As with most sauces originating from Italy, the early version of what we call an Alfredo sauce, is not what we Americans are accustomed to. A twist on cacio e pepe (starch water, pecorino and pepper), the authentic-ish version of Alfredo, called fettuccine al burro (with butter) is made with a generous portion of butter melted with Parmesan.
Where the version made with cream originated is not entirely certain. My guess is that, like with carbonara, some American just added a ton of cream to make it even more unhealthy.
Now, while I'll throw a hissy fit if my carbonara is thickened with cream instead of eggs, I like my Alfredo swimming in thick, velvety cream sauce. I would normally reduce the cream for 40 minutes or so to get the right consistency, but I either grew lazier or smarter, and now use a little flour to speed the process. This sauce really does come together in minutes, but unfortunately, I can’t make the pasta cook sooner!
Technique Tip: Use reserved pasta water to control the creaminess of the sauce.
Swap Option: Use Parmigiano-Reggiano instead of pecorino for a twist. Be sure to adjust the seasoning.
- 12 ounces spinach fettuccine, cooked just short of al dente in salted water; reserve 1 cup of pasta water
- 3/4 cup pecorino cheese, grated, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Salt, to taste, if necessary
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
- 1½ cups heavy cream
1. In a small bowl, mix the cheese, flour and pepper.
2. Add the heavy cream to a high-sided skillet and bring to a gentle simmer, over medium-high heat.
3. Add the cheese mixture and whisk to combine.
4. Allow the cream to return to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Season with salt, as needed.
6. Add the cooked fettuccine to the sauce and toss to combine.
7. Add reserved pasta water, as needed, until you achieve a creamy, velvety sauce.
8. Serve immediately with a some grated pecorino and freshly ground pepper.