Fettuccine Alfredo

Mmmm. Fettuccine Alfredo. So simple, but so so good. Most of us in America know this dish in its cream-based form, with a little nutmeg sprinkled on top. But did you know that the original fettuccine Alfredo sauce didn’t use cream? Just butter, Parmesan, and black pepper. Both are great, whether you make one or the other just depends on what you feel like eating.

The Alfredo in fettuccine Alfredo is Alfredo di Lelio who operated a restaurant in Rome. Legend has it that he fancied up a basic pasta with butter-and-cheese dish, to appeal to his wife, who was suffering from morning sickness. When he later served it at his restaurant, it was a hit.

Americans can thank Hollywood for our love of Alfredo sauce. In the late 1920s, movie stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford ate at di Lelio’s restaurant while on honeymoon in Rome, and brought the dish back to the States. It’s been here ever since. Somewhere along the way, it morphed into a creamy version; how that happened is anyone’s guess.

We present both versions here, the classic and the creamy. Regardless of which version you make, serve this pasta immediately. The sauces are weak emulsions, which will break if held too long.

Fettuccine Alfredo Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

For this dish we prefer dry fettucine noodles to freshly made because the pasta holds up better to the sauce. The instructions assume that you are using dry noodles. If you use fresh, adjust timing accordingly.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound dry fettuccine pasta
  • 3-4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Black pepper

Additional, for creamy version:

  • 1/2 cup cream
  • Nutmeg

Method

1 Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil and drop in your fettuccine.

2a Plain version Melt the butter in a large sauté pan set over low heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat off.

2b Creamy version Melt the butter in a large sauté pan set over low heat. Add the cream to the butter as it melts. Stir often to combine the two, do not turn off the heat, but keep the heat at its lowest setting while the pasta cooks.

3 When the fettuccine is al dente (cooked, but still a little firm) lift it out of the pot with tongs and move the pasta to the sauté pan. Do not drain the pasta. You want it dripping wet with the cooking water. Turn on the heat under the sauté pan to medium and swirl the pasta and butter together to combine. Add half the cheese, then swirl and toss the pasta until it has incorporated into the sauce. If needed, add a few spoonfuls more of the pasta cooking water. Add the rest of the cheese and repeat.

4 Serve at once with either a little black pepper (for classic version) or nutmeg (for creamy version) ground over the pasta.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Follow on Bloglovin

Links:
All About the Original Alfredo Sauce - from Saveur Magazine
Another version of Fettuccine Alfredo - from The Pioneer Woman
An Epiphany About Creamless Alfredo - from Cooking by the Seat of My Pants
About Fettuccine Alfredo (Fettuccine Triplo Burro) from The Garrubbo Guide


fettucine-alfredo-cream-a.jpg
Fettuccine Alfredo with a Cream Sauce.

37 Comments

  1. Phil

    “…the original fettuccine Alfredo sauce didn’t use cream? Just butter, Parmesan, and black pepper.”

    Wow, I never knew that. I’ve always made the ‘original’ and never even knew that was what I was making. Must have been a psychic link with Alfredo di Lelio.

    Thanks for this nice little classic, and the bit of history about it.

  2. Katie

    I make it the plain way all the time–it’s my go to no food in the fridge meal! I feel fancy now. I tend to add a little extra pasta water to coat the noodles better. Deliciously easy meal.

  3. Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet

    I am officially hungry after seeing this post! I hate it when restaurants serve a white based sauce instead of the simple ingredients that should be the sauce for fettuccine alfredo. Like this one. Simple and delicious.

  4. rebecca h.

    Absolutely lovely. I love all extra simple pasta dishes, butter based or olive oil based.

    For me Alfredo has to be the original version, for taste and for nostalgia.

    When my husband and I first lived together I worked incredibly long hours cooking in a restaurant kitchen and he happily took on the responsibility of most of the home cooking. I would come home late at night utterly exhausted and he would unfailingly whip an extra simple but incredibly comforting pasta.

    He almost never used cream and I still have a more austere palate when it comes to pasta, especially long pastas.

  5. Tracey

    Oh yum…yum, YUM. I know what’s going to be on our menu this week. :)
    It’s interesting to read about the original recipe for the fettuccine, it’s so simple but I am sure that’s what makes it sooooo good.
    I have always been a fan of fettuccine dishes but often they are too milky for my taste, now I learn the original didn’t even call for cream. Cheese, pasta? PERFECTION.

  6. Elizabeth (Foodie, Formerly Fat)

    I’ve heard the same background on the sauce from Alfredo di Lelio but with another twist (possibly just legend):

    Some say that Alfredo never changed his pasta water and that when he made his namesake sauce he would add a ladle-full of the cooking water to the butter and cheese. The super starchy water would mix in with the butter, cheese, and egg pasta (fettuccine of course has egg in it when other pastas don’t) and it would create a creamy texture to the pasta sauce.

    Americans, apparently, didn’t know this trick of using the pasta water to complete the sauce and assumed he had added cream to give it that unique texture. When they remade it, they remade it with cream, incorrectly!

    On a side note, I’ve been eating pasta with Parm and cheese on it since I was old enough to eat solid food and it is the first thing I ever learned to cook on my own. It’s divine!

  7. September London

    Beautifully simple! Thank you for reminding us of how wonderful simple & classic can be.
    I look forward to making this & showing my husband that the gloppy, over-sauced version he almost always orders when eating out is truly inferior.
    (Adding fettuccine to my grocery list now…)

    Love your blog!

  8. Celeste

    Thanks for this. Spring is here in Zone 5, Illinois, although we’ll have a cold snap, or two, before mid-May when we feel it safe for starting the things that like it warm and sunny.

    Family here is ready for fresh and lighter, so thanks, Elise et al!

    I’ve found we can make a creamy-ish sauce without any cream by using some reserved pasta water with the parm. Veggies like new asparagus, peas, etc., blanched and stirred in are lovely. Fresh herbs-nice, too. And if you can, a bit of bacon.

  9. Teresah

    Hello Elise, I live in Italy and love to cook classic Fettucine Alfredo which all my family love. Another twist to this classic is A “SPAGHETTI CACIO E PEPE”.
    The receipe does not have any oil or butter, as with your receipe, just cook spaghetti, lift it out of the pot and move the pasta to a sauté pan. Do not drain the pasta. Mix in a cup of grated pecorino cheese, a ladle full of the pasta cooking water, stir vigorously, the cheese will melt together with the hot cooking water giving the pasta a very very creamy texture. Serve hot with lots of black pepper.

    Teresah

  10. Daniela

    Hello Everybody!
    I was born in Rome and living here since then…
    So, I ‘m used to go to Alfredo from a lifetime to celebrate FAmily Events… Take it from me, the plain version is the ONLY one and is delicious beyond any imagination… Here on our tables, we only use that one but never put the butter over heat, just heating the bowl, adding a tablespoon of the pasta boiling water to make the butter creamy. Then, if you try my mamma’s secret you will have the creanest version on earth: make the butter creamy as I wrote, then, when you have the fettucine al dente ready, please take them not so dried and just toss them in a separate bowl with the parmesan. Stir well until the parmesan will be well melted all around fettuccine . NOW toss it into the butter! You will see how creamy with NO cream!!

    Great suggestion, thank you! ~Elise

  11. Ross

    ah!! here’s a nice Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper), as we call it in Rome.
    There’s just one slight difference with original Cacio & Pepe: parmesan is “cut” with pecorino romano + obviously, pepper.
    there’s no way to do this pasta without adding a couple of spoonfuls of pasta water: as mentioned in other posts, the starch-added water will help emulsify the sauce. One little trick: warm up the dishes you serve it in. It will stay smooth for longer (just rinse them under hot water and dry them roughly with a cloth).

    It’s soo nice you guys love it so much, I love when good simple Italian dishes travel this far.

  12. kathy243

    It’s just after 7 a.m. and MI is having a huge snow storm, which makes me want some nice warm comfort food NOW!! I have everything to make Alfredo,including fresh nutmeg, so off to the kitchen I go to treat myself to some, and then I will sleep it off till the storm ends! I love this site!!! Thanks for your wonderfulness. KK

  13. Cooking with Michele

    I celebrated my birthday in Rome at Alfredo’s della Scrofa a couple of years ago and it’s interesting that now they make they alfredo sauce with a heavier cream base. they make a big production out of making it tableside and served mine on the huge platter in honor of my birthday!

  14. Cary

    Occasionally I add an egg yolk at the very very end, off the heat but while it’s still warm. Adds a silky richness (since all the butter and cheese are clearly not rich enough!)

    Mmm, I love adding egg yolks to pasta, sort of like a carbonara. ~Elise

  15. Dave

    When I was in Italy Pasta Carbonara (Fireman’s Pasta) became my favorite. How did they make the egg remain a sauce and keep from solidifying? Please, please and authentic Pasta Carbonara receipe! Dave

  16. dena

    For my first dinner given as a young married person, I made the only thing I knew — Fettuccine Alfredo. My hubby’s cousin raved and raved about how wonderful it was. Turns out, by coincidence, that the cousin attended a dinner party given a week earlier by a very rich couple, where the main course was, you guessed it, Fettuccine Alfredo. That was the first time he had any, and came away thinking it was a ritzy gourmet dish. He was VERY impressed that I could make and serve such a fancy item!

  17. Sal Alberico(Salvatore)

    I love this site always a fabulous recipe bravo!As far as the alfredo recipe if you decide to make it with the cream,Which I always do,Use white pepper not black.Black pepper tends to break the cream down real fast. Alfredo sauce just isn’t alfredo with out the cream.

  18. Solo Di Passaggio

    I’ve been Italian all my life and I find very funny thet the only times I hear about Fettuccini Alfredo is from Americans. I’m not saying that there isn’t a restaurant in Rome that serves them (even if this is the first time I read that) but I say that 99.9% of italian would look you as you where a clueless stranger if you tell something like “I love italian food, expecially your famous fettuccini Alfredo”

  19. Jessica

    Thank you for posting both versions of this recipe – they both look amazing. The plain version with lots of cracked black pepper sounds perfect. There is nothing more satisfying than fettuccine alfredo.

  20. lenguamor

    How it “morphed” into a cream-based sauce instead of just butter is: the butter in Italy is richer (double or triple cream) and therefore needed no additional dairy enhancement. Using American butter, you must add cream to achieve the creaminess of the original.
    Also: I thought the dish originated in Napoli…?

  21. T. Hannibal Gay

    Another way to make it is using a mock Alfredo sauce. Its basically a thickened bechamel with some cracked pepper and nutmeg. A lot fewer calories and much better for your heart.

  22. Alessandro

    I was going to comment about the “cacio e pepe” receipe, which preferably uses pecorino instead of parmigiano, when I saw Teresah’s comment. And then others. The only thing I can add is that pecorino (even better the “romano” type) is way better than parmesan.

    About Carbonara (Dave’s request): the receipe is very simple, very common when in large groups of friends to share. The trick is to mix the egg yolks (already mixed with cheese, parmesan or pecorino) very quickly with the non-completely-drained spaghetti. The best way is to have someone pouring eggs&cheese while you mix everything. Someone is using the trick to add some cream, but this is a trick, not for “professional” ;-)

  23. Val from PA

    My family loves fettucine alfredo, but I’ve always made the creamy garlic alfredo version… One of these days, I’ll have to try the original version with nutmeg on them… Either way, it’s a classic comfort food!!!

  24. Fabio

    I agree with Jessica.Butter in Italy is richer than in USA,besides can you imaging the quality of the butter in italy in 1925 when Alfredo “invented” the dish?

  25. Dyanna

    A little bit of lemon zest and a touch of the juice as well, and I am so there!

  26. Damaris @Kitchen Corners

    Thanks for posting this Elise. I’ve been seriously craving this simple dish. I’m making your recipe (without the cream) this week for dinner.

  27. Angela

    I just made it and it was so easy. It tastes great.

  28. Renee

    Can I just say that I LOVE your blog! I have used many recipes from it and loved every one…This recipe looks great too! I recently have been trying to eat gluten-free (waiting for test results to see if this is necessary). Looking for some gluten-free pasta and will make this sauce for it…

  29. Karen

    OMG I made this last night and it was so good! I don’t like “Alfredo” sauce, just not a big white sauce fan but this was fabulous – I love the no cream! I sauted some shrimp too and added it to the top, it was just perfect and my husband loved it too. Can’t wait to make this for my daughter so she can see what real Alfredo is like!

  30. Theresa

    I made this for my family with elbow macaroni instead of fettuccine, told the 2 and 3 year olds that it was mac and cheese, and we all LOVED it! It was quick, simple, and so very delicious!

  31. Tim

    Hi Elise, I make this Fettuccine Alfredo with a Cream Sauce for Me and my daughter. This recipe is really great. Thanks! love it with the creamy sauce and without.

  32. pf

    It’s weird to know that Alfredo Di lelio is renowned all around the world apart that in Italy!
    Do not misunderstand me, they use to serve this kind of pasta in Italy as one of the basic pasta dishes at home (but no butter and cream unless you are feeding a kid!), you can have refined versions with special kind of cheese at the restaurant and normally they call it “cacio e pepe”, and the cheese might be a special pecorino seasoned in a cave or on a bed of oak leaves for examples.
    I think it is interesting to reflect on the fact that at international level a codification of some kind of dishes occurred. Those dishes lost their regional connotation and have become symbols of a not better defined international cuisine, like Caesar salad or chicken pizza (nobody would eat chicken pizza in italy!), dishes you can find anywhere in places where western foods are served. And they also become cliches misidentifying local cooking cultures. Pasta Alfredo is definitely one of these examples and we should define it as an American pasta dish or a western pasta dish, but definitely not as an Italian recipe.

  33. ines

    HISTORY OF FETTUCCINE ALL’ALFREDO AND ITS CREATOR
    We are the grandchildren of Alfredo Di Lelio (Alfredo and Ines Di Lelio). The story is this. Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in Rome nel 1914, after leaving his first restaurant run by his mother Angelina Rose Square (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Deaf). 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 decided to reopen 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”)

  34. Tonatiuh

    para mi a sido exelente todo el comentario e historia de las dos versionas las cuales ya tengo años preparandolas (soy cocinero)y meencanta y siempre hago la primer version .
    Gracias

  35. gina

    Wow!I just wanted to say this was the first time I made fettucini alfredo with out the cream and it was amazing! I followed Daniela’s advice and did not melt the butter but instead creamed it with the pasta water…..AMAZING! That made the dish! It reminded me of Italy, simple yet mouthwatering.Thank you so much!

  36. Ana

    The recipe I had in Rome used egg yolks, heavy cream, and grated cheese. It was wonderful.

  37. Ben

    In Mexico we add some shrimps on it. Specially in the creamy version, they taste wonderfull.

Post a comment

Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.

Some HTML is OK. URLs are automatically converted to links. Line breaks are automatically converted to paragraphs. The following HTML tags are allowed: a, abbr, acronym, b, blockquote, cite, code, del, em, i, q, strike, strong