On the surface, Pasta Alfredo is a simple fettuccine pasta in a creamy parmesan cheese sauce. Yet, the magic of this iconic Italian dish is in the quality of the ingredients, the techniques used and the care given to its preparation. The pasta must be freshly made. The cheese must be freshly grated, authentic, aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Finally, the pasta serving bowl and pasta must be piping hot when the cream sauce and pasta are tossed at the table right before serving. Not a second should be wasted to get the hot, creamy pasta to the diner's plate and ready to devour. Don't talk while tossing the pasta at the table. Just watch in silence and listen for the Parmigiano-Reggiano to melt.
I first had this wonderful dish at the Original Alfredo Ristorante in Rome with my sister Marisa. Notice how they gave Marisa the large pasta bowl as her serving plate! We were touring the Continent back in the 80's and found ourselves sitting outside at this amazing Italian trattoria. Especially memorable was the attention the waiters gave us young American-Italian girls. The flourish and joy they put into making their signature pasta dish tableside for us made it truly special. Afterwards they even took us into the kitchen to meet the chef and see the operation.
The other part of my memory from that night is not so pleasant. I recall when the unholy mix of Campari Apertivo, way too much Pasta Alfredo, several Cannoli and more red wine than Gidget should of had, all got heaved in the back of the taxi on the way home to our hotel. At the time I blamed it on the crazy way Italians drive. LOL. Hope that image does not stop you from enjoying this recipe. Whenever I make Pasta Alfredo, I always think of that night and the fun Marisa and I had in Rome. Alfredo's Restaurant looks like this today, and even has the same tables outside!
Tips for great homemade pasta
The egg pasta recipe used in this dish is based on my Mom's homemade pasta recipe and can be used for any homemade pasta such as spaghetti, fettuccine, ravioli, or lasagna. The only changes I made were to add more egg yolks for additional moisture. Sometimes Mom added olive oil, and sometimes she didn't. I also learned over the years that the addition of some semolina durum flour along with the all-purpose flour adds a beautiful yellow color and distinct nuance to the pasta.
I never mastered the art of hand rolling and hand cutting pasta like my Grandmothers did. Once I used a Kitchenaid with the pasta roller and cutter attachments I realized it is just easier and faster with an electric motor. This video shows how to make homemade pasta with a Kitchenaid and the pasta attachments. From start to finish it takes just about an hour, including 30 minute resting time for the dough, to have fresh Pasta Alfredo for dinner.
Pasta Alfredo: Homemade Fettuccine with Parmesan Cream Sauce
- 3 cups all-purpose flour or 00 flour
- ½ cup semolina flour or double-milled semolina durum flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 5 whole eggs + 3 egg yolks
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to taste
- 1 pound 16 ounces fettuccine, homemade preferred or store-bought
Homemade Fettuccine Pasta:
- In a stand mixer, mix flours and salt with the flat paddle. Mix eggs, egg yolks, and oil in a measuring cup with a pour lip. Slowly add egg mixture to flour on a low setting. Continue mixing until a ball starts to form. Change to dough hook and knead for 3 minutes. The dough will be shaggy and messy at this point.
- Dump the dough on a floured board, and knead by hand for 5 more minutes or until the dough comes together and forms a smooth ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Cut the pasta ball into 4 pieces. With one piece, flatten and stretch out the dough with the palm of your hand to a rectangle shape, about ½ thick.
- Attach the pasta roller attachment to the Kitchenaid and put on setting 1.
- Guide the dough all the way through the roller to create a longer, thinner sheet of pasta. Fold and run through again on setting number 2. Continuing putting the sheet of pasta through the roller until it is thin enough to see your hand behind the dough, or at least through settings 3 or 4. Refer to your Kitchen-Aid manual for tips on using the attachments.
- Switch to the pasta cutter attachment and run the thin pasta sheet through the cutter to make long strands of pasta. Lay the pasta over a pasta drying rack or a stick/rod propped up on two chairs and covered with a kitchen towel. Keep the pasta strands separate and let them dry while you continue rolling out the rest of the pasta pieces.
- The pasta is best used right away, or it can be nested in small portions on a baking sheet and frozen. Transfer to a ziplock bag and keep in the freezer for future use.
- In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the cream and butter to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 2 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of the cheese and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute more.
- Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Try to time the sauce to be done at the same time the pasta is ready to toss.
- Place a large, oven-safe pasta bowl in a cold oven and set the temperature to 200 degrees F. When the oven gets to temperature, the bowl should be warmed. Have the bowl warm and ready when the pasta is done.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons salt to the boiling water.
- Add the fresh pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes or until just tender. If using store-bought pasta, cook a la dente about 7 - 9 minutes.
- Transfer the hot pasta to the warmed pasta bowl with a slotted spoon.
- As with tradition, bring the warm bowl of pasta to the table. Pour the Alfredo sauce over the hot pasta and toss well. Add a handful more of grated cheese and keep tossing until all the pasta is well coated.
- Serve immediately.