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This recipe walks through the steps for making classic fettuccine Alfredo recipe at home, with plenty of creamy, buttery sauce. Using pantry staples like butter, cream, fettuccine noodles and Parmesan cheese, you can make one of the most comforting and soul-satisfying pasta dinners in about 10 minutes.
Fettuccine Alfredo, featuring a type of long, thick pasta noodle in a creamy, cheesy sauce, is comfort food in its purest form. Alongside an easy homemade pasta carbonara, this pasta dinner could not be simpler to prepare — even for novice home cooks. The sauce is a winning combo of butter, cheese and cream — I like to describe it as a festival of carbs, all wrapped up in a luscious package.
It’s no wonder that everyone from small children to adults go crazy for it!
Did you know? Fettuccine Alfredo just might be the most popular pasta dish in the United States. But the origin of the dish can be traced back to early 20th century Rome, when the Italian chef Alfred di Lelio concocted a pasta sauce enriched with lots of butter and cheese, but no cream. At his restaurant, hot strands of fettuccine noodles were twirled with the sauce, tableside.
The very simple sauce is similar to another Roman pasta sauce, cacio e pepe, which combines grated Pecorino Romano cheese, butter and starchy, hot pasta water.
About the ingredients
- Pasta: Fettuccine is the classic pasta to combine with Alfredo sauce and thick homemade Bolognese sauce. I’ve made this recipe with dried and fresh fettuccine — they only difference is that fresh pasta cooks more quickly. But there’s no rule that says you can’t pair the sauce with whatever noodle shape you enjoy. Try pappardelle pasta, linguine or short pasta shapes like penne, bowties or rigatoni.
- Alfredo sauce: Alfredo sauce is an ethereal combination of finely grated Parmesan cheese, heavy cream and butter. For a smooth and velvety-textured sauce, seek out heavy cream or heavy whipping cream and finely grated Parmesan cheese (not shreds). Better yet, buy a chunk of Parmesan and grate it yourself, using a rasp grater or a food processor.
- Parsley: Fresh chopped parsley provides a welcome hit of green to the cream-colored dish. It also adds a tasty herbal counterpoint to the cream sauce. Fresh basil is also delicious!
Milk vs heavy cream for fettuccine alfredo
- Ideally, Alfredo sauce has a thick, smooth consistency that delicately coats the pasta strands, but never feels heavy or gloppy. Ultimately, that texture comes from a sweet-spot ratio of butter, reduced heavy cream, finely grated cheese combined with the starchy pasta.
- Milk — or even half-and-half — doesn’t have a high enough percentage of fat to produce a thick sauce. For that reason, some recipes rely on ingredients like flour or cream cheese as a shortcut to make the sauce. This recipe for fettuccine Alfredo uses heavy cream that simmers and reduces to the perfect texture.
Preparation steps for fettuccine Alfredo
Luscious Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo
- 8 tablespoons (113 g) butter (one stick), salted or unsalted, cut into cubes
- 1½ cups (350 ml) heavy cream, or heavy whipping cream
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup (115 g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound fettuccine pasta, fresh or dried
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Make the Alfredo sauce
- Put the butter in a 3-4 quart saucepan or deep skillet and place over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan occasionally until the butter melts.
- Pour in the cream and ½ teaspoon salt and heat until it comes to a boil — the cream will foam and rise to the top of the pan. Immediately lower the heat to medium or medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Whisk the cream, and continue simmering 8-10 minutes, until it's slightly reduced. Keep your eye on the pan to prevent it from boiling over.
- Sprinkle ½ cup of the cheese into the cream and whisk. Remove the pan from the heat, continue to whisk until the sauce has a thick, smooth consistency. Remove from the heat and cover the pan to keep the sauce warm while the pasta cooks.
Cook the pasta
- While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of water (5-6 quarts) to a rolling boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and stir to dissolve.
- Add the fettuccine to the pot and stir. Bring the water back to a boil, then adjust the heat to achieve a lively simmer. Cook the pasta, uncovered, until al dente. Keep in mind that fresh pasta will cook in 3-5 minutes, while dried fettuccine may take 8-10 minutes. Drain.
- Add the fettuccine, ¼ cup of the cheese and the parsley to the warm sauce and toss gently with tongs to blend. Serve the fettuccine in bowls or plates, with the remaining cheese on the side.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- Garlic: If you enjoy garlic, add 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic or 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder to the melted butter before adding the cream.
- The sauce may be cooked, cooled and stored in the refrigerator for one week. Reheat on low heat in a saucepan until the sauce is smooth, warm and creamy, then toss with your cooked pasta.