it. Di Lelio's gained an even grander reputation with celebrities and regular tourists alike after silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford visited on their honeymoon to Italy in 1927. They were so taken by di Lelio's cooking, tableside manner, and hospitality that they later gifted him with a gold engraved fork and spoon, which read “To Alfredo the King of the noodles.” Travel guides and restaurant critics extolled the virtues of the dish and the eatery, and it became an it-list destination, drawing such big names as Bob Hope, Anthony Quinn, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, Jack Lemmon, Ava Gardner, and more.
While the original business changed hands later in the 1940s, the di Lelio family stayed in the restaurant business, with Alfredo's son Armando opening Il Vero Alfredo, or “The True Alfredo,” in in 1950. (The infamous "noodle wars" that sprung up between the purchasers of the original business and the restaurant owned by di Lelio's descendants is a story for another day...)
In 1977, the family opened a second location...this time in the New York at Rockefeller Plaza (Alfredo of Rome; now closed). It was here, legend says, that the original dish began to transform to meet more of the U.S. culinary style, and the "American" version of Alfredo's sauce evolved to include ingredients like flour, cream, milk, garlic, and shrimp or chicken.
Today, in its simplest American incarnation, fettuccine alfredo is hot cooked pasta is tossed with cream, butter, and cheese until a sauce forms and coats the pasta. In Italy, "Alfredo's pasta" remains as it was--fettuccine, young Parmesan cheese, and butter. And you can still order it at Il Vero Alfredo. (You are likely to get blank stares if you ask for the cream-sauce version, however.)
So there you have it...a little bit of culinary history, a little bit of tall tale, and a LOT of tasty, tasty, tummy-warming goodness no matter WHICH recipe you choose.
To commemorate the 108th (or 114th, depending) anniversary of this truly wonderful invention, we are pleased to share a handful of variations on what has become one of the most popular of all Italian-American dishes! (And yes, we realize some of these are not even remotely similar to the original…but they are STILL delicious!)
Original Italian-Style Alfredo (Pasta al Burro)
Butter, noodles, and high-quality cheese
1. Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cut butter into thin pats and transfer to a large, warmed platter. Drain pasta, reserving 3⁄4 cup pasta water, and place the pasta over the butter on the platter.
3. Sprinkle grated parmesan over the pasta and drizzle with 1⁄4 cup of the reserved pasta water.
4. Using a large spoon and fork, gently toss the pasta with the butter and cheese, lifting and swirling the noodles and adding more pasta water as necessary. (The pasta water will help create a smooth sauce.) Work in any melted butter and cheese that pools around the edges of the platter.
5. Continue to mix the pasta until the cheese and butter have fully melted and the noodles are coated, about 3 minutes. (For a quicker preparation, bring the reserved 3⁄4 cup pasta water and the butter to a boil in a 12″ skillet; then add the pasta, sprinkle with the cheese, and toss with tongs over medium-low heat until the pasta is creamy and coated, about 2 minutes.)
6. Serve the fettuccine immediately on warmed plates.
Adapted from Saveur
American-Style Fettuccine Alfredo
There's not really a comparison between the two dishes--they really are completely different. But, as we've said, both rich and delicious in their own ways.
1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir to separate the noodles, and cook according to the package directions until al dente.
2. Meanwhile, heat the cream and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until the butter has melted and the mixture has come to a simmer. Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and the measured pepper and salt and whisk until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat until the pasta is ready.
3. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the fettuccine. Add the noodles to the frying pan and return the pan to low heat. Add 2/3 cup of the reserved pasta water and 1 cup of the remaining Parmesan.
4. Toss with tongs until all of the cheese has melted, adding additional pasta water as needed to reach the desired sauce consistency.
5. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, passing the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan for sprinkling.
Adapted from Chowhound
Want to shake it up a little? For variation, top it with a variety of things like blanched peas, seared and sliced chicken breast, bacon pieces, or sautéed mushrooms. Ready to try a different take on the dish? Check out some of the variations below!
Mah-velous Mushroom Fettuccine
A warm, creamy, rich combination of flavors...a wonderful decadent date-night (or any night!) dish.
1. Wash mushrooms and pat dry.
2. Add garlic and mushrooms to a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of the butter. Sauté until the mushrooms are soft with deep brown color, about 10-15 minutes.
3. Add cream and the rest of the butter. Simmer over low heat.
4. Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine in a large pot according to package directions. Drain noodles, reserving a little bit of the water, and return to pan.
5. Add mushroom sauce to the hot fettuccine in the pan. Toss with tongs to mix. Add Parmesan and up to 1 cup of reserved pasta water as needed to get the consistency right.
6. Season with salt and pepper.
Note: A drizzle of truffle oil to finish will take it to the next level!
Adapted from A Pinch of Yum
Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo
Deceptively simple to make, yet deliciously decadent.
1. Cook fettuccine according to package, reserving a cup of pasta water to thicken the sauce, if needed.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tablespoon butter until melted.
3. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook until pink and completely opaque, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside.
4. Into the pan, add remaining 2 Tablespoons butter and garlic. Cook about 1 minute.
5. Whisk in flour and cook until no longer raw, 2 minutes.
6. Stir in heavy cream and milk, then whisk in egg yolk. Bring to a low simmer.
7. Whisk in parmesan.
8. When cheese is melted and sauce has thickened slightly, add cooked pasta and shrimp, tossing to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Garnish with more parmesan and parsley.
The Lighter Side Fettuccine
Want to cut back a bit, but not sacrifice flavor? Try this "skinny 'cine" recipe from our friends at Gimme Some Oven!
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil (or melt butter) in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté one minute, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Sprinkle with flour, and stir to combine. Sauté for an additional minute to cook the flour, stirring occasionally.
3. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking to combine until smooth. Whisk in milk, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let cook for an additional minute until thickened, then stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese melted. Reduce heat to medium-low until pasta is cooked.
4. Drain pasta, then immediately add pasta to the sauté pan with alfredo sauce. Toss to combine. Serve topped with chopped fresh parsley if desired.
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
We realize this is not a white-sauce fettuccine dish. And it's not necessarily a quick-cook dish...it needs time to simmer. But, oh, my...is it worth it!
1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.
2. Sauté onion, carrot, and celery until onions are translucent.
3. Add garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, sauté for an additional minute.
4. Increase heat to medium-high, add ground beef and pork to pan. Cook until meat is no longer pink.
5. Stir in wine, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, allowing the wine to reduce slightly, then stir in tomato paste.
6. Once tomato paste is incorporated, stir in tomatoes, heavy cream, nutmeg, and cheese rind.
7. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until most of the liquid has reduced. Sauce should be thick.
8. Stir in basil and parsley, then toss sauce with fettuccine.
9. Serve with grated parmesan.
Adapted from Lisa's Dinnertime Dish