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Appetite for Knowledge

The Original Fettuccine Alfredo

 A rich, creamy Alfredo sauce is a culinary dream! Alfredo sauce is a flavorful sauce that is made with only a handful of ingredients. It is a favorite sauce to top pasta.


According to history legend, Fettuccine Alfredo was created in the 1900s by restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio to appeal to his pregnant wife, who had lost her appetite. He tossed hot fettuccine in a skillet with grated parmesan cheese and butter. As the cheese melted into the butter, it formed a sauce that coated the pasta. His dish differed from the traditional ‘fettuccine al burro’ by tripling the amount of butter, adding it both before and after the fettuccine was put in the bowl. Italians enjoyed variations of the dish: ‘fettuccine al burro’ – fettuccine with butter; and ‘fettuccine al burro e panna’ – with butter and cream, which are both served with grated parmesan.

Fettuccine Alfredo Tips:

  • Use real ingredients – whipping cream, butter, and cheese! The customary cheese for your best Alfredo sauce is Parmigiano-Reggiano. Do not get the powdered cheese that’s not even refrigerated. Fontina is also a smooth flavorful cheese that will take your Alfredo to a new level. Do not use substitutions such as milk, margarine, cheap cheese.
  • Salt added to the water will bring out the flavor of the pasta. You may have heard that you can avoid sticky pasta by adding oil to the pasta water. This can prevent sticking; however, the sauce slides off, does not get absorbed, and you have flavorless pasta.
  • Make sure that the noodles are completely submerged in the boiling water, and that they have plenty of room to move about in the pot, so they don’t stick together.
  • It is a good idea to reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water to stir into the sauce in case it needs to be thinned out.
  • Quickly toss hot pasta with the hot sauce, without rinsing it, so the pasta absorbs more sauce and flavor.
  • Rinsing the pasta after cooking can cool it and prevent absorption of a sauce, and it can wash away any remaining surface starch. The starch left on the pasta by the cooking water will slightly thicken your sauce.
  • Stir the fettuccini and sauce repeatedly. Once you add the cheese, gently and continuously whisk until they are completely melted. Never walk away or pause until it’s done.
  • A pinch of nutmeg adds a nice flavor to the sauce. Remember less is more when adding some to the dish.

Broken Sauce?

One question I get is ‘why does my sauce keep breaking?’ The sauce is ‘broken’ if the butter separates itself from the rest of the sauce and has become grainy. If your sauce keeps breaking, it is probably for these two reasons. The first is that the heat was too high so the water evaporates and the milk solids separate out. When making Alfredo, you do not want the sauce to boil. By controlling the heat and not letting the butter get too hot, you will complete almost any sauce with the flavor and texture only butter can add. The second is that if using cream, it was cold when you added it to the pan. Be sure to warm the cream before adding it to the other ingredients.

Coat, Not Drown

Authentic Italian pasta dishes do not swim in sauce. The amount of sauce used is just enough to coat the pasta, not drown it. While there are ways to cut back on the fat and calories, I find using portion control will help. As a special splurge once in a while, Fettuccine Alfredo is delicious! Try homemade Alfredo sauce for your next pasta night. Savor the simplicity.

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Alfredo pasta with shrimp

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Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

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Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming | College of Agriculture and Natural Resources | Extension

Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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