Fettuccine Alfredo | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Milk Street Recipe
Milk Street Bowtie Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo

Appears in July-August 2021

Fettuccine Alfredo

Free

Made the Italian way, fettuccine Alfredo bears little resemblance to the unctuous, cream-based pasta dish that’s popular in the U.S. We scoured Rome for the best versions, and our favorite was prepared by home cook Francesca Guccione who resides in Castelnuovo di Porto, just outside of the city. Rich, luxurious and elegant but neither heavy nor cloying, Guccione’s fettuccine Alfredo, like other Roman recipes for the dish, consisted of only fresh pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, butter and salt. The secret lay in using high-quality ingredients and combining them in just the right way, and in just the right volumes. We adapted her winning formula but incorporated a technique we saw employed at a couple restaurants of putting softened butter (rather than melted) into the bowl in which the hot pasta will be tossed. Of utmost importance is the cheese. Purchase a hefty chunk of true Parmigiano Reggiano—not the pre-shredded stuff—trim off the rind (save it for simmering into soups and stews), cut 6 ounces into rough ½-inch pieces and whir them in a food processor until very finely ground. This helps ensure the cheese melts readily. High-fat butter also is key. In Europe, butter typically has a fat content of around 85 percent; standard American butter is only about 80 fat. That 5 percent difference has a big impact on the flavor and consistency of the finished dish. At the grocery store, some types of high-fat butter are labeled “European-style”; Plugrá and Kerrygold are two widely available brands. If the butter also happens to be cultured, all the better, but this is not essential. We learned from Guccione that patience also is an important ingredient. Tossing the pasta with the cheese in small additions and while gradually adding some starchy pasta-cooking water takes time but yields a sauce that is velvety-smooth. We highly recommend serving the pasta in individual bowls that have been gently warmed.

Tip

Don’t use more than 2 quarts water to cook the pasta. It’s a small amount by intention, as the starchy liquid is used as an ingredient in the sauce. Also, don’t drain the pasta in a colander. Use tongs to lift the noodles out of the water and drop them, with ample water clinging to them, into the bowl lined with the butter slices. You may need some pasta cooking water to adjust the consistency of the sauce just before serving, so don’t prematurely discard it.

8 tablespoons salted European-style butter (see headnote), sliced about ½-inch thick
6 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (without rind), cut into rough ½-inch chunks
2 9-ounce packages fresh fettuccine
Kosher salt
Ingredients
  • 8

    tablespoons salted European-style butter (see headnote), sliced about ½-inch thick

  • 6

    ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (without rind), cut into rough ½-inch chunks

  • 2

    9-ounce packages fresh fettuccine

  • Kosher salt

Directions
  1. 01
    Line a large bowl with the butter slices, placing them in a single layer along the bottom and up the sides of the bowl; let stand at room temperature until the butter is softened.
  2. 02
    Meanwhile, in a food processor, process the cheese until very finely ground, about 40 seconds; transfer to a medium bowl (you should have about 1½ cups).
  3. 03
    In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the pasta and 1½ teaspoons salt, then cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Using tongs, transfer the pasta from the pot, with ample water clinging to it, to the butter-lined bowl. Using the tongs, quickly stir and toss the pasta, incorporating the butter, until the butter is fully melted. Add ½ cup pasta water and toss until the water has been absorbed.
  4. 04
    Add 1 cup of the cheese, tossing, ⅓ cup at a time, adding the next addition only after the previous one has been incorporated. Next, toss in ½ to 1 cup more pasta water, adding about ¼ cup at a time, until the sauce clings to the pasta and only a small amount pools at the bottom of the bowl.
  5. 05
    Let stand for 2 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken slightly. If needed, toss in additional pasta water a little at a time until the sauce once again clings to the pasta and only a small amount pools at the bottom of the bowl. Taste and season with salt. Divide among warmed serving bowls and serve immediately with the remaining cheese on the side for sprinkling at the table.
Tip: Don’t use more than 2 quarts water to cook the pasta. It’s a small amount by intention, as the starchy liquid is used as an ingredient in the sauce. Also, don’t drain the pasta in a colander. Use tongs to lift the noodles out of the water and drop them, with ample water clinging to them, into the bowl lined with the butter slices. You may need some pasta cooking water to adjust the consistency of the sauce just before serving, so don’t prematurely discard it.
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Fettuccine Alfredo

Get Ready to Cook

4 to 6

Servings

Tip

Don’t use more than 2 quarts water to cook the pasta. It’s a small amount by intention, as the starchy liquid is used as an ingredient in the sauce. Also, don’t drain the pasta in a colander. Use tongs to lift the noodles out of the water and drop them, with ample water clinging to them, into the bowl lined with the butter slices. You may need some pasta cooking water to adjust the consistency of the sauce just before serving, so don’t prematurely discard it.

Ingredients
  • 8

    tablespoons salted European-style butter (see headnote), sliced about ½-inch thick

  • 6

    ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (without rind), cut into rough ½-inch chunks

  • 2

    9-ounce packages fresh fettuccine

  • Kosher salt

Step 1 of 5

Butter Up

8
tablespoons salted European-style butter (see headnote), sliced about ½-inch thick

Line a large bowl with the butter slices, placing them in a single layer along the bottom and up the sides of the bowl; let stand at room temperature until the butter is softened.

Step 2 of 5

Process The Cheese

6
ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (without rind), cut into rough ½-inch chunks

Meanwhile, in a food processor, process the cheese until very finely ground, about 40 seconds; transfer to a medium bowl (you should have about 1½ cups).

Step 3 of 5

Boil Water

2
quarts water
2
9-ounce packages fresh fettuccine
teaspoons salt

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add the pasta and 1½ teaspoons salt, then cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes.


Remove the pot from the heat. Using tongs, transfer the pasta from the pot, with ample water clinging to it, to the butter-lined bowl.


Using the tongs, quickly stir and toss the pasta, incorporating the butter, until the butter is fully melted. Add ½ cup pasta water and toss until the water has been absorbed.

Step 4 of 5

Add Cheese And toss

6
ounces Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (without rind), cut into rough ½-inch chunks

Add 1 cup of the cheese, tossing, ⅓ cup at a time, adding the next addition only after the previous one has been incorporated. Next, toss in ½ to 1 cup more pasta water, adding about ¼ cup at a time, until the sauce clings to the pasta and only a small amount pools at the bottom of the bowl.

Step 5 of 5

Let Stand

Kosher salt

Let stand for 2 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken slightly. If needed, toss in additional pasta water a little at a time until the sauce once again clings to the pasta and only a small amount pools at the bottom of the bowl.


Taste and season with salt. Divide among warmed serving bowls and serve immediately with the remaining cheese on the side for sprinkling at the table.

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