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The Times
  • Jim Hillibish: Just don’t call it ‘Alfredo’ in Italy

  • The popular Italian cream sauce got its start as treatment for morning sickness. Restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio’s wife was having trouble with a pregnancy in 1914. He went to his restaurant kitchen in Rome and created an easy-to-eat dish: cream and butter tossed with pasta.

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  • Alfredo sauce has a sick beginning.
    Restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio’s wife was having trouble with a pregnancy in 1914. He went to his restaurant kitchen in Rome and created an easy-to-eat dish: cream and butter tossed with pasta.
    His wife recovered her morning sickness, and he placed it on his menu. His new dish took off after movie stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks endorsed it on their honeymoon. They gave it their celebrity endorsement, and word spread. It soon became a favorite at nearly every Italian restaurant in the country.
    If you travel to Rome and ask for Alfredo sauce, they will stare at you. The sauce is not Alfredo there. It’s fettuccine al burro (pasta in butter).
    Although the classic in America dictates fettuccine, it could be any pasta in Italy. One favorite is ravioli.
    A caution: Attempts to bottle Alfredo sauce usually disappoint, despite the marketing claims. Pasteurization in the process destroys much of the fresh flavor that makes this dish so special. It’s not that hard to make, anyway.
    The key to a great Alfredo is fresh ingredients and cooking it over medium-low heat. Never allow it to boil. Using a wire whisk adds air and lightness amid all the fat.
    You may want to give it a shot — of vodka. It adds some tang and a slight aftertaste, not unpleasant. Another variation is angel-hair pasta. This is the lightest of all pastas, very unfilling and an excellent complement. Add a few sautéed shrimp on top — perfecto.
    Alfredo Sauce
    3 tablespoons butter
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 cups heavy cream
    1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
    1 shot vodka (optional)
    1⁄2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
    3⁄4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
    Melt butter in olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and stir. Do not brown. Whisk in the cream and pepper and simmer slowly, whisking often. Keep stirring and add grated cheese and optional vodka and simmer to thicken. Then add mozzarella and whisk until smooth. Spoon sauce over hot pasta.
    This makes enough sauce for a 1-pound box of pasta serving 6 to 8.

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