Fettuccine Alfredo: The Original Recipe and Its Story

Collina Italiana

Ciao everyone! It’s Luna here, back with another Cibo edition episode of Cosa Dici?! Now, today, we’re finally making our way over to probably the most famous pasta dish here in the United States: Fettuccine Alfredo.

Example of a plate of Fettuccine Alfredo according to the original recipe.
Fettuccine Alfredo according to the original recipe, served at Alfredo alla Scrofa Ristorante; a restaurant that opened in 1914 and is the home of this famous dish.

Nowadays, Fettuccine Alfredo, or even just Alfredo sauce, is very popular. Without a doubt, it is one of the most-ordered pasta dishes in existence, and you can get it almost anywhere. Surely, you can get it anywhere that serves pasta! Most of us know what it is, right? It’s that cheesy, creamy sauce served on long pasta—most often, fettuccine. But I think the truth here is that not many of us know where this dish comes from… Was it invented here in the United States, or was it invented in Italy? Who is Alfredo?! In this episode, we’re going to take a look at the story behind Fettuccine Alfredo, finally unveiling the famous Alfredo behind the dish.

Alfredo and his story…

The story of Fettuccine Alfredo takes us back to 1907, when Alfredo di Lelio—yes, that is the famous Alfredo we’ve all been looking for—when he noticed that his wife, who had just given birth to their son, was not eating and was feeling very weak. So he decided to make her a plate of pasta to provide her with the necessary sustenance to feel better. He made a plate of fettuccine with butter, but he decided to triple the amount of butter that one would usually put on pasta, and he included some Parmigiano Reggiano.

This, little did he know, was the beautiful Fettuccine Alfredo in its original form. So, let’s take note here of what the ingredients were in the original dish: butter, fettuccine (obviously!), and Parmigiano Reggiano… and lastly, a touch of that pasta water to thicken the sauce. This dish was became extremely popular, so much so that in 1914, Alfredo opened his own restaurant where he, of course, served Fettuccine Alfredo.

Alfredo di Lelio in front of his restaurant, home of the beloved fettuccine Alfredo.
Alfredo di Lelio in front of his restaurant, home of the beloved fettuccine Alfredo.

This restaurant became very popular, along with the dish. In fact, American celebrities and actors came over and visited his restaurant just to try the famed pasta. Most notably, Douglas Fairbanks loved the pasta so much that when he returned home, he demanded to have it recreated by his chefs… of course, to avoid traveling all the way to Italy for the dish! Eventually, then, Fettuccine Alfredo made its way over to the United States, where, of course, it was very popular.

Over time, the recipe changed like most things. The most popular addition was that of thickeners other than that touch of pasta water. For example, in most cases, heavy cream and sometimes, even flour. As you can imagine, this already very cheesy and creamy sauce became even creamier, even thicker, and even heavier. This is the sauce that we all know today in the United States as Alfredo sauce.

Fettuccine Alfredo today…

Ironically, the dish became so popular here in the United States (and in many other places outside of Italy) that it has almost been forgotten in Italy! In fact, if you go to Italy today, you’ll have a hard time finding fettuccine Alfredo. There is only one spot where you are guaranteed to find fettuccine Alfredo, and that is at Alfredo’s original restaurant, which still stands today and is located in Rome, under the new name Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa.

The original restaurant as it stands today, now named Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa.
The restaurant Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa as it stands today in Rome.

There you have it, the story behind the famous fettuccine Alfredo. Now we all know the true Alfredo behind the name, and next time you order the sauce, you’ll know exactly who you’re talking about!

Interested in making the original dish of fettuccine Alfredo? Follow the current chef at Ristorante Alfredo alla Scrofa as he shows the authentic dish step-by-step!

Read the full story here…

Until next time! Ciao!

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