This is a dish that we never order in a restaurant. Never. Well, to be honest, we’ve ordered it at enough restaurants to learn the secret of Fettuccine Alfredo. Almost no restaurant can make it! Sure, they make some pasta with a white sauce of some sort slopped on top, or perhaps stirred in, but it’s almost never good. So now, we won’t even try Fettuccine Alfredo, unless we’re in a little Italian place where they speak Italian and it’s clear that they make their own pasta. Even then, it often won’t be good.
In our experience, it’s even harder to find good Fettucine Alfredo at a restaurant than it is to find risotto. Why is that? Well, we think it’s because making Fettuccine Alfredo is all about made-to-order. It will not sit under a heat lamp (well, technically, it will; it has no choice, but it will suffer). So, it must be served as soon as it’s made. Simple as that, and today we’ll show you how to scratch it up at home. We follow the recipe that we found in Pasta Revolution, by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen.
Serves 2 (we don’t recommend making more than this at one time)
The obvious: get high-quality cream, high-quality, real Parmesan cheese, and use fresh pasta (it cooks in the right amount of time, plus really shines with this sauce). These are non-negotiable. And, it’s very important to warm the bowls, so your sauce doesn’t glop up (sorry to get all technical on you there) when you serve it. Just do it right and you’ll have great Fettuccine Alfredo.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en place. Grate the Parmesan into a small bowl. Grate the nutmeg on top. Get everything out and measured. This recipe depends on timing. Spend too long at the wrong time and you’ll have glop (sorry, we know we have to stop using those technical terms–we just can’t help it). Place two large bowls in the oven on the lowest setting to warm.
Simmer cream. In a large heavy-bottomed pan (one large enough to hold the pasta, because it will end up in there), over medium heat, bring the butter, 1 cup cream, salt, and pepper to a simmer. Reduce heat and allow to simmer while you boil the pasta. Ultimately, you want to reduce the cream to about 2/3 of a cup. We found that the timing was perfect if we started heating the salted water for the pasta immediately after the cream started to simmer.
Add cream and boil pasta. Once the cream is reduced, boil up the fresh pasta, which should take only 2 minutes or so. After putting the pasta in the boiling water, add the remaining 1/2 cup cream to the sauce; it should be back to a simmer by the time the pasta is ready. Once the pasta is done, remove 1/4 cup of the pasta water and reserve. Drain pasta.
Make Alfredo. Add the drained pasta to the sauce. Add the cheese and nutmeg. Add the reserved pasta water. Stir with a large fork or tongs until the cheese melts and the sauce has come back to a simmer.
Serve immediately. Take those hot bowls out of the oven and immediately serve all the Fettuccine Alfredo (it will not keep). You can add a grating of Parmesan on top, if you wish.
This is more like it! It came out perfect. When you first serve it, it will seem too runny, but, by the time you eat it, the sauce will be thickening and absorbing into the pasta and it will be perfect. Trust us, it’s like magic. The magic of fresh pasta. And the flavor is outstanding. Nice and creamy, with a fresh creamy taste, but with a more subtle cooked taste, too. Again, perfect. In making this recipe, we can see why restaurants don’t make it well. It’s all about timing. If you’re off, the dish, and the diner, will suffer, but make it at home where you can give it your undivided attention. Perfect. Five stars!