5 Ingredients or Fewer

Fettuccine Alfredo for One

by:
March 19, 2021
14 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Author Notes

Contrary to popular belief, fettuccine Alfredo—the original from Rome, at least—isn't meant to have cream. It's just: fettuccine, butter, and cheese, all tossed together with the pasta's starchy cooking liquid to create a sauce that looks and tastes very close to heavy cream. At his restaurants in Italy, Alfredo di Lelio would do this tableside as a sort of ceremony for the guests. The ultimate ceremony of cooking and eating, as I see it. —Eric Kim

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: Why Fettuccine Alfredo Is the Best Solo Supper. —The Editors

  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 1
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces fettuccine, preferably fresh (but dried is good, too)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and drain pasta.
  2. In the same pot over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter, then sauté the shallot for about 1 to 2 minutes, just until translucent and no longer raw. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, bring to a simmer, then stir in the butter, followed by the cheese, until both are fully incorporated.
  3. Add the pasta to the sauce and continue cooking, stirring constantly and incorporating more of the water as needed to coat the noodles sufficiently. (The trick here is to amalgamate the pasta, butter, cheese, and starchy water until it comes together into a creamy emulsion.)
  4. Plate, then finish with a final smattering of Parmesan and freshly ground pepper.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Amy
    Amy
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  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • simply
    simply
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.

12 Reviews

simply March 19, 2021
I was very disappointed in this recipe. I'm wondering what I did wrong. I followed the directions which said take out 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside and drain the pasta. Melt the butter and cook shallots (I didn't use shallots because I don't like them.) I added garlic and after that I added 1/2 the pasta water and added the grated parmesan cheese. Once the cheese hit the hot water it turned into a lump in the middle of the pan. I tried to break it up with a whisk to no avail. I think cream is needed with this recipe.
 
Gail E. March 19, 2021
I had the same problem. Maybe the brand of cheese I used?
 
simply March 20, 2021
I'm wondering if adding the pasta water to melted butter and shallots, then adding pasta, then adding the cheese, will bring the creamy effect without the additional fat from the cream. Maybe just this little change would help. I'm going to try it soon.
 
EmmaCooks February 1, 2020
This recipe is really good! The only thing I would make different is adding some creamer in to make the cheese blend better into the sauce. The flavor is amazing, but, just because, I added some pepper flacks for extra spice which is what I recommend.
 
Gail E. September 21, 2019
I have made this recipe twice now thinking I must have done something wrong the first time. Both times I ended up with a lump of Parmesan cheese that I could not get to fully incorporate. It didn't make any difference how slowly I added in the cheese or haw much water I used. Finally discarded the lump of cheese and just sprinkled it on the noodles.
 
msbatg April 14, 2019
I haven’t tried it yet...but where is the cream?
 
Ashley April 27, 2019
Read the Author Notes!
 
msbatg September 21, 2019
As I said where is the cream not the creamy pasta water !
 
paseo March 16, 2020
As Ashley said, read the author note, esp. the first sentence.
 
Amy January 30, 2019
this pasta was so good i shed tears
 
Author Comment
Eric K. January 30, 2019
:’)
 
coffeefoodwrite January 28, 2019
This looks delicious! I'm looking forward to trying it.....