Ahhhh. Sweet, wonderful, luxury that is fettucine alfredo. I’m not talking the jarred ‘alfredo’ sauce, a blasphemous concoction of preservatives and other unknowns. No, I’m referring to that homey dish of fettucine noodles, perfectly coated in cream and butter, with a light sprinkling of parmesan; fettucine al alfredo, how I love thee! For those who are overwhelmed by the notion of homemade fettucine alfredo, never fear, it’s one of Italy’s easiest pasta dishes. And unlike the chain Italian restaurants, this dish is not a plate of cooked pasta with a ready made sauce poured on top. While it is a simple dish, it is a beautiful process where the cooked pasta and the beginning ‘notions’ of a sauce are gently married together over heat, a beautiful symbiotic relationship that results in a melt in your mouth bite. How do you do it? Simply melt a few tablespoons of butter, add in a quarter pint of heavy cream (whipping cream works here) and stir over medium heat until sauce gets to that uber thick consistency. Add in your cooked fettucine (al dente of course!) coat the noodles, and cover with a sprinkling of freshly grated paremesan. It’s a no fail people!
Unfortunately, we cannot all justify the use of heavy cream in our dinner diets, even if it is once in a while. High blood pressure, cholesterol, and more can be triggered by a heavy dish of traditional fettucine alfredo. Fortunately for us, there are ways to create delicious cream sauces with at least half the fat, by making a thick sauce from a roux and seasoning to similar flavors of the alfredo sauce we have come to love. Simply cook a little butter (and olive oil, rendered fat, even margarine, will work as well) and once melted, add in an equal amount of flour. Whisk out any lumps and continue cooking and stirring for a few more minutes, until that chalky raw flour taste disappears. Add in several cups of liquid, here I use equal amount of reduced fat milk and flavored broth. Keep cooking and low and behold, a beautiful creamy sauce results. All that is left to do is season with salt and pepper, fresh herbs if I have them, and fresh parmesan.
My full recipe for Fettucine al Alfredo with asparagus and zucchini ribbons is below.
1 lb cooked fettucine al dente
3 zuchini, cleaned, ends cut off, and peeled into ribbons (simply take a vegetable peeler, and run the length of the zucchini. Repeat until you cannot peel any more strips
1 bunch of asparagus, ends cut off, and slice into diagonal pieces ¼ inch thick
½ red onion, julienned
3 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons unbleached flour
2 cups reduced fat milk
2 cups low-sodium broth (omit broth and double milk if you prefer a creamier sauce)
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Coat skillet with olive oil, and once glistening, add in onion. Saute for one minute and add in asparagus. Stir pan every 30 seconds. What we are going for is nice sear on our asparagus. After 2 minutes, add in zucchini ribbons. Season vegetables liberally with coarse salt and pepper. Remove from heat once all vegetable are easily pierced with a fork (about 6 minutes total).
Remove vegetable from skillet and gently wipe down with kitchen cloth or paper towels. Add in butter, and turn down heat to medium. Once butter melts, add in flour. Continuously whisk butter with flour for about 3 minutes. It should be nice light brown color, and bubbly. Add in all liquid at one time. Keep whisking for the first minute, and then let cook down. Stir/whisk sauce every few minutes. Sauce should thicken fairly quickly. How to tell if the sauce is the right consistency: Take a wooden spoon and dip the back of spoon into sauce. Run your finger through the sauce on the spoon. If the line you make through sauce stays separated, it is done. Season sauce with coarse salt and pepper, and fresh herbs if you wish.
Toss pasta with vegetables and sauce. Liberally coat the pasta with freshly grated parmesan.