A gorgeous and simple mix of just fettuccine, Parmesan and butter, Fettuccine Alfredo is a classic to die for.
Our dearest Alfredo
There are few recipes the roots of which can be as easily traced as those of Fettuccine Alfredo. Although a dish of cheese, butter and pasta can be found in cookbooks as early as the 15th century under the name macaroni romaneschi, Fettuccine Alfredo as we know it today is the product of one Alfredo di Lelio’s culinary imagination. In 1892, Alfredo took a job in a restaurant in Rome run by his mother where he began cooking. Then, in the early 1900s, when his wife wouldn’t eat after giving birth, Alfredo made her something special; fettuccine (a ribbon-shaped pasta) with plenty of Parmesan and a very generous portion of butter. She wolfed it down, and the pasta made its way onto the restaurant’s menu and around the world.
Fettuccine Alfredo is now eaten around the world and is particularly popular in the US. In fact, it’s so popular there that the American recipe, which actually differs substantially from the original Italian, is often mistaken for the original. American Alfredo usually involves cream, nutmeg, garlic, and even things like chicken or shrimp, which would never be found in an Italian version.
A ritual worth getting to know
In essence, the food is made in a simple way. Pasta is cooked until al dente and then mixed with a heavy portion of butter, young Parmesan cheese, a little pasta water, and then served. But, an important part of the folklore around Fettuccine Alfredo is that in Alfredo’s original restaurant, he, despite being the boss, would come to every table that ordered the dish and make it himself in front of the diners, sometimes accompanied by a violinist. This ritual was of such import that when George Rector, an American writer of the 1930s, wrote up his visit to Alfredo’s, he said: ‘Alfredo doesn’t make Fettuccine. He doesn’t cook Fettuccine. He achieves it’. Quite something for a dish of just pasta, butter and cheese.
When it comes to the right way to eat Fettuccine Alfredo the answer is simple. Just eat it – don’t add anything, don’t worry about spices or side dishes, just get it on your plate and in your mouth.
When in Italy
Something worth knowing if you’re ever heading to Italy and wanting to try Fettuccine Alfredo is it’s known by a different name there; fettuccine al burro. This literally means fettuccine with butter.
You can pick up some delicious Fettuccine Alfredo in Singapore, too. Our favourite is from Rosso Vino.