Today is National Fettuccine Alfredo Day. What better day to tell the story behind this simple dish of perfection. Authentic Fettuccine Alfredo is nothing more than a ribbon pasta, butter and melted cheese. It’s the story behind Fettuccine Alfredo that is truly amazing.
In 1914 a man named Alfredo di Lelio owned a restaurant on the Via Della Scrofa in Rome. Alfredo was a devoted family man who loved his wife, Ines, very much. Ines was pregnant with their second child and nothing seemed to agree with her. Alfredo feared for his wife, unable to eat. So he created a dish of plain pasta prepared with butter and a sprinkling of Parmesan Cheese. That was it. A light toss, and the dish was complete. Ines loved it so much that her husband decided to add it to his restaurant’s menu.
While a local favorite among his regular customers, Fettuccine Alfredo did not gain much attention until 1920, when two famous American Silent-Film starts were honeymooning in Italy. Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford dined at the restaurant, and fell in love with the dish. So taken with the unique simplicity of the dish, they begged Alfredo for his recipe. To show their appreciation, the newly weds sent Alfredo a gold fork and spoon, engraved with the words “To Alfredo the King of noodles”. The gifts were one of a kind and quickly made news in America, along with a story describing Fettuccine Alfredo as the “rich stuff of Italy.”
While Americans enjoy Fettuccine Alfredo with a cream sauce kissed with a little nutmeg, if you dine in Rome, there’s little more than butter and some cheese. This is the stuff of legends, enjoyed by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Italian Fettuccine Alfredo
16 oz Fettuccine
1 cup Butter
4 cups Pecorino Romano Cheese
Kosher Salt to taste
Italian Parsley for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil. Add pasta, return to a boil and cook al dente, about 10 minutes. Stir pasta several times with a wooden spoon to prevent pasta from sticking together or the pot from boiling over.
Meanwhile. place a large metal bowl over a pot of boiling water to create a giant double boiler. Unlike traditional double boilers, allow the bowl to touch the water, gently heating the bottom of the bowl. Dice butter, add to the bowl. When the butter begins to melt, remove double boiler from heat. Whisk gently, allowing the residual heat of the water to melt the butter completely.
Drain fettuccine, remaining about a cup of the pasta water.
Add the fettuccine and a splash of pasta water to the butter, toss to coat every strand in the buttery goodness.
Slowly add the Pecorino Romano Cheese and continue to mix until a creamy sauce is created from the butter, pasta water and melted cheese. If the sauce appears too dry, add more pasta water. Once the consistency is reached, season with a pinch of salt to taste.
Garnish with some fresh snipped parsley for a bit of color. Serve with a Caesar Salad, warm bread and a chilled Pinto Grigio. Salute!