Recipe Review

My New Go-to Alfredo Sauce Skips the Cream

published Feb 17, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Serious Eats has a reputation for putting out thorough, highly tested recipes. While some of them can toe the line of too complicated, I loved that their fettuccine Alfredo recipe stuck to its Roman roots with just a handful of ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions.

Roman Alfredo uses water, butter, and Parm to create a silky, creamy sauce — no heavy cream required. Since it’s Serious Eats, of course there were a few notes to keep in mind. First, the recipe calls for using a smaller pot to boil the pasta water which yields an extra-starchy pasta water, and therefore a creamier sauce. It’s also suggested to use a younger Parmigiano-Reggiano in the dish, as the flavor is more mild. Even though it’s the classic way to make it, I’ve never had Alfredo sauce without heavy cream. I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

Get the recipe: Serious Eats’ Roman-Style Fettuccine with Alfredo Sauce

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Serious Eats’ Fettuccine Alfredo

First, you’ll add the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano to a large heatproof bowl. Then, bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once the water begins to boil, add the fettuccine and cook according to package instructions until al dente. 

Reserve 3/4 cup of pasta water, then use tongs to transfer the pasta to the bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the bowl and use tongs to continuously toss the pasta until the butter has melted. If the sauce is too dry, add another splash of reserved pasta water until your desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and serve with more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Serious Eats’ Fettuccine Alfredo

I really wasn’t sure what to expect with Serious Eats’ Alfredo recipe. The recipe seemed more like cacio e pepe, minus the pepe, to me — a dish I love but doesn’t necessarily elicit Italian American Alfredo vibes. But it was fantastic.

There were a few elements that made this dish a standout. First, you boil the pasta in a medium pot (rather than large) so that the pasta water becomes extra starchy. A whole 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water gets added to the butter, Parm, and pasta, which admittedly seems like a lot, but creates an incredible luscious sauce that clings to the noodles. I loved how easy the recipe was to follow, and felt that although there was no heavy cream, the dish still tasted intensely creamy. If you’re used to Alfredo sauce made with cream, it’s not exactly the same, but I loved it just the same and I’ll be making this recipe again and again. 

If You’re Making Serious Eats’ Fettuccine Alfredo, a Few Tips

  1. Watch the water: Make sure not to fill the medium pot too high with water. Once the pasta gets added, the water level will rise and start bubbling over if it’s too high. 
  2. Reserve your pasta water: I found that adding 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water was the perfect amount, but if you want an even looser, creamier sauce, you can add a few more splashes. I’d recommend reserving 3/4 cup water total so you’ve got some extra to spare. 

Rating: 9.5/10

Have you tried Serious Eats’ fettuccine Alfredo? Let us know in the comments!