Fettuccine Alfredo

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Fettuccine Alfredo
The Only Original Alfredo Sauce with Butter and Parmesano-Reggiano Cheese.png
Plate of fettuccine Alfredo
Place of originItaly
Region or stateLazio
Associated national cuisineUnited States
Created byAlfredo di Lelio I (1882–1959)
Main ingredientsFettuccine, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, butter
Variations(In the US) Broccoli, cream, parsley, garlic, chicken, shrimp, turkey

Fettuccine Alfredo (Italian pronunciation: [fettut'tʃiːne alˈfreːdo]),[1] or fettuccine al burro,[2] is a pasta dish made from fettuccine, traditionally tossed with just butter and Parmesan cheese (Italian: pasta al burro e parmigiano).[3][4][5] As the cheese melts, it emulsifies the liquids to form a smooth and rich sauce coating the pasta.[3] Alfredo di Lelio gave the dish his name at his restaurants in Rome in the early to mid 20th century, where the "ceremony" of preparing it tableside was an integral part of the dish.[3][6]

The dish became popularized, and eventually spread to the United States. The recipe has evolved; its commercialized version is now ubiquitous, with heavy cream and other ingredients. In the US, it is often garnished with chicken or other hefty ingredients to make it into a main course. In Italy, however, fettuccine al burro is generally considered home cooking; fettuccine Alfredo is a very rich version of the dish.[6]


Serving fettuccine with butter and cheese was first mentioned in a 15th-century recipe for maccaroni romaneschi ('Roman pasta') by Martino da Como, a northern Italian cook active in Rome; the recipe cooks the noodles in broth or water and adds butter, "good cheese" (the variety is not specified) and "sweet spices".[7]

Modern fettuccine Alfredo was invented by Alfredo di Lelio in Rome. According to family accounts, in 1892 Alfredo di Lelio began to work in a restaurant that was located in piazza Rosa and run by his mother Angelina. Di Lelio invented "fettuccine al triplo burro"[3] (later named "fettuccine all'Alfredo" or "fettuccine Alfredo") in 1907 or 1908 in an effort to entice his wife, Ines, to eat after giving birth to their first child Armando. Alfredo added extra butter or "triplo burro” to the fettuccine when mixing it together for her.[8][9][10] Piazza Rosa disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna/Sordi and the restaurant was forced to close. Di Lelio later opened his own restaurant, Alfredo alla Scrofa then called "Alfredo", in 1914 on the via della Scrofa in central Rome.

The fame of Alfredo's fettuccine spread, first in Rome and then to other countries. Di Lelio was made a Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Corona d'Italia.[11][12]

In 1943, during the war, di Lelio sold the restaurant to two of his waiters.[13] In 1950, with his son Armando, Alfredo di Lelio opened a new restaurant in piazza Augusto Imperatore, Alfredo all'Augusteo, now managed by his niece Ines Di Lelio, bringing along the famous "gold cutlery"[3] said to have been donated in 1927 by the American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for Alfredo’s hospitality). The two restaurants competed vigorously, with escalating puffery: "the king of fettuccine", "the real king of fettuccine", "the magician of fettuccine", "the emperor of fettuccine", "the real Alfredo", etc.[13]


The dish was so well known that di Lelio was invited to demonstrate it both in Italy and abroad.[13] The fame of the dish, called on Alfredo's menus maestosissime fettuccine all'Alfredo or 'most majestic fettuccine, Alfredo style', comes largely from the "spectacle reminiscent of grand opera" of its preparation at table,[4] as described in 1967:

[The fettuccine] are seasoned with plenty of butter and fat parmesan, not aged, so that, in a ritual of extraordinary theatricality, the owner mixes the pasta and lifts it high to serve it, the white threads of cheese gilded with butter and the bright yellow of the ribbons of egg pasta offering an eyeful for the customer; at the end of the ceremony, the guest of honor is presented the golden cutlery and the serving dish, where the blond fettuccine roll around in the pale gold of the seasonings. It's worth seeing the whole ceremony. The owner, son of old Alfredo and looking exactly like him, ... bends over the great skein of fettuccine, fixes it intensely, his eyes half-closed, and dives into mixing it, waving the golden cutlery with grand gestures, like an orchestra conductor, with his sinister upwards-pointing twirled moustache dancing up and down, pinkies in the air, a rapt gaze, flailing elbows.[13]

Recipes attributed to Alfredo only include three ingredients: fettuccine, young Parmesan cheese and butter.[11][14][13] Yet there are various legends about the "secret" of the original Alfredo recipe: some say oil is added to the pasta dough, others that the noodles are cooked in milk.[15] The secret may in fact be simply that the noodles, cheese and butter are tossed constantly with some pasta water in a well-warmed platter to ensure that they melt together thoroughly.[16]

Fettuccine Alfredo, minus the spectacle, has now become ubiquitous in Italian-style restaurants outside Italy, although in Italy this dish is usually called simply "fettuccine al burro".[5][17]

If pepper must be added to the recipe, then white pepper is recommended to avoid the presence of black specks in the dish. In commercialized versions, Alfredo sauce may be developed from a white sauce, and so white pepper would be called for if pepper was one of the ingredients.

In the United States[edit]

Alfredo's fettuccine has long been popular with Americans. By 1922, it was already being reported on by American travelers.[19] Multiple magazine articles and guidebooks in the 1920s and 1930s extolled Alfredo's noodles.[12][20][14] In 1927, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks supposedly dined at Alfredo's and gave him the famous gold fork and spoon.[14] Also in 1927, the American restaurateur and writer George Rector wrote up Alfredo's fettuccine and described the ceremony of its tableside preparation, accompanied by violin music, in detail; he did not give it a specific name, nor mention golden tableware.[11]

In 1966, the Pennsylvania Dutch Noodle Company started marketing their "Fettuccine Egg Noodles", which included a recipe on the package for an Alfredo sauce including cream and Swiss cheese as well as Parmesan and butter.[16]

Alfredo sauce[edit]

Alfredo sauce is often sold as a convenience food in grocery stores in many countries. Unlike the original preparation, which is thickened only by cheese, the prepared food and fast food[21] versions of Alfredo may be thickened with eggs or starch. The base of all authentic homemade Alfredo sauces is dairy, and include 3 main ingredients: heavy cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "fettuccine" at Collins Dictionary, accessed 2016-11-22 (archive)
  2. ^ Amore, Katia (2014-10-13). "Fettuccine al Burro or Fettuccine Alfredo". ITALY Magazine. Retrieved 2018-03-15.
  3. ^ a b c d e Carnacina (1975), p. 72–73
  4. ^ a b Waverly Root, The Food of Italy, 1971, p. 86
  5. ^ a b "Fettuccine Alfredo". Giallo Zafferano. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  6. ^ a b Downie, David (2011). Cooking the Roman Way. HarperCollins. p. 106. ISBN 9780062031099.
  7. ^ de Rossi, Martino. Libro de Arte Coquinaria. pp. s.v.
  8. ^ "Alfredo 1914". alfredo1914.com. web. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  9. ^ "La Storia". il vero Alfredo (in Italian). web. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  10. ^ Carnacina (1975). Roma in Cucina. pp. 72–73.
  11. ^ a b c George Rector, "A Cook's Tour", Saturday Evening Post, November 19, 1927, p. 14, 52, 54, 56, 58 snippet
  12. ^ a b Edward Manuel Newman, Seeing Italy, 1927, p. 176
  13. ^ a b c d e 'frasi' [pseudo. of Francesco Simoncini], Ristoranti a Roma, A.B.E.T.E. 1967, p. 99
  14. ^ a b c Barry Popik, "Fettuccine Alfredo", February 14, 2009 [1]
  15. ^ Doris Muscatine, A Cook's Tour of Rome, New York: Charles Scribers' Sons, 1964, p. 126
  16. ^ a b Todd Coleman, "The Real Alfredo", Saveur, April 13, 2009
  17. ^ Bastianich, Lidia; John, Mariani. How Italian Food conquered the World (1st ed.).
  18. ^ George Rector, a la Rector: Unveiling the Culinary Mysteries of the world-famous George Rector, 1933, p. 39
  19. ^ Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt, p. 196: "there's a little trattoria on the Via della Scrofa where you get the best fettuccine in the world"
  20. ^ Harper's Bazaar, 67, 1933, p. 52
  21. ^ Papa Gino's, "Nutritional information and Allergens


  • Carnacina, Luigi; Buonassisi, Vincenzo (1975). Roma in Cucina (in Italian). Milano: Giunti Martello.

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