Ask the person to your left and the person to your right how to make fettuccine Alfredo, and you’ll get two different (and equally passionate) responses. At least, that’ll be the case if you sit at the editorial team table at Food52. Some of us are purists, preferring a lighter version that more closely mirrors the original dish. (Fettuccine Alfredo is said to have originated in the 20th century in Rome, at a restaurant run by Italian Alfredo di Lelio. It was a riff on fettuccine al burro: warm noodles, tossed with Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter until emulsified.) Others root for creaminess at every turn. This is a fettuccine Alfredo recipe for that second group. Its sauce is thick, buttery, and sharply salty (thanks, Locatelli Pecorino!). Strictly classic fettuccine Alfredo it is not—but we can safely say you just might love it even more.
Should a variation interest you, riff away. Swap in any hard, aged Italian cheese, or mix it up with a few varieties. Skip the garlic or sub in thinly sliced shallot. Toss deeply browned mushrooms with the final dish before serving. Add a few dashes of red pepper flakes to the butter, about 30 seconds before you add the cream. Use rigatoni, or spaghetti, or whatever noodle shape you like. It’s scientifically impossible to go wrong. —Ella Quittner
Test Kitchen Notes
This is one of Food52’s Best Recipes. In this series, our test kitchen sets out to create the ultimate version of your favorite recipes. Let us know on the Hotline if there's one you'd love to see next. —The Editors
4 to 6
kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon, plus more as needed
(1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
large garlic clove, halved lengthwise and finely sliced so you end up with semi-circles about 1/4-inch thick
freshly cracked black pepper (I do this in a mortar and pestle)
heavy whipping cream
firmly packed Microplaned* Parmesan and/or Pecorino Romano (I like a 50-50 mix, and prefer Locatelli Pecorino), plus more for serving
small bunch parsley, sliced into thin ribbons, for serving
In This Recipe
*Note: For best results, grate your cheese using a Microplane, or the finest side of a box grater. Do not use pre-grated cheese, and stay away from any thicker grater sides, which are liable to cause a clumpy sauce.
Set a large pot of water on the stove over high heat to come to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt when it's at a simmer, and once it reaches a boil, add the fettuccine. Cook according to package instructions, except that you’ll reserve 1 cup of the cooking water before draining, and drain the pasta 1 minute earlier than the package recommends for al dente. (It’ll continue to cook in the sauce.)
In a large saucepan over a medium-low flame, melt butter with garlic. Add the pepper, and let it bloom in the butter for about 30 seconds—at this stage, the butter will be foaming, and making crackling noises. Add the heavy whipping cream, and whisk to fully combine. Let the mixture come to a rolling simmer, not a boil (adjust the flame if needed). Cook at a simmer uncovered for 2 minutes, giving it a whisk every 30 seconds. Turn the flame down to low and add half the cheese. Whisk until the cheese is fully melted and integrated, then add the second half and whisk again. At this point, you’ll have a super thick, creamy sauce.
With the flame still turned to low, add the cooked fettuccine to the cheesy sauce along with 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, and use pasta tongs or two large forks to fully combine. Taste, and if needed (depending on the saltiness of your cheese and cooking water), add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, or more to taste. Feel free to add a little more pasta water as needed to bring everything together.
Serve immediately, topping each bowl with more grated cheese and parsley.
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.