Easy Fettuccine Alfredo for a Weeknight Win
There’s nothing to be "Alfredo" with this totally unfussy fettuccine Alfredo recipe: It’s creamy, dreamy, cheesy, and easy! With just a handful of ingredients and 30 minutes, dinner is served.
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Homemade Alfredo is one of the first meals I made for my now-husband when we were still dating. Young and broke, it was something impressive I could serve to my boyfriend for a few dollars, and without dirtying every pot in his kitchen. (OK, I still may have dirtied every pot in his kitchen. But there weren’t very many in his bachelor pad.)
Fast forward many years and two kids later, fettuccine Alfredo is an easy weeknight go-to. It’s perfect when things are hectic and we’re in need of a little comfort. It’s one of those pasta recipes that’s short on ingredients, quick to prepare, but still delivers heaps of satisfaction. A bowl of fettuccine Alfredo on a Tuesday night after a long day of commuting, endless meetings, an hour of algebra after you just ran a mile in PE, or just the exhaustion brought on by cafeteria politics is somehow always exactly what you need.
This Easy Fettuccine Alfredo recipe in particular is an excellent compromise between weeknight ease and everyday indulgence. A handful of ingredients, less than 30 minutes, and you’re done.
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Ingredients for fettuccine Alfredo
Italian-American Alfredo sauce is made up of just butter, cream, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bay leaves are simmered in the cream sauce. The untraditional addition lends a subtly savory depth of flavor with almost no extra effort.
This version of fettuccine Alfredo also uses store-bought fresh pasta. This little upgrade puts this easy Alfredo recipe over-the-top in the best way possible. The tender noodles soak up the creamy sauce, delivering ultimate comfort with each bite. You can even keep fresh pasta in your freezer for those busy nights you really need to pull something out of your back pocket.
A word on Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Parmesan cheese
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is protected under Italian law. The cheese can only be produced in a few areas of Italy, and must be aged for at least two years. This produces a depth of flavor and texture that is incomparable — and why Italy called Parmigiano-Reggiano the “King of Cheese.”
Parmesan cheese is most likely domestically made, and aged for less than a year. While it doesn’t mean Parmesan cheese isn’t tasty, it likely doesn’t have the complexity its older cousin possesses.
Because this fettuccine Alfredo recipe has so few ingredients, using Parmigiano-Reggiano really produces a tastier Alfredo sauce. If you can only find Parmesan cheese, be sure to use a whole block and grate it by hand. Tubs of pre-grated Parmesan aren’t ideal for this dish.
Measuring and grating hard cheeses
Correctly measuring grated cheese can be tricky. Hard cheeses like Parmesan cheese are even trickier, as the size they can be grated varies, well, grate-ly (pun intended). Everyone has a different grater, and the difference between “loosely packed” and “packed” can really impact your dinner.
This Easy Fettuccine Alfredo recipe has helped you out. It asks for 2 packed cups of cheese that has been finely grated on a Microplane grater. These details help you gauge how much cheese you actually need.
To be really accurate, bust out your kitchen scale. Weigh out 4 ounces of cheese the recipe calls for, then use whatever grating method you’d like. A Microplane definitely still works, or use the smallest holes on a box grater. You can even cut it into chunks and blend it in your food processor until very fine. This can be done a day or two ahead of time without losing much flavor. Just store the grated cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
How to make this easy homemade Alfredo sauce
Homemade Alfredo sauce is very easy. Simply melt 3/4 cup butter in a large skillet. Stir in 2 cups of heavy cream and 2 bay leaves. Simmer gently until slightly thickened. While the sauce cooks, finely grate 2 cups of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir the cheese into the cream mixture and cook over low heat until melted completely, about one minute.
Adding Parmesan cheese to the sauce; photograph by Meleyna Nomura
Combining the pasta with the sauce
Cook the fettuccine pasta according to package directions until al dente, about 2 minutes. Use a liquid measuring cup to carefully scoop out two cups of the pasta boiling water. Drain the fettuccine noodles, and return the cooked pasta to the pot. Add the cream sauce, tossing the noodles to coat. Add a little of the pasta water to help thin the sauce, and continue tossing to ensure the noodles are evenly coated. Add more pasta water as needed, keeping in mind fettuccine Alfredo will thicken as it cools.
Adding pasta water to fettuccine Alfredo; photograph by Meleyna Nomura
Serving fettuccine Alfredo
Fettuccine Alfredo does not improve as it sits. Have everyone take a seat at the table as you are draining the pasta. It will be ready to eat within a few short minutes.
After the sauce and cooked pasta have been combined, taste for seasoning. Add salt, black pepper, and chopped fresh parsley for color and freshness. I like to serve this casual weeknight fettuccine Alfredo recipe straight from the pot to keep things warm and saucy (and to save on dirtying an extra dish). But you can transfer the pasta to a wide, shallow bowl for a neater presentation. You may need to add an additional spoonful or two of pasta water to loosen the noodles once they’ve lost some of their heat in the bowl. Garnish with extra cheese, black pepper, or fresh parsley if desired. Serve immediately to your waiting dinner guests.
Get the recipe: Easy Fettuccine Alfredo
This deliciously easy fettuccine Alfredo recipe comes together quickly with ingredients that can be kept on hand. It will become a weeknight favorite you’ll return to again and again.
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