Fettuccine Alfredo is one of those dishes that looks simple on paper, yet you can spend a lifetime perfecting it.
It’s also unique in that it’s an Italian-inspired dish (the Italian version being Fettuccine al burro) that contains no garlic or olive oil. The trick to great FA, in my experience, is to layer enough mellow, sweet flavors into the dish to balance the savory sharpness of the fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Here’s my trick. Sure, the sweet butter and heavy cream add a mellow sweetness to the sauce. But one more layer can’t hurt, and I add a bit more sweetness and zing with one of my all time favorite ingredients: shallots. Start by sweating the chopped shallots in a full stick of butter over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper to get the seasoning started. At this point, take a deep breath. The aroma of the bubbling butter and shallots is just plain sexy. Once the shallots are translucent, add lots of heavy cream. Cook down for a few minutes and add the fresh, finely-grated Parmigiano cheese. Don’t let it get too thick! Perfect creaminess is the goal here. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.
Another couple of minutes and it’s ready to go. And now for the final ingredient: freshly chopped, Italian flat-leaf parsley. Not only do the green parsley specks add a beautiful visual texture to the pale sauce, the little spikes of bitterness add yet another layer of flavor to the whole dish. Once the ingredients are combined, take the pan off the heat. If you’ve timed it perfectly, you can transfer the cooked fettuccine directly into the pan, twisting the pasta into the sauce with tongs. Add a bit of pasta water to loosen up the sauce if necessary. Let sit for a couple of minutes to let the pasta soak up the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish, add a sprinkle of parsley and Parmagiano, and let the culinary love begin!