I love the holidays, and I love the movie “The Holiday.” I love the scene where the characters curl up next to a warm fire with “Christmas Fettuccine.” For me, there are few things more comforting than a big bowl of creamy, cheesy, pasta. The fact that it comes together quickly is a huge bonus. This dish is perfect for the end of a long day, snuggled on the couch with your loved ones.
This base of this sauce is a bechamel, which is fancy for milk thickened with a roux. Then you stir in some parmesan cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano), combine with the pasta of your choice, and that’s about it! Don’t be intimidated by making a bechamel, it’s easily mastered! Here are a few tips to help! Use room temperature milk, or at least not right out of the fridge, to speed up the process. Use whole milk, or you can maybe get away with 2%, but not skim milk. If you decide to use 2%, you can add an ounce or two of reduced fat cream cheese to help get that thick creamy consistency. Also, let the thickened sauce cool for 5-10 minutes before stirring in the cheese. If the sauce is too hot, it will cause the cheese to separate, which will make your sauce grainy instead of silky smooth. Grating your own cheese is necessary here! The prepackaged shredded cheese is coated in a substance that prevents it from clumping, but is not a friend to your sauce. And definitely don’t go anywhere near that can of powdered cheese garbage. Back away, and get the good stuff! Here’s a big tip for any cheesy sauce: adding a dash of vinegar will really pump up that cheese flavor, without having to add tons of cheese. Friendlier on your wallet and your waistline!
Traditionally you would choose fettuccine for alfredo sauce, but my toddler hasn’t quite mastered long noodles yet, so I usually use penne. Barilla has pasta made with pureed veggies if you want to bump up the health factor! You can add chicken, shrimp, bacon, peas, broccoli, wilted spinach…really just about anything you’d like to turn this into a more complete meal! Baby G loves roasted broccoli stirred into this. That kid is a broccoli monster, and I am more than happy to accommodate her!
This recipe will make enough sauce to go with 1 pound of pasta. Buon appetito!
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small clove garlic, grated with microplane (or very finely chopped)
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
- Dash of white wine vinegar
- 1 cup reserved pasta water, used as needed
- Bring large pot of water to boil, add palmful of salt, and cook pasta one minute less than package directions (it will finish cooking in the sauce). Drain pasta but do not rinse.
- Melt butter in medium sauce pan over medium heat.
- Wait until large bubbles in the butter have subsided (replaced by smaller bubbles), and add garlic. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Add flour, and cook for one minute, you want to cook out the raw taste of the flour.
- Slowly pour in the milk while whisking to prevent clumps.
- Continue stirring. When milk starts to bubble, reduce heat to medium low, and cook until the sauce has thickened. You’ll know it has reached appropriate thickness when, if you dip a spoon in the sauce and then run a finger down the back, the line stays put.
- Once thickened, remove the sauce from heat. (Ideally this is when you add your pasta to the boiling salted water.) Let the sauce cool for at least 5 minutes, and then stir in the cheese.
- Taste sauce, and adjust with salt and white wine vinegar.
- Add drained pasta to sauce, and place back on medium-low heat. Cook for a minute or two, until pasta is al dente. Add reserved pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin sauce as needed.