Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Alfredo oh Alfredo Wherefore art Thou Alfredo

Pasta with Alfredo sauce is as American as apple pie and about as Italian as Corned Beef. Actually that's not quite true. Despite what the Italians might say the dish actually has it's origins in the kitchens of Rome. A restaurantuer named Alfredo Di Lelio is credited with popularizing the dish with American tourists. Traditionally it was called Fettucini Al Burro but as the dish spread across the Atlantic it was known as Pasta Alfredo. Supposedly it was popularized by the film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks who had it in his restaurant and took it back to hollywood where it quickly became a favorite dish in Italian restaurants everywhere.

Now when I was growing up we rarely ate pasta as a meal. Sure there was lasagna and spaghetti with meat sauce, but fancy pasta dishes were just not really our thing. In fact to this day when I will make a pasta dish for my mom she always says "you know I just never think of making pasta for a dinner. So it was a little bit of heaven when we would visit our family friends the Wilsons. Geoff and Louise were wonderful folks and boy could Louise cook! She was Italian from Rhode Island and introduced us to several wonderful dishes we had never had before. One such dish was Eggplant Parmagiana! The other was fettucini alfredo! Now I liked red sauce but the first time I ever tasted homemade fettucini alfredo I thought I had died had bought the farm. Indeed it was a revelation to me. This fabulous meal so simple so decadent and so rich!

Now since then, like most people, I have gotten on the band wagon that Fettucini Alfredo is a gloppy mostly bad pasta dish that I would never order in a restaurant and one that probably comes as a side dish for some kind of chicken at that place that shall not be named with the all you can eat salad and breadsticks. And indeed that is for the most part true. However, recently I was turned onto the idea of freshly prepared Fettucini Alfredo at home by my reading in the 1965 version of Sunset's Cookbook for Entertaining.  This book is a cookbook that I grew up with and I recently acquired a copy on Amazon. I love vintage cookbooks mostly because the more I read the more I see that there really is nothing new under the sun. Just excellent retellings of great old stories or in this case recipes.

In one of the side notations in the book it mentions Fettucini Alfredo as an elegant first course or main course of a meal. Of course it also notated in typical 1970's style the table side preparation that was so popular with the notions about entertaining at the time. Table side preparation meant that you were present with your guests as dinner was prepared in front of their eyes and added a sense of theatricality to dinner that many times these days is lacking in social gatherings. The recipe was simple and rich and added the inclusion of egg yolks to make the sauce that much more luscious and decadent!

I decided I had to try it. And it was really good. I mean homemade fresh anything is so much better that something that has been sitting in a steam table at a restaurant. Plus making it in front of people is really fun. Of course you will need a tabletop chef. But you can get one if you want or just do it stove top and move the pan to the table and serve it up fresh from the pan. Either way this is a delicious way to impress people at your next dinner party. Trust me it's good Ya'll! Enjoy!

Forrest's Special Homemade Fettucini Alfredo

Serves 4

1 lb Fettucini or pappardelle noodles fresh or packaged but make sure if dry buy a really good brand.
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
4 egg yolks at room temperature
salt and pepper
grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons each finely chopped parsley and chives
Hot water

Cook noodles according to instructions but cook 1 to 2 minutes less than package.
Melt butter and add cream
Mix the eggs in a bowl and add a few tablespoons of the boiling pasta water
to temper them.
Add to the cream sauce
Add Parmesan cheese
Add pepper and salt to taste
Add nutmeg then add the drained noodles  then add the herbs and toss to combine about one to two minutes and serve immediately!
Divide at table to the plates
Watch the smiles happen as people dig in.


    With reference of your article we have the pleasure to tell you the history of our grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, creator of “fettuccine all’Alfredo” (recipe in the world known).
    Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in a street in central Rome (via della scrofa), after leaving his first restaurant run by his mother Angelina in Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). In this local spread the fame, first to Rome and then in the world, of “fettuccine all’Alfredo”.
    In 1943, during the war, Di Lelio sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” in Rome, Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30, which is now managed by his nephews Alfredo (same name of grandfather) and Ines (the same name of his grandmother, wife of Alfredo Di Lelio, who were dedicated to the noodles), .
    See also the site of “Il Vero Alfredo”
    We inform that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.
    Best regards Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio

    1. Thank you that is so great to know. And thank you for reading my blog.

  2. omg. you spoke with the descendant of the inventor of fettucine all'alfredo. eeks! awesome. i used to think that was so fancy as i ordered that at a restaurant with my first bf. ahhh.... memories.

    1. I know it's a little crazy cool, I just don't know how they found the link?

  3. I love fettucine alfredo. I love italy, I love italian food, my favorite is tortelloni alla creama con pomodoro. but here in the states, I love a quick alfredo when carbornara seems too daunting but I still want that comfort feel WITHOUT going to the "garden" you mentioned. bad alfredo has a "powdery" taste and gives the dish a bad name! I am kind of an Italian food snob and I love alfredo. (chicken spahghetti however, don't get me started on that 70s dish?)

    found your blog from Southern Coterie, hope to see you round there more in the future! PS my husband, from Alabama, grew up the same as you. no "Italian" for dinner...but they would eat spaghetti and lasagna.

    1. You know, I don't have a lot of pastas on my blog yet mostly because I have a lot of Italian friends who are excellent pasta cooks and I am intimidated!!
      However if you would like another great pasta recipe I would recommend from my blog check out the post about "Bow tie pasta with Sun dried tomatoes bacon and blue cheese" earlier in the blog history. It's REALLY good! Thanks For reading and please feel free to comment I could use the feedback!