Real Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo

So, in my continuing campaign to introduce Noah to “what that dish actually is” (we’ve already accomplished real Caesar salad dressing – not that awful gloppy stuff that passes for it) I made real Fettuccine Alfredo the other day.

If you go into any restaurant that claims to serve Fettuccine Alfredo, you will find pasta drenched in a sad, viscous white sauce. It even comes jarred in the supermarket. Shame, shame, shame.

Real Fettuccine Alfredo contains only three ingredients: fettuccine, butter and Parmesan cheese. It was invented in Italy in the early 1900s by a restauranteur named Alfredo di Lelio.

It’s just buttered noodles, you’re saying. How can anyone invent buttered noodles? But it’s the technique that makes the luxurious butter sauce that lovingly clings to the fettuccine. Basically, you take a ridiculous amount of butter (is there such a thing?) and put it in pats on a warm platter. Then you top it with the piping hot fettuccine and begin tossing. Toss, toss, toss. Along the way you add flutters of very finely grated Parmesan cheese and maybe a little pasta water. Toss, toss, toss. You keep going like that until the butter sauce coats every beautiful molecule of that fettuccine. And then you dig into one of the most sublimely simple yet hauntingly complex pasta dishes you’ve ever had.

As I said, I made it the other night. And I was immediately reminded why I don’t make this very often. It’s obscenely rich.

Obviously, I cannot claim to have an original recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo. This recipe is from Saveur magazine. And if you want a full recounting of the history behind the dish, Saveur did a nice job on that, too.

I’m doing this for all you generation X’s and Y’s who think you know what Caesar salad and Fettuccine Alfredo is – they’re nothing like the sad, convenient versions that have overpopulated chain restaurant menus everywhere. So what’s my next big reveal? Let’s see. Real strawberry shortcake? Real Hollandaise (no packets, ever)? How about real bleu cheese dressing? How come none of these are healthy?


  1. Donna
    March 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I can’t wait to try this. Burns and I laid down for a nap today and suddenly we were awoken by Maddie bearing steaming bowls or buttery hot noodles. GLUTEN-FREE. The best fettucini noodles I have ever had and they were gluten free! The child had tweaked a recipe we had tried a couple of weeks ago and created something so special. With her pasta and your sauce, we will be a happy family indeed tonight!

    I love what you do, CAtherine. Have I told you lately that you are my hero?

    • Catherine Mayhew
      Catherine MayhewReply
      March 22, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      That Maddie is one smart cookie. But she comes by her food chops honestly. You are my hero! Isn’t that convenient.

  2. Ines Di Lelio
    March 23, 2015 at 4:21 am


    With reference of your article (for which I thank you), I have the pleasure to tell you the history of my grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “Fettuccine all’Alfredo” (“Fettuccine Alfredo”) in 1908 in the “trattoria” run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). This “trattoria” of Piazza Rosa has become the “birthplace of fettuccine all’Alfredo”.
    More specifically, as is well known to many people who love the “fettuccine all’Alfredo”, this famous dish in the world was invented by Alfredo Di Lelio concerned about the lack of appetite of his wife Ines, who was pregnant with my father Armando (born February 26, 1908).
    Alfredo di Lelio opened his restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in Rome and in 1943, during the war, he sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo” (“Alfredo di Roma”), whose fame in the world has been strengthened by his nephew Alfredo and that now managed by me, with the famous “gold cutlery” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).
    See also the website of “Il Vero Alfredo”.(with news also about franchising).

    I must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome do not belong to the family tradition of “Il Vero Alfredo – Alfredo di Roma”.
    I inform you that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo –Alfredo di Roma” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.
    Best regards Ines Di Lelio

    • Catherine Mayhew
      Catherine MayhewReply
      March 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Wow, I don’t know how you found my blog but what a great history lesson. Thanks so much.

  3. Candy Gourlay
    March 23, 2015 at 5:55 am

    I’m a gonna try this then I’m a gonna go on a crash diet! Thanks!

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