Fettuccine Alfredo is a rich and creamy pasta dish comprised of butter, Parmigiano Reggiano, starchy pasta water, and of course fettuccine.  Our version includes a touch of heavy cream and can be ready in under 30 minutes.

Black bowl with fettuccine alfredo.


Hailing from Rome, Fettuccine Alfredo was originally made with fresh fettuccine noodles, butter, Parmigiano Reggiano, a touch of pasta water, and a pinch of salt.  That was it.

Over the years folks have tried to improve upon the recipe by adding any number of things, like chicken Alfredo, or shrimp Alfredo, but the original is still heralded as the best version.

I deviate from the original with one ingredient, and that is a touch of heavy cream as I find it makes the consistency silkier, but in the recipe, you’ll see this is optional, especially for those who want to create the most authentic version of Alfredo sauce. 

Recipe Ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Ingredients shown: Parmigiano Reggiano, cream, butter, and fettuccine.
  • Pasta. Fettuccine is used to traditionally. I prefer DeCecco brand.
  • Pasta water. This is not just for cooking the pasta; it’s a key ingredient to the sauce. Follow the instructions below to make a starchy pasta water.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano. There are so few ingredients in Fettuccine Alfredo, so I recommend using imported Parmigiano Reggiano over domestic parmesan. Use one that’s aged 24 months or younger. Grana Padano or Reggianato can also be used.
  • Butter. Unsalted butter is a key component.
  • Heavy cream (optional). Not traditional, but I use a touch of it in my recipe.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil with a very small amount of water and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt.  For a 6-quart stockpot use only 3 inches of water or less.  You want to create very starchy pasta water that will easily hold an emulsion of the butter and cheese.  Grate 1 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano on the finest box grater settings.  Note: Using very starchy water and the finest grated cheese will ensure success!  (Photo #1)
Fettuccine alfredo recipe process shot collage group number one showing grated cheese and mixing cheese with cubed butter..
  1. Cube 1 stick of unsalted butter and place it into a large bowl (large enough for 1 pound of fettuccine) with a 1/4 cup of cream and the grated Parmigiano. (Photo #2)
  2. Once the water comes to a boil drop in the fettuccine and stir frequently to prevent any sticking.  Note: I’m using DeCecco semolina fettuccine.  Even better would be homemade egg fettuccine or the store-bought version that’s sold in a bag of nests. (Photo #3)
Recipe process shot collage group number two showing uncooked pasta in pot with water, and cooked pasta in pot with ladle.
  1. Once the pasta is cooked to al dente reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water.  Placing it in a mug makes it easy. (Photo #4)
  2. Place the al dente fettuccine into the bowl along with a 1/2 cup of the pasta water and start mixing quickly with tongs. (Photo #5)
Recipe process shot collage group number three showing pasta water added to bowl of pasta and tongs mixing pasta and sauce.
  1. It will become creamy with no clumping as shown in pic 6 above.  If the pasta is at all dry, add reserved pasta water a couple of tablespoons at a time until the perfect consistency is achieved.  Taste test and season with salt to taste.  Serve immediately.  (Photo #6)
Tongs holding cooked fettuccine alfredo in large glass bowl.

Top tips

  • Starchy water. The key to making a successful fettuccine Alfredo is to make sure your pasta water is very starchy.  The best way to accomplish this is to use as little water as needed to cook the pasta.  So for a 6 quart pot, I recommend filling 3 inches up or less from the bottom for 1 pound of pasta.  Because there is less water being used, you should also use less salt when salting the water.   
  • Finely grate. Be sure to grate the Parmigiano Reggiano on the smallest hole of a box grater to allow the cheese to melt evenly and form a more perfect emulsified sauce.
  • Eat promptly. Fettuccine Alfredo should be eaten right away, as should any pasta that requires an emulsion like Cacio e Pepe or Carbonara. If you have leftovers, they’re best reheated in a pan on the stove.
White plate with nest of fettuccine alfredo along with 2 black bowls in background.

More creamy pasta recipes

If creamy, silky pastas are what you crave, here are a few recipes I know you’ll love.  

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Fettuccine Alfredo

5 from 19 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
A decadent sauce made from Parmigiano Reggiano, butter, and starchy pasta water is tossed with fettuccine and topped with more cheese!

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound fettuccine pasta
  • 1 stick unsalted butter cubed
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano finely grated, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water might not need it all but reserve just in case
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream optional

Instructions 

  • Fill a large pot with water and 1 tablespoon kosher salt to only 3 inches high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cook pasta to al dente and make sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the very starchy pasta water.
  • While pasta is boiling set up a large bowl with the butter, grated cheese, and cream.
  • Place the al dente pasta into the bowl along with a ladle of pasta water. Toss quickly to melt the butter and cheese. If too dry, add more of the reserved pasta water a bit at a time to get the perfect creamy consistency.
  • Season with salt to taste and serve immediately.

Notes

  • Very starchy pasta water is key.  Boil pasta with a very small amount of water.  Fill a 6-quart pot no higher than 3 inches for a pound of pasta.
  • Use only 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for the pasta water since an extremely low amount of water is used.
  • Cream makes it better, but if you want traditional alfredo, feel free to omit it.
  • Grana Padano or Reggianato can be substituted for the Parmigiano Reggiano.  Use a 24 month aged or younger cheese.
  • Fettuccine alfredo is best eaten right away so that the emulsion is maintained, but can be saved in the fridge for up to 3 days.  Reheat in a pan or microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 720kcal | Carbohydrates: 85.1g | Protein: 23.6g | Fat: 33.9g | Saturated Fat: 20.4g | Cholesterol: 92mg | Sodium: 1014mg | Potassium: 13mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 2.1g | Calcium: 269mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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58 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I am learning so much watching your videos! I can’t wait to try this alfredo recipe; I know it will be wonderful. I bet your official taste tester would easily give it a 10.