Fettuccine Alfredo, photo by Donna

As I mentioned today over in Huffington Post’s new food pages, I once used to purchase the Knorr powdered mix for Alfredo sauce.  This is almost like buying dehydrated water.  Fettuccine Alfredo is the world’s easiest cream sauce, and it’s also one of the best.

In my opinion, the quality of the dish is dependent on the cheese, good Parmigiano-Reggiano.  If you don’t have that, make something else.  The traditional Italian Alfredo doesn’t use cream but I think the cream is essential for distributing the cheese.  I also feel that dried pasta is too heavy for this—this dish calls for fresh pasta.  Best to make it yourself, but good fresh pasta is available at most grocery stores now.  This dish comes together fast—the hardest part about it waiting for the water to boil.

Fettucini Alfredo

1 cup cream

salt to taste

freshly ground pepper to taste

2 ounces butter, cut into a few pieces

4-6 swipes of nutmeg on a Microplane or grater

12 ounces fresh pasta

2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Put a pot of water on to boil.  In a pan big enough to toss the pasta, bring the cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg to a simmer, then lower the heat and whisk or swirl in the butter, a chunk at a time.  Turn off the heat or remove it from the heat.

Boil and strain your pasta.  Toss the pasta in the cream.  Sprinkle three quarters of the cheese over the pasta, tossing it to melt and distribute the cheese.  Add a little more cream or milk if you’ve let it get too thick.  Serve, sprinkling additional cheese on each.

Serves four

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53 Wonderful responses to “Fettuccine Alfredo Recipe”

  • ruhlman

    When I switched to a dedicated server, the company somehow lost the original post, and all the comments. Pisses me off. Sorry, everyone.

  • Dan

    Butter, parmesan and pepper… there’s no cream in Alfredo sauce! Except in the American “let’s see how we can take a classic and add some extra fat and calories” version….

    • Michael Fong

      Actually, butter is fatter than cream. But the point of using cream isn’t to bastardize an authentic version, but as Michael said, having a liquid medium helps distribute the cheese.

      • Bert

        What? Seriously, the traditional fettuccine alfredo really does have no cream, and the blog post admits that and gives a reason for the addition of cream in this recipe. As far as I’m concerned, both versions are good.

  • Wes

    Alfredo is our “we are too busy/lazy to make anything else” sauces. LOVE IT!

    And Dan, don’t be such a traditionalist/American hater. Cultures have been taking recipes, modifying them and making them their own for a long time. Where would we be if we never altered dishes from other cultures? I don’t want to live in that world.

    • S. Woody

      The real question is why we Americans switched to cream from butter in the first place. And the simple fact is, our butter is nowhere near as good in flavor as what can be found in Europe. It’s a butterfat thing. Since our butter was nowhere near as good in flavor as the American tourists encountered abroad, the only way we could recreate the dish was to find something else that would be rich and creamy… oh, let’s try cream!

      The good news is that we now carry premium butters in most supermarkets. They cost more, but they’re worth it when the butter really matters. The bad news is that most supermarkets also carry jarred Alfredo sauce, so loaded with preservatives and other additions that they taste nothing like the real thing. This is the stuff my partner’s daughter buys. (This is the same woman who uses a powdered Stroganoff mix, and then leaves out the mushrooms and onions because she and her husband don’t like mushrooms and onions. She served it to her father and me one night, and during the drive home we discussed things like disinheritance.)

      Sometimes, the only way around these problems is to get the uneducated to simply try things the way they are meant to taste. Maybe she’ll get the message. I’m plotting making them a dinner this summer.

      The other problem is the cholesterol factor: Bruce is recovering very well from the open-heart surgery he had last January, so we’ve been watching the saturated fat content of what we eat much more closely. I’ll have to let him have just a taste of the Alfredo at that dinner, and serve him something else for the bulk of his meal.

      • Rhonda

        S. Woody:

        I think you are fantastic and I agree with everything you have said.

        I hope Bruce is doing well and I hope he gets to taste your Fettucine Alfredo.

        Remember Chef Keller’s “Law of Diminishing Return” (Gosh, I hope I quoted that correctly!). A few bites is all he will need!

  • Paul

    Looks great! little trick I worked out when rolling my own fresh pasta. After rolling and folding the dough through the thickest setting a few times, I roll it half way through and then join the ends together to create a loop. I then crank the hell out of it, taking it down a notch on the thickness every full rotation.

    Helps if you have a friend to hold the other end of the loop, but I manage fine with one hand cranking the other holding the loop out. It can get pretty long by the time you get it thin.

    I find it needs way less flouring during the rolling process and is easier to manage.

  • Cecelia

    I was surprised and taken aback when I saw that you, Michael, had used the Knorr desicated powder to create a sauce!! It’s in the same category as using “parmigiano cheese in a can” …which, also as Knorr’s, is comprable to a “baby powder” consistency.

    Your recipe works well, but I would suggest mascarpone cheese in lieu of the “cream”…..which certainly works well in a risotto. Of course, adjust as necessary.

  • JJ

    This was my very first ‘go to’ back in the day when Reg Parm was hard to find. SF restaurants gave out their famous recipes on cards during the holidays. I use it on penne now and it’s always a hit among the health conscious Nor Cal crowd. I just don’t tell them what’s in it.

    1/4 cup heavy cream
    1/2 stick butter at room temp
    1 egg yolk
    1 cup fresh grated Reg Parm
    Fresh ground white pepper to taste
    Cream all together and let sit until you pour in hot, drained pasta

    You can tell it’s old school because it’s not cooked and calls for a raw egg yolk.horrors! Any thoughts on this recipe in 2010?

  • lex

    The classic method.

    1 lb. dried fettuccine
    1⁄2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
    1⁄2 lb. finely grated parmesan (about 3 1⁄4 cup)

    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. Continue to mix the pasta until the cheese and butter have fully melted and the noodles are coated, about 3 minutes.

  • Scordo

    Hi Michael,

    Good post. Just two points: 1. Grana Padano is a good substitute for expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano (and even a resident of Parma would have a hard time discerning between the two types of cheeses) and 2. not the end of the world if you use a high quality dry pasta (like Rustichella) instead of fresh pasta (my two cents about fresh pasta is that while it’s easy to make, it’s also easy to get mediocre results if you don’t pay attention to ingredients, handling process, etc.).

    I need to make the fish for my “Scordo Pasta Challenge” – I’m trying to eat my way through every known pasta shape (there are about 310 shapes):

    http://www.scordo.com/2010/03/the-scordo-pasta-challenge-vincenzo-eats-every-pasta-shape-planet.html

    Best,
    Vince

  • Chuck

    Gave this a try and it was wonderful, in addition to being wonderfully easy. Subbed in pecorino romano for the cheese; I’m sure that changes the character of it a bit.

  • Rhonda

    Ruhlman,

    I seem to recall you talking smack (privately -to me) about my mushroom soup recipe and asked for a throwdown.

    Just so you know, when this happens, you will be cavity searched (not by me thank god), for little packets of Knorr.

    You brought this on yourself.

  • Julie

    Being first generation Italian American (from northern Italy), I love this dish. My nanna used to make it all the time when I was child, with fresh pasta, hand-cut. Yum…but and I seriously mean but, if you don’t have the right ingredients, skip the dish, don’t entertain the thought. You insult it. And don’t use that packaged stuff, you insult yourself. Don’t you think you are worthy of properly made pasta dish. Forget about the fresh pasta, made by someone who knows how to make it. Just the proper pasta sauce you should be deserving of, by virtue of the fact you are a living breathing human being, and food is a joy of life. Just my opinion folks. Wishful remembering my nanna’s cooking. Oh, I my need to go out and get some more cream and make the dish now. I always have good old P.R. on hand. Wouldn’t be caught without it. Ever. Not this good little Italian girl.

  • Julie

    Oh Chuck, Pecorino Romano is a sheep’s milk cheese verses Parmigiano Reggiano, which is a cows milk cheese. Two entirely different balls of wax, well in this case, cheese. It’s a cooked, pressed cheese. A “closer” cheese would be Grana Padano, which is also cooked. Both are aged cheeses and quite delicious. Give it a try with the real thing next time, or if cost is a concern, use Grana Padano which is far closer to the taste you are trying to achieve. It is scrumptious.

  • luis

    Michael, your recipe is sooo copied down bro… This happens to be my mom’s favorite pasta. Only thing I think I will add is herbs… mint parsley cilantro or a combo of the three. I wonder which herb do you folks goes well with this dish?

  • Linda

    Ask any Italian (from Italy) – they’ve never ever heard of Alfredo Sauce.

    • Layla

      Soooo wrong Linda, you need to go to northern Italy and you will find the dish. Try it sometime before you make such a broad generalization.

      • Antonella

        A broad generalization would be to call whatever is north of Modena or Verona or south of Naples or Sicilian “traditional Italian”. Italians would be then entitled to call fried whale blubber or alligator steak a “traditional American dish”.

  • Kate

    So glad you were able to retrieve the post…as soon as I read the phrase….’as intelligent as buying dehydrated water’ I was desperate to read the rest………

  • Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle

    Brought back some memories of days when I would buy sauce packets thinking that I could easily recreate some of my mother’s dishes.

    Recalling that my peers were eating McDonald’s at the time; my efforts were not denigrated at all; everyone thought I was head and shoulders above the crowd in food preparation.

    One of my greatest achievements has not been in the making of a good Alfredo sauce (with or without the cream) but in raising two girls who know the difference!

  • Matt Leese

    Fettuccine alfredo is the first thing I ever made for my now wife (then girlfriend) back in college. I knew that she liked it a lot and used the recipe in Betty Crocker’s Cooking Basics. It’s also probably one of the first times that I actually cooked something from a recipe.

  • Annabel Cohen

    I spent nearly a month in Rome last year (worked for two weeks at a restaurant near Piazza Navona to gain cooking/cultural experience). One big “aha” was the simplicity and deliciousness of “pasta fresca” and “pastacitta” served with sauces made in minutes and tossed quickly. Somehow, our American al dente is way too soft, our sauces way too rich and our final product way too saucy. And I never saw any good cook use any sort of mix.

    Now, I’m in Rio de Janeiro and am dismayed how so many use Knorr mixes (filled with MSG and other awful chemicals), as if they were seasonings. It’s a shame how simple salt (the best seasoning ever), has taken a back seat to these mixes in traditional recipes.

    As so many have shown here, the simplest, most basic recipes are the best.

  • Chuck

    Oh, I know there’s a big difference between romano and parmigiano. But my family traditionally uses romano for just about everything. Is it a Sicilian thing? Or maybe my ancestors kept sheep? Not sure, but it’s what tastes “right” to me.

  • Stephanie Manley

    I agree this is one of the easiest pasta sauces to make, I really think that if more people knew how easy it was to make, and how quickly it could be made, I really think more people would do it. Sometimes I like to put a little white pepper in mine for a little flavor.

  • Thunja

    is it just me or are the majority of people that follow you and post remarks are very VERY hostile. Frankly I like what you give and can not for the life of me understand why- if someone has such a rude disregard of what you have to say that they would continue to come here. Stalkers? kinda.

  • luis

    Michael making your own pasta for this dish is the big to do here. Sure you can buy fresh pasta but…why miss such a great oportunity to make your own. Rougly a month away from my yearly vacation with the fam….and I am trying a lot of new things.. specially fish and fish sauces. Fresh pasta is a great thing to bring with to impress….

  • bobdelgrosso

    You are kidding about Sandra Lee, right? I mean, if you are going to take a pass on dissing her because of the 2 or 3 people she inspires to reject her miserable advice and actually cook, why not give a pass to every talking head who dishes garbage merely because some subset of their fan base reject what they have to say and find truth in the offing?
    You going soft on us boy? I think I’m going to have to ask Mike to straighten you out, because I know you won’t listen to me :)

  • Mike

    Both Parmesan Reggiano and Granna Padana are part skim milk cheese. As such, when melting they can (will) curdle if not tempered with some extra fat. I’m sure the cream serves both this tempering purpose as well as helping to distribute the cheese. In my experience, adding the cheese with butter and some warm, but not hot pasta water produces as smooth a sauce. If the water or the pasta is added too hot it’s hard to avoid some curdling.

  • JMW

    Interesting post. Re: distribution of cheese …you could make a “mounted butter” emulsion in advance (like what and use that in place of cream for a similar effect. It seems like the original recipe makes such an emulsion on the plate, using pasta water and fancy wrist action getting it all to come together. Neat idea but I suspect cream is easiest because it’s so stable … that would also suggest why we use it. It is the easiest way to get consistent results. Nothing wrong with that … as long as the ingredients are fresh, it’s real cooking in my book!

  • David

    Food snobs are so tedious. Their disdain as expressed regarding other people is poisonous.
    How can they be makers of good food when their minds are filled with such disgust? “Here, let me add a sneer to your day. Let me enjoy my own superior meal while I pour a large measure of toxic emotions into your mind”

  • Judi R

    I have wanted to make/eat this dish since I saw the picture last week and waited until I bought some fresh, really good quality fettuccine. It is amazing! The only change I made was to add some lemon zest before serving. Really awesome! Thank you!

  • Victoria

    Why do you use such awkward measurements in your recipe?

    How many cups are in 2 oz’s of parmesan cheese or butter? It is much clearer for me to read 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and 4 TB butter instead of having to use google to do the translation.

    • Chuck

      They’re not awkward if you have a scale :)

      And 2 oz of butter isn’t awkward anyhow: it’s half a stick.

      • Victoria

        so say half a stick of butter or 4 TB of butter….you’re still doing the “translating” whereas those measurements are obvious to anyone with a butter wrapper!

      • Bert

        Sir, for pointing out what is less obvious than I had initially assumed, I award you eleven internets. Use them with care.

        Victoria, I also tend to prefer recipes that list measurements in terms of cups and the like, and Mr. Ruhlman could easily have written the recipe this way, but sometimes that isn’t really too practical (i.e. making candy, stuff like that). Besides, a good-quality kitchen scale is only 25 dollars, and considering how much we spend on other stuff, you might as well buy one. That was probably the point of listing many of the ingredients in this recipe in terms of units of weight.

    • kerry

      Weights are more accurate and help ensure more consistent results. I bought a kitchen scale on amazon for under 40 dollars. It is one of the best kitchen investments I ever made. Now if only more American cookbooks would get on board.

    • Bert

      You know that Japan’s main source of umami is konbu, right? You know that konbu is a type of kelp and, thus, can be eaten by vegans, right?

      Perhaps you are thinking of dashi, which is a stock that makes use of umami, but is not vegan, as it has katsuoboshi (bonito flakes) in it?

  • SunshineGrrrl

    I keep a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano just for this. We frequently have a bit of leftover cream from things here and there and I can use the leftovers for fettucine alfredo. And is just that easy. A little butter a little cream and some parm and a toss and I’m very happy.

  • Lori Lange @ RecipeGirl

    You know, it’s funny… I never think to make something so simple as an Alfredo Sauce. The nutmeg is key, for sure. I’m headed to Italy on a cheese-tasting trip next month, and one of our stops is Parma. You can bet that I’ll be smuggling some good Parm- Reg home!

  • Dan

    Not an American hater and not a stay at home chef – restaurant chef who’s worked in the US and Italy and Argentina, where I am now. I have no objection to someone making a cream sauce out of this or altering dishes, as Michael did, but it’s no more an “alfredo” than a “beurre blanc” made out of cream is a beurre blanc. Alter away, but at the least, it’s a disservice not to note that the original version of the sauce is not a cream based one.

    As to those claiming it isn’t really an Italian dish, as Layla noted above, it is, though it’s actually a dish that was “invented”, or at least popularized, in Rome, rather than in the north – though I’ve seen it in various parts of the country.

    • John

      “The traditional Italian Alfredo doesn’t use cream but I think the cream is essential for distributing the cheese.”

  • Dan

    Oh, and Michael F – yes, butter is “fatter” than cream, but the difference is, the traditional sauce uses a mere tablespoon or two of butter, just enough to barely coat whatever pasta you have and prevent it from sticking to itself – and note the recipe above includes both that AND a cup of cream on top of it.

  • Richard Stevens

    An Italian friend of mine makes the best Fettuccine Alfredo I’ve ever eaten. It’s rich, creamy and delicious! He uses Fresh Pasta, Cream, Parmesan, and Romano cheese. No measuring, or as our friend David Lebovitz says, he cooks Au Pif.

  • EdTheRed

    Made this dish last night…I was almost too tired to cook when I remembered this post and realized I had all the ingredients on hand.

    Traditional Alfredo or not, it was very easy, and very delicious.

  • Sophie

    A lovely classic recipe. I substitute the cream in soy cream because it contains no cholesterol & it makes the dish a lot lighter!

    MMMMMMM,….looks very tasty!!

    Many greets from Brussels, Belgium!

  • Roberta Wennik

    Go to Rome and taste what Alfredo really had in mind. Visit the Original Alfredo’s near the Piazza Navonna. I have been to that restaurant at least half a dozen times in my life and never once was there cream in the sauce. Why do Americans have to bastardize the dishes of other countries and call it by the same name? Fettuccine Alfredo floats off the plate with the freshly made noodles, cheese and butter. No cream, thank you.

    Many people don’t realize that the dish came about when Alfredo’s wife was pregnant and nothing sat well with her. He created this noodle dish for her. She then told him to put it on the menu it was so good. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the stars of stage and screen and a married couple, ate at Alfredo’s and fell in love with his noodle dish. They went to a goldsmith and had a serving spoon and fork made, engraving them with “King of Pasta”. I’ve been blessed when I was a young girl to be presented with that spoon and fork by Alfredo himself to eat those heavenly noodles.

    So, go ahead and include cream if you want. Just don’t call it Fettuccine Alfredo. The poor guy would turn over in his grave if he knew what his namesake has become.