Pasta with Alfredo Sauce. I think it is seriously one of life’s most delicious dishes.
I have a memory of eating an absolutely perfect dish of Fettuccini Alfredo at a very cute, very old authentic Italian restaurant in San Francisco many years ago. I think it was one of the first weekend trips that Tony and I ever took together. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was near Lombard Street. It was a tiny little place…dark and candlelit inside, with wine racks built in to the walls. I have a vague recollection of the menu being written entirely in Italian and the waiter translating every dish for us. Could that be? At any rate, I’ve ordered Fettuccini Alfredo and made Alfredo sauce at home (with just about every kind of pasta) many, many times over the years and I’m always reminded of that lovely little Italian restaurant.
So I’ve convinced you how delicious it is, but did I mention easy too? Really easy. Three basic ingredients – cream, butter and Parmesan cheese. That’s about it. Okay, some recipes call for a pinch of nutmeg, some add garlic, some a little lemon zest. And its a great way to use leftovers – you can toss just about anything into the sauce – cooked chicken, shrimp, ham and all kinds of veggies – asparagus, peas, broccoli, artichoke hearts. It’s so easy that I’m not sure why they ever even invented those frozen microwaveable versions or (even worse) the kind that comes in a box with a sauce you make from a packet…blech!
My most recent favorite Alfredo sauce recipe is from (you guessed it) the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Just the other night I made it with penne and added some frozen grilled asparagus spears from Trader Joe’s.
Convinced? I think you should try it. Really. You won’t ever use the frozen or boxed stuff again.
Pasta with Alfredo Sauce
adapted slightly from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook – makes 2-3 servings
8 ounces your favorite pasta
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces (half of a stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
pinch of nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Optional – 1 cup cooked chicken or shrimp or ham and/or fresh or frozen vegetables, chopped
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the pasta, and cook according to package instructions. If using fresh vegetables, toss them in with the pasta for the last minute or two too cook. If using frozen vegetables, they’ll only need 30 seconds or so. Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, and set aside.
Drain the pasta and vegetables (if using) together.
Dry out the pasta pot, and pour in the heavy cream. Bring the cream to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the butter, and stir until it has melted. Generously season the sauce with freshly ground black pepper; add a pinch of salt, the lemon zest and nutmeg. Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan and stir until you have a smooth sauce. Toss in the drained pasta and vegetables. If using cooked chicken or ham or whatever, toss that in. Cook the pasta in sauce for about 2 minutes, until the sauce has slightly thickened.
At this point, SK says to add the reserved pasta water by the spoonful if needed to loosen the sauce…I’ve never actually done this.
Divide the pasta among bowls. Garnish with remaining Parmesan and chopped parsley.