Friday, October 9, 2009

Viva Italia! (this one is long)

Background--History of Fettuccine Alfredo & My love of it

So, a few days ago, a friend's (Drew Hardwick) mom (Judy Hardwick), upon seeing my facebook status mentioning this blog, commented that I should check out the "Pioneer Woman"s website because she had really good recipes. So I did (it is listed under the links on this page), and saw several recipes that I wanted to try...including Fettuccine Alfredo! As far as food goes, it is one of my favorite dishes ever...if I go to an Italian restaurant, there is a pretty good chance I will be getting it. I've even tried it in Italy, when my family went...and of course it was delish! However, whenever I make it at home, it normally consists of store bought alfredo sauce and the cheapest pasta noodles I can find. Which believe me, is good, but nothing compared to what I had in Italy or restaurant's like Provinos here in Auburn. So, moving along, I've been wanting to make my own for a while...and make it as authentic as possible. I've heard that the original Alfredo did NOT involve cream, just butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano (what we Americans call Parmesan) cheese! However, I believe European butter is a little bit different than ours, and so we have to use cream. So anyways, this recipe does call for cream, but I think it is about as authentic as we can make here in America.

Note on Ingredients
Now, a little word on ingredients: since I decided I wanted an "authentic" version, I did have to pay more than I would normally. I actually bought Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese imported from Italy (instead of Kraft Parmesan cheese, which while great on spaghetti, just isn't what I wanted for this dish)--but it cost $11! I also bought some more authentic Italian noodles, Dell'Alpe is the brand name. In addition, I bought some nutmeg...and let me tell you, it is a little pricey ($4). Another thing that raised the price was a container of dipping spices I bought (I decided to serve the bread with Olive oil, and wanted some spices to mix in it)--it is "Delallo Dipping Spices," and it is divided into 4 different sections, each containing a different blend: (1) Garlic & Tomato, (2)Sundried Tomato & Basil, (3) Rosemary & Garlic, and (4) Roasted Garlic & Cheese. It too was around $10, but we eat bread a lot, so I figure it'll last us awhile and be put to use.
Main point: Authenticity is pricey, but as long as you don't make this too much (which you shouldn't do anyways b/c of the fat content), it might be worth it to you.

The Menu

  • Fettuccine Alfredo
  • French Bread with Olive Oil/Spice Blend dipping sauce (I used a mix of the Rosemary & Garlic and the Roasted Garlic & Cheese)
  • Lettuce Wedge
The Recipes

Fettuccine Alfredo

The original recipe can be found here, and below is my slightly modified version (added garlic & nutmeg):


1 pound fettuccine
1 stick butter
1-2 cloves minced garlic*
1 - 1.25 cups heavy cream
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
dash of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
ground nutmeg, to taste

*you can find already minced garlic at the store (if you don't want to peel, crush, and mince the garlic yourself)--I would use a tsp or 2 of it

  1. Grate 2 cups of Parmesan
  2. Bring pot of water to boil, then add pasta (and cook as long as necessary)
  3. While pasta is cooking, put skillet on stove, and set on low to medium-low heat
  4. Melt 1 stick of butter in skillet
  5. Add garlic
  6. Pour in equal amount of cream (around 1 cup or 1 and 1/4 cups should do it)
  7. Whisk butter, garlic, cream together gently; add dash of salt, pepper, and a little nutmeg; let mixture continue to warm
  8. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan into a large serving bowl
  9. Once butter/cream mixture has had a chance to get nice and warm, pour it over the cheese. Now, DO NOT STIR, just let the cheese and the sauce "get acquainted"
  10. Just before draining pasta, stick in a metal measuring cup and retrieve some of the water (in case the end product is a bit gloopy, you can throw the water in to thin things out. I did not have this problem, personally)
  11. Drain pasta, and immediately pour it into the bowl w/the other ingredients
  12. Toss mixture gently to combine, then add most of the remaining cheese into the pasta (I saved some to sprinkle on top of my serving)
  13. If pasta is too thick/"gloopy," put in the aforementioned pasta water as needed

Lettuce Wedge

So, this salad is not at all Italian, but I've liked lettuce wedges at restaurants, so I made two (one for both of us). It's super easy:

  • 1 head iceburg lettuce
  • blue cheese or ranch dressing
  • blue cheese crumbles
  • bacon pieces (you can buy pre-cut, pre-cooked bacon bits/pieces at the store)
  1. Cut lettuce into wedges (however many and whatever size you need)
  2. Pour dressing on top
  3. Top with blue cheese crumbles and bacon
The Verdict
Wonderful!! I was very pleased with how this turned out! The only problem I had was that I slightly undercooked my pasta, but overall it turned out very well! John gave it an 8/10 (with 10 being the best meal he'd ever eaten); he noted that at restaurants, the cream is really the main thing he notices about the sauce, but that in this homemade version the cheese flavor really came through. I would agree--and I'm so glad I splurged and got the $11 cheese! I wouldn't want to do it regularly, but I really think it improved the taste of the dish. My homemade version reminded me more of what I had in Italy than what I get at the restaurants, which is what I was going for. So, basically what I am saying is that this was delicious and I would highly recommend it! Don't think I'll make it again for awhile b/c of the price and the calories, but I think I'll be making it from time to time.
The lettuce wedge was good too. And the store bought bread. The dipping spices made for a yummy olive oil dip, too.

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