Pasta Alfredo

April 29, 2009

Life is a combination of magic and pasta.
~Frederico Fellini

Gilt, glamour and early papparazzi.

The original “pasta Alfredo” was not really a recipe, but a simple a toss of butter, parmigiano reggiano and pasta—created by owner Alfredo di Lelio for his Roman restaurant, Alfredo alla Scrofa, sometime around the outset of World War I. True Alfredo calls for doppio burro, double butter, which imparts a golden color. Legend has it that the chef created his fettuccine all’Alfredo when his wife lost her appetite during pregnancy. To restore her hunger, he specially prepared a plate of egg fettuccine with parmigiano reggiano, and butter.

During their heyday in the 30’s, the famed actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks visited Alfredo’s while on their honeymoon stay in Rome, and found his speciality delicious in its rich simplicity. So enamored with the gracious Alfredo and this new found dish, not only did they donate gold tossing forks to him, they spread the word across the Atlantic. Other notables, such as Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Richard Burton, Liz Taylor, and Sophia Loren frequented the restaurant during the 60’s and 70’s (cameras clicking, flashbulbs popping), which bestowed even greater fame on this venue. Although far from a precise theory, many suggest that the cream was a stateside afterthought.


2 C heavy cream
4 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 C parmigiano reggiano, grated
Freshly ground pepper

1 lb fettucini or linguini
Sea salt

Bring water to a boil in a large heavy pot, and add a couple of tablespoons of salt.

In a heavy large saucepan, bring the butter and cream to a gentle boil and simmer for 30 seconds. Add half of the parmigiano reggiano, some pepper, and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat. Drain the cooked pasta and return to pan. Add the cream, the rest of the parmigiano reggiano, the pasta, a liberal grinding of pepper, and then toss well.

Pourboire: try halving the parmigiano reggiano and replace with a similar quantity of gorgonzola, roquefort or other fine blue cheese and roasted roughly chopped walnuts. Also, consider tossing on the finish with already coarsely chopped, cooked and well drained pancetta, guanciale or bacon.