Pasta

No-Cream Weeknight Alfredo To Make From A Nearly Empty Pantry

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March  1, 2017

This article is brought to you by Clarkson Potter. Head here to learn more about the recently released cookbook Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry.

If you ask any number of my friends, as well as my husband, they'll all tell you that the food I take comfort in is Italian in origin—and most of the time, that manifests in pasta. Perhaps that's because I spent a formative part of adulthood in Florence, Italy, or because of the Italian-American restaurant I worked at in New York, or just because long commutes often leave me with zero time or inspiration in the evenings to dream up anything more elaborate (you, too?).

So when Back Pocket Pasta: Inspired Dinners to Cook on the Fly, Colu Henry's new cookbook, landed on my desk, I basically yelped with joy. Back Pocket Pasta's no-frills, this-is-a-loose-guide vibes let Colu's casual approach to cooking shine—she offers a few guidelines for how she always approaches every dish, but encourages the reader to play around and not get too caught up in the ingredient list, since every pantry is different. (She also extolls the value of vino alongside a pasta dinner and let's just say that I concur wholeheartedly.) Dotting the pages of the book are vibrant pestos, creamy greens, classics like puttanesca and cacio e pepe, mash-ups like "Tomato Salad" Pasta and "BLT" Pasta, and more. There's a salad and sides section to complete the table spread, and a few aperitivi suggestions from PUNCH's Editor-in-Chief, Talia Baiocchi.

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Top Comment:
“Furthermore this recipe is not bereft of nutrients: pasta I use has niacin, B1, B2, iron and folic acid, butter (not margarine!) and parmesan cheese are also nutritious. As a quick, tasty comfort food, along with a fresh salad, there is nothing wrong with this recipe. I'm sure we've all known 'food and exercise fanatics' who die way too young. In fact my friend who was overly concerned about what foods she consumed ended up with colon cancer and passed away last year in her early 50s. Life is to short to worry about a few pleasures. Lighten up.”
— maria
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Our Books Editor Ali loves Colu's Fusilli Alfredo because it's how they make it in Rome—with no cream! That's right, the original alfredo doesn't use cream.

In the book, of the recipe, Colu says:

This recipe comes from one of my dearest friends, Carla Lalli Music. We met while working together and discovered that her family also hails from Avellino, a small province outside of Naples, so we developed an immediate kinship. Alfredo is her favorite back pocket pasta. “My mom cooked this for me most Saturday nights when I was growing up, and I used to throw my body over the bowl to keep my dad from eating half of it out of my plate (then I’d yell at him to stop eating it straight out of the pot),” Carla told me. Her recipe is a true Alfredo, which means no cream, milk, or flour. The sauce is a glossy emulsion of butter and starchy pasta water, which she finishes with lots of black pepper, like you would a carbonara. “Whoever you make this for will know instantly that you love them very much. At least, that’s what it tastes like to me.” Spoken in true Carla fashion.

To watch Colu make alfredo, watch our Facebook Live with her here. She believes in always more cheese, and being free-wheeling with pasta shapes.

This article is brought to you by Clarkson Potter. Head here to learn more about the recently released cookbook Back Pocket Pasta by Colu Henry.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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23 Comments

maria March 6, 2017
Obviously no one would be eating this every day, and compared to the unfortunate American staple of 'macaroni and cheese' with it's unnatural cheese mixture, this is a thousand times healthier. Furthermore this recipe is not bereft of nutrients: pasta I use has niacin, B1, B2, iron and folic acid, butter (not margarine!) and parmesan cheese are also nutritious. As a quick, tasty comfort food, along with a fresh salad, there is nothing wrong with this recipe. I'm sure we've all known 'food and exercise fanatics' who die way too young. In fact my friend who was overly concerned about what foods she consumed ended up with colon cancer and passed away last year in her early 50s. Life is to short to worry about a few pleasures. Lighten up.
 
Terri March 6, 2017
I totally agree...it's a good simple food...which is often the best kind! Only, I would add a really nice glass of wine to accompany it...😃<br />
 
EHF March 6, 2017
What a completely ridiculous recipe to publish. Noodles with butter- this is the ultimate fallback for every parent of a toddler- what next?- fish sticks, chicken nuggets. Remember healthful eating? Protien, fiber, nutrients?You can put it on a pretty plate but...
 
Gordon W. March 6, 2017
That's what I was thinking. This is it?
 
annmartina March 7, 2017
It's not simply noodles with butter melted on top. You must not have clicked through to the instructions with the recipe.
 
Monica B. March 28, 2017
As a parent and nutrition educator, this seems like a great base for a healthy meal. Add some steamed vegetables and cooked lean meat and you are golden. It is kind of obvious, no?<br /> I personally don't serve my family alot of pasta dishes but this seems like exactly the way I personally love pasta.
 
Kerry O. March 5, 2017
Anyone have a source for that lovely scalloped plate?! Beautiful!
 
maria March 5, 2017
P.S. According to my pasta encyclopedia, the pasta used in this recipe is called 'CASARECCE'. Most restaurants still use fettucine, dry or fresh, for the Alfredo, but if using fresh it must not be overcooked or it will be 'Mushy Alfredo', which is why I prefer to use the dry.
 
Monica B. March 28, 2017
Nope. It is handmade fusilli.
 
maria March 5, 2017
This is the same way an Italian cooking instructor in Toronto makes the Alfredo. However, the pasta used in the photo is not fusilli but looks more like a twisted pasta which takes longer to cook unless it's fresh of course.
 
Terri March 5, 2017
I've been making this for years...but never thought of it as an Alfredo...the perfect lazy meal "for when mom is eating alone dish"
 
Karen R. March 5, 2017
This is classic caccio e pepe to me....classic Alfredo has no black pepper in the original recipe.
 
Ttrockwood March 4, 2017
Have you made this with fresh pasta? I have a great market to get fresh pasta from but I'm concerned it may be too delicate to hold up well during the resting while making the sauce...
 
elle March 4, 2017
This was one of my hubby's favorite meals. I added chicken to the top to give him some protein. Just noodles, lots of butter, salt, pepper and cheese. I think we had this once a week. Fast and tasty.
 
Niknud March 3, 2017
Well, I still got some parmesan clumping, but overall this was hella fast and perfectly timed for when I was at the nadir of energy and fresh food in the house. Delicious. Husband came home and stuck his fork in the pot and exclaimed, "what's is IN this?" I was like, "Butter. Some more butter. A bit more butter. And Cheese." Surprisingly delicious when re-heated the next day.
 
Jude March 2, 2017
What type of pasta is shown in the photo, please? It doesn't look like any fusilli I've ever seen. Is it home-made?
 
Ali S. March 2, 2017
It is actually fusilli (made by wrapping pasta around a wire!)—see here: https://www.eataly.com/us_en/fusilli-pasta-17-6oz
 
Jude March 2, 2017
Thanks, Ali. The fusilli I've seen looked more like long rotini. Perhaps different parts of the world or even different cities have slightly different versions?
 
Patricia H. March 2, 2017
Curious about the no microplane rule. What's the reason?
 
Ali S. March 2, 2017
Microplane grates the cheese a little too fine, so it ends up clumping before it melts.
 
Sarah March 5, 2017
How does one "finely" grate the cheese without a Microplane?
 
Ali S. March 5, 2017
You'll want to use the smallest holes on your box grater.
 
Andrew W. March 5, 2017
I make alfredo at home from a similar recipe (it cheats a little by subbing in 2Tbsp. cream cheese for butter) and the one time I made the mistake of going for the microplane clumping didn't even begin to describe it. Most of the parm ended up in a single layer coating the bottom of the pan. <br />I've taken to cutting the wedge into chunks and chopping them into dust with my food processor.