FÊTE & FORAGE

beautiuful LIVINg, bountiful FOOD

Mille grazie to Alfredo di Lelio for inventing my favorite guilty pleasure. According to legend, this Roman restaurateur invented something “to please his pregnant wife” in 1914, calling it “fettuccine al burro,” or fettuccine with butter sauce. di Lelio owned a restaurant on the Via della Scrofa in Rome until 1943, at which time he sold it to two of his waiters

Strangely, the dish has never caught on in Italy with same popularity that it has in the United States. In fact, you’ll have to ask for the dish by its more recognized name, “pasta al burro” or “pasta bianca” (pasta in white sauce) and, sadly, it is really not prepared the same. 

Having worked my way through the University of Michigan by slinging my fair share of never-ending pasta bowls at The Olive Garden, I can testify that this is the real restaurant recipe. Don’t ask me where I got it . . . I’ll never tell.

There are a lot of recipes promising “quick and easy” alfredos, but what they save in time, they sacrifice in full bodied flavor. 

The trick to velvety, smooth Alfredo is egg yolk. Adding just enough room-temperature egg yolk — painfully slow — to the mixture so that it heats gradually and doesn’t scramble, is the thing. Resisting the urge to spill even the last ounce is well worth the exercise in discipline.

The other essential key is luscious heavy cream: the heaviest cream you can buy. In most cases, you’ll find 36% (fat) heavy whipping cream from most grocers. If you have access to a local dairy or restaurant supply store, opt for manufacturer’s cream, which contains 40% fat. It’s probably worth opening a licensed food facility and paying taxes for that extra 4%.

Finally, the real secret to authentic alfredo sauce is the cheese. NEVER use powdered grated cheese (that contains anti-caking cellulose powder). Freshly-grated parmesan from the block is the only option here.

Unlike red sauces that reheat well, Alfredo separates when cooled down then reheated. To avoid this, always reheat slowly over the range (never in the microwave!) stirring frequently and adding a small amount of additional cream to smooth it as it heats. Or, better yet, eat it all in one sitting.

The traditional dish, of course, is fettuccine alfredo, because the sauce clings nicely to a wide noodle. I stock the fridge with all types of fresh pasta; I can tell you from extensive testing that it makes little to no difference which you choose. Alfredo sauce is delicious on any shape or size, including spoons and fingertips.

If you’re feeling adventurous, I’ve included a link to a great pasta maker. If you’re more like me, you can hardly wait to enjoy the dish and use refrigerated fresh pasta most of the time.

Authentic Alfredo Sauce

Serves 4-6 (Yields ~ 18 oz.) | Prep Time :15 | Total Cook Time :15

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 egg yolk (at room temperature)
  • 2 cups fresh hand-grated parmesan
  • 4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1½ cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • pinch of fine salt
  • pinch of garlic powder 
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • fresh pasta, cooked al dente

EQUIPMENT 

  • saucepan
  • whisk
  • hand cheese grater
  • sieve (~ 6″ diameter)
  • utility / mixing bowl for straining

DIRECTIONS 

  1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add cream, stirring gently until butter-cream mixture comes to room temperature.
  3. Whisk egg yolks in a separate dish or measuring cup, careful to not include whites. If you have access to pasteurized whole egg yolks, use those.
  4. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the butter-cream mixture to the egg yolks to equalize the temperature of the liquids. Whisk until combined.
  5. Add egg yolk-butter-cream mixture to gently heated cream in saucepan, one drop at a time. Performing this step painfully slow is essential. Adding cold egg yolk to warm or hot cream too quickly will cause the egg to scramble and the sauce to “break”.
  6. Once egg mixture is fully incorporated, warm the mixture to medium-high.
  7. Slowly add grated parmesan ¼ cup at a time, constantly stirring as it melts. (Do not use “powdered” grated parmesan cheese from a can; the cellulose used to prevent caking heats very differently than real block parmesan.)
  8. Heat mixture but DO NOT LET IT BOIL! You do not want to “cook” the cheese, but rather emulsify it.
  9. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and ground nutmeg.
  10. Let cool for 5 minutes to congeal a bit.
  11. Pour slowly through sieve into mixing bowl, straining out any small bits. Pour back into pan to keep warm. 
  12. Gild freshly-cooked pasta, tossing generously, and enjoy.

Authentic Alfredo Sauce

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