May 28th, 2011

Paulette’s Fett! Real Roman Alfredo


I stopped eating Fettuccine Alfredo years ago. The once-beloved dish had become, to my tastes, a cream-laden tangle of starch, flat in flavor and leaden in the belly.

I had pretty much dismissed it as something of-a-time, when, perhaps, my palate was less sophisticated.

But what I didn’t know–and only recently learned–is that the original Alfredo, created in Rome by Chef Alfredo di Lelio almost a hundred years ago, possesses No Cream.

Ribbons of fresh pasta are coated in a silken sauce made from softened butter, grated parmegiano, and pasta water, artfully tossed on a warm platter.

And served immediately.


That’s it.

And, it’s that sheer simplicity that makes the Alfredo so seductive and lush–yet light. The real Alfredo is a Revelation to eat.


At our last Third-Thursday Community Pot Luck, Gigi and I asked our good friend and potlucker, Paulette Licitra, to make a fresh pasta dish. Paulette chose to introduce us to the “Vere” Alfredo–the Real Roman Way that will forever change your perception of the dish.

Italian-American by birth, Paulette has been immersed in the culture of Italian food. She grew up in Brooklyn, her parents first generation immigrants from Sicily. She lived and studied throughout Italy, making Rome, for a time, her home. She got her degree in Culinary Studies at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education in NYC) and interned for Mario Batali at Lupa.


Today, she is the Maestra of Cucina Paradiso–a cooking school she holds twice weekly in her home. Her students learn, hands-on, how to make marvelous and varied authentic dishes that she’s gleaned from her journeys all over The Boot.

She is also the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Alimentum, The Literature of Food.

Whether it’s in a saucepan or a poem, food is her passion.


She shared some simple tricks to the dish. With only three ingredients involved, the quality of those is key to success. Start with Butter. Paulette favors KerryGold Pure Irish Butter, the unsalted variety. It is, indeed, the Lamborgini of Butters. If you can’t locate KerryGold, use an unsalted butter that you know and like.

It must be softened, so that you can spread it with the back of a wooden spoon across the base of the bowl or platter from which you will toss and serve. That base will serve you well in the toss!

Use your favorite sea salt, and fresh grated Parmegiano-Regianno. Reserved starchy water from cooking the pasta helps bring the butter and cheese into a sumptuous, cream-like sauce.

When it comes to making the fettuccine, again, it’s a terse list of ingredients. Get large, farm-fresh eggs if you can. For flour, Paulette prefers the King Arthur brand of Unbleached All Purpose.

Paulette maintains that making your own pasta is not difficult at all. Following her recipe and procedure really demystifies the process. Patience, a little elbow grease, and a hand-cranked pasta machine (we love low-tech!) will take you far!

For the final step, it’s all about art in motion: Toss and twirl, spoon and swirl—-you want all those delicate strands to be coated with the sauce you are creating.

Place into warm bowls and Mangia! Mangia!



2 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (King Arthur Brand)
3 large farm Eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

Hand-cranked Pasta Machine

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a “well” in the mound and add the eggs. Using a fork, mix the flour into the eggs, until all the flour is mixed in and the dough comes together. Gather and knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes. It will become smooth and a little shiny. If it’s too sticky, add a little flour—if it’s too dry, add a little water. Wrap the dough tightly and let it set for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 4 pieces, and re-wrap the remaining pieces until it’s their time. Take the first piece, slightly flatten it, and run it through the pasta machine roller on the first setting. Fold the piece thrice and run it through the machine on the same setting. Repeat.

Then, move the setting to 2 and run it through. Continue this process until you reach the next to the last setting (mine was #7) If the dough gets sticky while you are working with it, dust it in flour. You don’t want a sticky mess!

Cut the long strip in half and run it through the fettuccine cutter.

Separate and drop the cut noodles onto a floured baking sheet. Toss in flour so they won’t stick.

Repeat with your other pieces of dough until you have stretched, rolled and cut into lovely fettuccine.


Paulette mixes and kneads the pasta dough. Ten minutes of kneading is necessary to achieve a smooth, elastic, and shiny ball of dough.


Don’t be afraid to use extra flour when working with the dough. You want to keep the beautiful strands separate.

The Alfredo
12 Tablespoons softened Unsalted Butter (KerryGold Irish Cream Butter)
1 1/2-2 cups grated Parmegiano-Reggiano, solo, or in combination with Pecorino Romano
1 cup Reserved Pasta Water
Sea Salt
a few grindings of Black Pepper

Spread softened butter on the bottom of a large platter or mixing bowl.

Bring a 6 qt. stockpot of lightly salted water to a rolling bowl. Add fettuccini, and cook for 3 minutes. (If you are using dried pasta, cook according to package directions–perhaps 8 minutes.)

Drain noodles, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Lay fettuccini on top of butter. Sprinkle with grated cheese–start with half of the amount—and vigorously, but gently toss, coating the noodles. Add a little of the pasta water as you toss. You won’t need the whole cup–perhaps half.

The noodles will glisten with the simple emulsion of butter, cheese, pasta water. Taste for salt, and season accordingly. Add more cheese as needed. Toss well and serve immediately. Garnish with a little chopped flat leaf parsley, if you like.

Pass the pepper grinder and bowl of grated cheese!

Serves 4


Paulette works with pasta water and grated cheese, quickly but thoroughly tossing the pasta until all those ribbons have become satin with the simple but delectable emulsion of soft butter, cheese, and starchy water. A revelation!


Posted in Pastas, Recipes

24 Responses to “Paulette’s Fett! Real Roman Alfredo”
  1. Tracy Says:

    So hard to put down words…My belly growls for this dish.

  2. Nancy Says:

    Thank you Nancy and Paulette for introducing me to the joys of real Alfredo. I too have long avoided the dish after sampling one too many cream-laden versions. And what an auspicious coincidence – I just bought a slab of KerryGold today :) It’s my favorite.

  3. Anna Johnston Says:

    Its so nice to be reminded that this beautiful Alfredo was the dish we all fell in love with, but sadly, its been kind of down graded with all that quick cream. I love real Alfredo, so thanks for the reminder Nancy :)

  4. Michele / Cooking At Home Says:

    Great memories of past meals when fresh pasta was a constant at our table. Fettucine, sweet butter and grated Parmesan was always a guest favorite. Thanks, Nancy.

  5. heather Says:

    One of the best ways to eat fresh pasta! Thanks Nancy.

  6. gg Says:

    A revelation! I love the beautiful simplicity and emphasis on technique in this dish. Guess I’ll have to splurge on some Kerrygold:-) Brava ladies!

  7. John Says:

    My Italian father-in-law has always said to me that the secret to great Italian food is simplicity. I’ll be making this soon Nancy.

  8. Barbara Says:

    I’ve still never made my own pasta. My grandmother would be ashamed of me!
    After watching Giada so much, I realized how creamy the pasta water makes the sauce. Now you’ve convinced me completely. No cream is a good thing! :)

  9. Sherri Says:

    Thank you so much for this. The first meal my husband ever made me was Fettucine Al Fredo and, while I fully appreciated the value of a man who cooks and cooks al freed, I, too, have never been a big fan of cream sauces. This sounds perfect!

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    tracy–i know that this dish is just what you (and Roberto!) would crave.

    nancy–love the serendipity of the kerrygold purchase!

    anna and michele and sherry–yes, it is wonderful when we have these good food memories triggered. one of the great aspects of food blogging.

    heather–indeed! and you would know first-hand!

    gg–the kerrygold is incredibly delicious butter–reserved for recipes like this!

    John–simplicity, and the best ingredients, are what it’s all about

    Barbara–no shame there. the alfredo can be easily made with a good store-bought pasta with terrific results.

  11. kristy Says:

    Hi Nancy, thanks for visiting my blog earlier. You’ve such a beautiful blog here and thank you for posting this pasta recipe. It’s wonderful. I’m going to try it one of this day. Hope to hear from you more often. Have a great day ahead.
    Blessings, Kristy

  12. Tammy Says:

    Thanks so much for introducing us to Paulette. I really loved this post and the simplicity of her dish. Loved your cloud poem on her site also.

  13. Karen Says:

    Great, great post Nancy! I’d love to have Paulette work her magic in the kitchen for me. Her pasta looks divine and has me wanting to give “Alfredo” another try.

  14. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Tammy, I really appreciate you going to the Alimentum site, and reading
    “A Scoop of Cloud.” Many thanks!

    Karen–Paulette is Italian Magic in the kitchen. I think you’ll love her Real Alfredo.

  15. Joyti Says:

    You are absolutely right – it DOES put the American version to shame. That alfredo sounds phenomenal. And it looks really delicious.

  16. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    This looks a beautiful Alfredo route. It seems the cream is superfluous. Thanks to both of you!

  17. Faith Says:

    Looks like a fantastic alfredo! Those homemade noodles really are a thing of beauty…I’d love to try my hand at making them!

  18., Teresa Blackburn Says:

    I was so lucky to get a bite of Paulette’s Alfredo at the last potluck…it was like eating delicious history.
    I am so glad you also love KerryGold Butter. To me, there is no other to compare. I am sure there are lots of varying opinions on this most perfect of butters, but to me it is “the” butter for all things.
    Lovely blog. T

  19. Juliana Says:

    Wow, homemade pasta and the recipe for the Alfredo looks absolutely delicious…like the idea of butter :-) Hope you are having a great week Nancy :-)

  20. Tiffany Says:

    This sounds good and my downfall is pasta! I would love to learn how to do everything home made like that! Thanks for sharing!!

  21. Teresa Says:

    Wonderful. A real key, i think, is the fresh home made pasta.. The lovely unctuous sauce must stick to and coat the strands of pasta. Commercial slick grocery store fettucini just wont “grab” the sauce release it own starch and create the sauce you are looking for. My now 39 year old son is a foodie and one of his first food loves was f. alfredo and i learned to make the fresh pasta many years ago. Those days just a machine that did all the work. Not nearly as good or as much fun as by hand which is what i do now. Thanks for reminding us and re-inspiring me!

  22. Elle Says:

    This looks amazing!
    Is there a way to best incorporate shrimp or possibly spinach into this recipe?

  23. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Elle–I would saute the shrimp and/or spinach separately, and then gently fold into the pasta (already tossed in butter, pasta water, and cheese)right before serving. Enjoy!

  24. Alfredo e Ines Di lelio Says:


    With reference of your article we have the pleasure to tell you the history of our grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “fettuccine all’Alfredo” in 1908 in restaurant run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi).
    Alfredo di Lelio opened the restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in a street in central Rome, after leaving the restaurant of his mother Angelina. In this local spread the fame, first to Rome and then in the world, of “fettuccine all’Alfredo”.
    In 1943, during the war, Di Lelio sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo” (“Alfredo di Roma”), which is now managed by his nephews Alfredo and Ines, with the famous “gold cutlery”” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).
    See also the site of “Il Vero Alfredo”
    We must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome do not belong to the family tradition of “Il Vero Alfredo” in Rome.
    We inform that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.
    Best regards Alfredo e Ines Di Lelio

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