Fettucine with Butter and Cheese
- 225 g fettucine
- salt (1/2T + 1/4tsp)
- 1 c pasta water
- 2 oz grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (plus extra for serving)
- 35 g unsalted butter (cut into 3 pieces)
1. Bring 1.5 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven. Add pasta and 1/2 Tbsp salt and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.
2. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter, reserved cooking water, and 1/4 tsp salt to pot. Set pot over low heat and, using tongs, toss and stir vigorously to thoroughly combine, about 1 minute.
3. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let pasta sit for 1 minute.
4. Toss pasta vigorously once more so sauce thoroughly coats pasta and any cheese clumps are emulsified into sauce, about 30 seconds. (Mixture may look wet at this point, but pasta will absorb excess moisture as it cools slightly.)
5. Season with salt to taste.
6. Transfer pasta to individual warmed bowls. (Use rubber spatula as needed to remove any clumps of cheese stuck to tongs and bottom of pot.) Serve immediately, passing extra Parmigiano-Reggiano separately.
Notes from Source:
Fettuccine Alfredo consists of four ingredients: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, butter, fettuccine, and a pinch of salt. No cream. No eggs. Not even any black pepper. The cheese and butter should create a creamy sauce that thoroughly coats each strand of pasta. But this dish has been mucked up over the years with cream, thickeners, and worse. For our back-to-basics version, we limited our ingredient list to five ingredients (we added reserved pasta cooking water—a test kitchen favorite for creating a silky pasta sauce). After many tests, we found that the simplest method yielded the best results: Combine the pasta and sauce ingredients in the pot, stir, let rest, and then stir again before serving in warmed bowls.
Be sure to use imported Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese here and not the bland domestic cheese labeled “Parmesan.” For the best results, grate the cheese on a rasp-style grater. Do not adjust the amount of water for cooking the pasta. Stir the pasta frequently while cooking so that it doesn’t stick together. It’s important to move quickly after draining the pasta, as the residual heat from the reserved cooking water and pasta will help the cheese and butter melt. For best results, heat ovensafe dinner bowls in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes prior to serving and serve the pasta hot. If you are using fresh pasta, increase the amount to 280g (by 25%).
Key Step: Keep on Stirring
When the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, butter pieces, and reserved pasta cooking water are stirred into the still-hot fettuccine, the dish will appear very watery. But don’t fret: After a covered 1-minute rest and a vigorous stir, the sauce will come together, forming a creamy emulsion.
Our Fettuccine with Butter and Cheese has just a few ingredients and comes together quickly. For the best results, follow these guidelines.
- Use the best-quality ingredients you can find, including authentic Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Grate the cheese and cut the butter (keep it chilled) before you start to cook.
- Move quickly once the pasta is drained—the hot pasta helps melt the butter.
- Heat ovensafe dinner bowls in the oven to help keep the pasta hot at the table.
- Have diners ready and waiting for the pasta, not the other way around.
The American Table: Hollywood's Hottest Invite
These days, Hollywood is known more for juice cleanses and extreme dieting than for actual eating, but things were different in the 1920s, when silent-film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford held court at their sprawling Beverly Hills mansion, Pickfair. It’s hard to overstate just how famous the power couple was—Pickford, in particular, was a global celebrity with immense cultural impact—and their lavish dinner parties were legendary, attracting the likes of Gloria Swanson, Henry Ford, and Albert Einstein. On the menu? As often as not, dishes the couple brought back from their European travels, including pasta with butter and Parmesan.
In a recollection for McCall’s, Pickford wrote: “I saw Professor Einstein demonstrate his Theory of Relativity with a knife, a fork, a plate and the edge of our dining table. I was too awed to ask questions, so I amused myself by studying the open-mouthed attention of Charlie [Chaplin] and Douglas [Fairbanks]."