Some dishes are classics. You’ve had them a million times, a million different ways, and you probably have your preferred version. They’re the kind of foods you don’t mess with. You stick to what’s good because, after all, you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, right?
What you can do, however, is perfect something. And that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do with my Alfredo sauce for years. Fettuccine Alfredo is one of the first dishes I ever made and it is still a go-to favorite. I learned a basic recipe from my mother that I’ve tweaked over time. She used to make Fettuccine Alfredo all the time when I was younger. It was heaven to me. I would request it on my birthday and, sometimes, she’d serve it with chicken, bacon, or broccoli. To this day, it is still one of my absolute favorite foods. Every time I pop into an Olive Garden, I’ve got to have it (no matter how many times I tell myself I’m going to try something new).
Fettuccine Alfredo is definitely a special treat. It’s so indulgent and decadent with a simple perfection that sets it apart from your average pasta dish. Although the recipe is quite basic, it does call for a tricky balancing act when creating the sauce. You need the perfect amount of cheese to achieve just the right thickness and flavor. I’ve had many failed Fettuccine Alfredo attempts. I make it too thick, the sauce separates when I add the pasta, or it’s thin and runny. I think I’ve finally achieved my ideal Alfredo sauce. And I’m sorry, Olive Garden, but your version takes 2nd place to mine. Maybe I could teach you a thing or two?
A few tips before you get cooking:
- I know it seems strange to use a mix of grated and shredded parmesan, but trust me on this one. I’ve found that shredded parm gives the most powerful cheese flavor while the grated helps to thicken and keep the sauce smooth. Using both creates a balance that will achieve the perfect sauce.
- Cook your pasta while you cook the sauce. It just makes sense. It’s a time saver and neither act is so complicated that you can’t handle multitasking.
- Fettuccine Alfredo is extraordinary on its own, but add-ins are always a welcome addition. My absolute favorite thing is to add broccoli. It’s perfectly complimented by the flavor of the sauce and it also kind of tricks you into thinking you’re doing something healthy. Plus, it’s a great way for vegetarians to bulk up their dish. Chicken is also great in this, as well as bacon. Bacon may seem odd, but that was a classic addition for me as a kid (before I went vegetarian). It actually works fantastically well (like pasta carbonara!).
- Speaking of all that, this really is an amazing vegetarian dish. It’s substantial, hearty, and filling (especially with broccoli). Plus, you get a ton of protein from the pasta.
- Which reminds me, I highly recommend whole grain pasta. I actually prefer the taste of it over white pasta. Plus, it adds all kinds of health benefits, including even MORE protein.
- Alfredo can be temperamental. If you find that your sauce is too thin even after adding the amount of cheese listed in the recipe and following all the directions, then add some more cheese. It’s not the end of the world. Do what you need to in order to achieve your perfect sauce. And, if it’s too thick, try adding more cream. You may have to play with it. Cooking isn’t always a set science like baking is.
- Confession: this was my first time working with fresh garlic. I usually used the minced stuff in a jar. I know, shame on me! But, wow, have the tables turned. There is such a difference in flavor. You must use fresh garlic!
Recipe by Colleen Bierstine
- 1 lb. fettuccine pasta (try whole grain!)
- kosher salt
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- ¼ cup of butter (half a stick)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for garnishing
- ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese (you may not use it all)
- pepper, to taste
1) Over high heat, bring a large pot of water to boil. When the water boils, generously salt the water. Add pasta and cook according to box’s directions. Drain pasta.
2) Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sautee for two minutes.
3) Add heavy cream to butter/garlic mixture & stir until well combined.
4) Sprinkle the grated parmesan into the pot then whisk into the cream until it is melted. (Note: The whisking is essential to creating a smooth sauce. If you don’t use a whisk, your cheese will have trouble melting and the sauce will not be homogenous.)
5) Add the grated parmesan gradually, whisking until melted. Add pepper to taste. Continue to constantly whisk and add more cheese until sauce reaches desired thickness & flavor (yes, you will have to test it as you go!). Use a wooden spoon alternately while whisking to scrape sides of the pot. Sauce will thicken slightly as it cools.
A classic done just right. Happy indulging!