Fettuccine al Burro or Fettuccine Alfredo
Many Italians do not know that their simple pasta al burro, pasta served with butter and parmigiano cheese, has become a symbol of Italian cuisine in the US under the name Fettuccine Alfredo.
So who is Alfredo?
Alfredo Di Lelio was a restaurateur who had a restaurant in Via della Scrofa in Rome throughout the early to mid-20th century. In 1908, after his wife Ines gave birth to their firstborn, Armando, she was very prostrate and Alfredo did everything possible to make her regain strength with healthy and nutritious foods. He added more cheese and butter to the original recipe for pasta al doppio burro, with the idea to prepare a simple dish that could help her to get back on her feet.
Usually, to prepare pasta al burro, butter is added to the serving bowl and emulsified with the pasta cooking water and cheese to form a smooth and rich coating for the pasta. In a doppio burro version, more butter is added on top of the pasta itself. Alfredo essentially created a triple butter sauce, adding even more butter to the original recipe. His wife loved it and suggested he add it to his restaurant's menu.
In 1927, when movie stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks stopped in Rome on their honeymoon, they went to Alfredo's restaurant, fell in love with the dish and expressed their gratitude by giving him a golden fork and spoon along with a photo of them eating in his restaurant. Alfredo proudly displayed the photo on the wall and served the fettuccine with the golden fork and spoon to special guests.
Back in Hollywood, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks served Alfredo's version of pasta al burro to their friends and associates making it one of the most famous Italian dishes in the US.
In 1946, Alfredo's son sold the restaurant to former waiters and the new owners kept the restaurant's name, Alfredo alla Scrofa, and also a similar menu with the traditional recipes. In 1950, Alfredo and his son Armando opened Il Vero Alfredo in Piazza Augusto Imperatore, which is still managed by his grandchildren continuing the tradition of the original fettuccine created by their grandfather.
While fettuccine Alfredo has now become a must in Italian-style restaurants in the United States, in Italy, the dish is still known as fettuccine al burro or fettuccine burro e parmigiano instead. Moreover, the American version of fettuccine Alfredo is usually richer and creamier, and very different from the original recipe.
Boil the fettuccine in salted water, turning occasionally to prevent them from sticking to each other. Towards the end of the cooking time, take a couple of ladles of the pasta cooking water and set aside.
Place the soft butter, at room temperature, in a bowl, drain the pasta al dente, add it to the butter and mix well. Then add the grated Parmesan cheese and continue stirring adding a little cooking water at a time until you get a creamy, smooth sauce.
Finally, add a pinch of salt, if you think it needs it, and season to taste with freshly ground pepper and nutmeg.