Momma’s Fettucine Alfredo

Are you ready for the most effortless, creamy rich intensely flavored sauce?  It’s true an Alfredo Sauce is one of the simpler sauces to make but this one beats them all!!

My mother’s handwritten recipe book, the one with vague measurements and loosely written instructions, included a recipe labeled Fettucine Alfredo.  For many years, I would flip past this recipe as it just didn’t make sense to me.  She listed unsalted  room temp butter, freshly grated parmesan cheese, dash of nutmeg, fettucine, toss.   Okay, so where was the cream I’ve seen in other recipes?

Since I was a teen when she passed away, I didn’t see all that she cooked and baked in the kitchen.  Many times, dishes just appeared magically and gracefully out of the kitchen onto the table.  I know I had eaten small bowls of pasta in a creamy, rich  sauce.  And then I remembered.

I was searching online for Italian sauces and found this description from Wikipedia, ‘Fettuccine Alfredo is a pasta dish made from fettuccine pasta tossed with Parmesan cheese and butter. As the cheese melts, it emulsifies the liquids to form a smooth and rich coating on the pasta.’

That was the recipe!  And now I recalled seeing her mix softened butter with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  In a bowl, nothing more.  The key to the sauce is that the butter is not melted down but remains soften creating a perfect thick sauce.  The heat from the hot cooked fettucine, along with reserved pasta water poured in a little at a tme and tossed gently melts the cheese and creates the sauce.

I first served this to my daughter, the lover of all rich sauces, and we both just fell madly into this pasta!  The idea that we were eating a bowl of… gasp, butter was lessened by the thought that there was no further added fat as in the form of cream.  We then went off fantasizing about creating compound butters with fresh herbs, lemon zest, crushed red pepper and garlic to create other fabulous and so very easy pasta dishes!

I’ve prepared this with fresh fettucine and dried.  I do prefer the dried as it holds up better as it’s being tossed in the sauce.  A little serving goes a long way; pair a small serving of this with a fresh green salad or warm greens and you’ll feel a bit less guilty while you’re being dreamily indulgent.

Fettucine Alfredo

1/2 pound Fettucine, I prefer using dried for this recipe

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

dash of nutmeg, for only a hint of taste

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (or use white pepper if you prefer not to see the black)

Allow the butter to come to room temperature, leaving it out on the counter for a few hours.  In a medium size bowl, combine the butter, parmesan cheese and nutmeg.  Set aside.  Bring a lot pot of water to a boil, salt generously and drop in the fettucine.  Cook until al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the fettucine.  Return the fettucine to the hot pot you cooked the pasta in but off the heat and add in the butter mixture.  Toss the fettucine and butter gently adding in some of the pasta water.  Start with 1/4 of a cup pasta water and as you toss and the sauce will come together, adding in a bit more water to reach your desired consistency.  I have used about 3/4 cup of pasta water.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve at once.  Makes about 4 small servings, 2 – 3 larger.



51 thoughts on “Momma’s Fettucine Alfredo

  1. You had me at “Mom’s handwritten recipe book.” This looks simply delicious. I like the idea you and your daughter kicked around on compound butters as a way of riffing on alfredo. It’s worth exploring.

  2. I used to not like Fettucine Alfredo because it was so rich, but have recently decided I adore it! I had no idea that it was made without cream, either, but that does make me feel better. I love to throw in some broccoli to make it “healthier” plus it adds a nuttiness to the richness. This looks amazing, Linda, and I’m going to make some for sure. Thanks for sharing your lovely story and your recipe. 🙂

  3. After years of failing at the cream-based version, I lucked into this method last year…Holy Cow! What a difference! We like to do it with shrimp, and occasionally add some baby spinach to the sauce…even the three-year-old loves it!

  4. I love that you were able to elicit the memory of your mom serving you this dish 🙂 Food is wonderful that way. This sounds seriously amazing. Neither my fiance nor I like cream-based sauces and so we thought we hated fettucine alfredo, but it seems no one but your mom and you actually knew the right way to make it 😉 I will have to try it! How lucky you are to have a cookbook stocked with her recipes.

    1. Thank you Amy. I wish I had longer to learn and watch all of her cooking, she, like most older woman just whipped up dinners so easily – and no real recipes!! Cream based sauces are not an everday thing, but an occassional treat is nice. Hope you try it!

  5. I’m so sorry you lost your mum at such a young age. That’s tragic. How wonderful to have her handwritten ‘cookbook’. I’m glad you are now sharing this pasta with your daughter. It certainly looks great to me xx

  6. I love, love, love the tip about not melting the butter. I’m going to make this for us next week. The kids will love it. I’ve been making this for them for years – just not with your fabulous butter tip. I think it’s so cool you have your mom’s handwritten recipe book. What a treasure!!! 🙂

    1. Thanks Kristy. It’s almost like serving buttered pasta and what kid would not like that!! I learned too about not completely melting butter in a sauce as it breaks down and separates. Slowly melting to keep its thickness makes a rich, beautiful sauce.

  7. Oh, how I long for pasta, cheese, and butter! I can do a gluten free and dairy free version that will get me through, but it won’t hold a candle to yours! 🙂

  8. What a fantastic recipe, so so simple and with a really good pasta and excellent parmesan it would be great.. how interesting that it took you so long to make it! It had to be the right time i guess.. love celi

  9. I love this idea if softened butter melting to make a creamy sauce. I know if I were sitting with you and your daughter I would have also lost myself in this pasta and would be shouting out other compound butter ideas…lemon basil? I can’t wait to try this out on my daughter! Thanks Linda.

  10. I’m ready. Effortless to me is right up there with heavenliness. I don’t believe food has to be complicated to taste good or be good for us. This recipe sounds wonderful and how fortunate are you to have your momma’s handwritten recipes… I think I recall this from a prior post and thinking what a gift that is… (p.s. I adore the touch of nutmeg!!)

    1. The touch of nutmeg does add just an interesting note to the pasta, but more than that definitely changes the flavor! Though it’s butter based, I feel good about eating real foods…effortless equals heavenliness to me too!!!

  11. This is a wonderful story Linda, I bet you will cherish your mother’s handwritten recipe. It’s almost like your mom is with you when you are in the kitchen, your recipes are so full of love and flavor. I tell all my Italian relatives and friends to stop by and visit your site. My parents never really liked creamy dishes so as a kid I never had fettucinne alfredo unless it was served at a party. I think I’ll make this for dinner this Sunday for my boys. I like how you suggest serving it with a fresh garden salad and greens, perfect!

    1. Aww, thank you Lisa for telling your relatives and friends to visit. My mom always watched her figure so we didn’t have creamy dishes like this often. I have memories of her doing exercises to Jack LaLanne!!

    We have the pleasure to inform you about the history of our grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio.
    Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in Rome nel 1914, after leaving his first restaurant run by his mother Angelina in Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). In this local fame spread, 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 reopened 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 local Piazza Augusto Imperatore is following the family tradition of Alfredo Di Lelio and his notes noodles (see also the site of “Il Vero Alfredo”
    Our restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” is present in the Register of “Historical shops of excellence” of Roma Capitale.
    We must clarify that other restaurants in Rome and in Italy do not belong to the family tradition of “Il Vero Alfredo”.
    Best regards
    Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio

    1. I’m so glad and honored you left a comment! I viewed the video and was excited to see exactly how the pasta was prepared with the butter and parmesan cheese! When I make my dream trip to Italy one day, I will certainly plan a visit!!

  13. This is a great dish, Linda, and I’m glad that you’ve shared it with us. You cannot get more authentic than a recipe from Mom’a recipe book, eh? That’s incredible that the Di Lelio family contacted you!!! We just never know who is going t read out posts. Congrats!
    Now, I’ve got a couple more of your posts to read. I may never get caught up!

  14. “You’ll feel a bit less guilty while you’re being dreamily indulgent…” Just reading this recipe felt dreamingly indulgent. I can easily imagine the aroma straight from the plate and the soothing taste of the sauce. Glad I stopped by, as usual, ans sorry I have not been here in a while. I am still constantly baffled by the thought that I cannot do everything at once! 🙂 Happy autumn. This is a perfect dish for the season.

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