Quick and Easy

Best Fettuccine Alfredo

October  7, 2019
12 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound dried fettuccine
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon, plus more as needed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large garlic clove, halved lengthwise and finely sliced so you end up with semi-circles about 1/4-inch thick
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (I do this in a mortar and pestle)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups firmly packed Microplaned* Parmesan and/or Pecorino Romano (I like a 50-50 mix, and prefer Locatelli Pecorino), plus more for serving
  • 1 small bunch parsley, sliced into thin ribbons, for serving
  1. *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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve immediately, topping each bowl with more grated cheese and parsley.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Vivienne
  • Adam Trimble
    Adam Trimble
  • Smaug
  • Arati Menon
    Arati Menon
  • Ella Quittner
    Ella Quittner

13 Reviews

Vivienne April 13, 2022
I have not served this without a few tweaks. However, this is the best recipe for making an excellent cream based Alfredo Sauce. My go to tweak is to turn it into Cajun Shrimp Andouille Fettuccini Alfredo.
I might add that a marvelous friend from Milan took my husband and I to Alfredo's in Rome and this sauce does it justice. But you must follow the techniques here and use an excellent cheese. On a side note, the waiter came over to say that some people at a nearby table wanted to know if my husband was the actor, Richard Widmark. Even though my husband was 30 years younger, he took it as a compliment.
MeatballQueen January 17, 2021
I'm gonna go way back to my original recipe of just butter, cheese, black pepper and egg yolk. Was dating first hubby at the time, told me my fettuccine sealed the deal for him lol
thisisann April 3, 2020
This is my new go-to Alfredo recipe. Easy to throw together and delicious.

I did make some slight changes, doubling the garlic and added thyme. Will make again.
Ella Q. April 5, 2020
So happy to hear you enjoyed it!
Annabelle October 15, 2019
Mine split terribly when I added the cheese. Any way to get it to re-emulsify?
Adam T. October 15, 2019
Agreeing with Smaug that this needs fresh pasta. The pasta is the thing!

Also, and maybe just as important. ALFREDO DOES NOT INCLUDE CREAM!!!! It’s an emulsion of pasta water butter and cheese. Adding the cream/garlic/other pollutants makes it overly heavy, but I guess this is to avoid the mixing technique.

The Italians see you. They are not pleased.
Zoe October 17, 2019
...they address that in the text.

Your last line made me laugh though.
Smaug October 14, 2019
Not something I'm going to try because, well, the sauce is basically all fat, but wouldn't this be better with fresh pasta?
carswell October 9, 2019
I subscribe to the cream, butter and parmesan version of Alfredo. I don't add garlic.

When I want to tart it up a little I will add a cube or two of my frozen pesto. What I do for a real treat is add lemon zest to the Alfredo and sauté scallops on the side.
Ella Q. October 11, 2019
Ooh, lemon zest! Sounds perfect.
Arati M. October 7, 2019
I'm gonna have to make this again soon (was such a crowd favorite the last time around!).
Ella Q. October 8, 2019
So happy to hear it!!! Sharing is strictly optional.
Gary S. October 9, 2019
Text says Alfredo but it loads a video for carbonara.