The Perfect Alfredo

Last week I mentioned having pasta with alfredo sauce for dinner with our spinach clementine salad. The recipe came from Cook’s Illustrated and was one of the best I’ve had. You know that alfredo sauce that is so rich and thick you can hardly eat it? This was not like that. It had flavor, but the sauce was the perfect not-too-rich-silky-smooth consistency.

I love how Cook’s Illustrated tests to get recipes just right, and often times the difference is in the technique. Hubby even remarked that it was one of the best dinners he’s had in a while. Not that our other dinners aren’t good, but he just really liked this one. Coming from a guy who doesn’t have favorites, that’s big. He particularly liked the salad as well. I thought the sweet, juicy lightness of the salad paired perfectly with the just right richness of the alfredo.

Alfredo Sauce with Pasta
very slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Paraphrased notes from Cook’s Illustrated:
Cooking sauce over too high heat for too long results in gluey, rather than creamy, sauce. Lukewarm creams sauces are not good – heating the pasta bowls (I filled with water and microwaved them) is a must. Sauce may look soupy as you divide it into bowls, but the pasta will continue to absorb sauce as it sits. Pasta that looks just right upon serving ends up being too dry by the time you are eating it.

  • 1 2/3 c half and half*
  • 5 Tbs butter
  • 1 lb. fettuccine, preferably homemade or store bought fresh**
  • 1 c (2 oz.) fresh grated Parmesan
  • ground black pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

Bring 4 qts water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add 1 Tbs salt and the pasta to the water. Stir to separate pasta. Cook pasta until almost al dente. Combine 1 2/3 c of the half and half and the butter in a saute pan large enough to accommodate the cooked pasta. Heat over low until the butter is melted and the cream comes to a bare simmer. Turn the heat off and set aside. (I found that this took the length of the time it took the pasta to cook, so I never turned it off and set it aside).

Drain cooked pasta and add it to the saute pan. Add the remaining 1/2 c of cream, Parmesan, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook on very low heat, tossing to combine the ingredients, until sauce is slightly thick, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately in heated pasta bowls.

*originally calls for heavy cream
**used bow tie because my 18 month old prefers shaped pasta

3/4/09 This recipe was added to Life As Mom’s Ultimate Recipe Swap – Pasta