If there is a cross-section that illustrates the diversity of recipes in the kitchen and refutes any notion of dogmatism, it is exemplified by Fettuccine Alfredo.
We are discussing a dish made of very few ingredients, which has undergone various phases, with new chapters still being written today.
It has traced a true epic, capable of uniting two continents, pieces of history, ordinary people, and Hollywood stars.
Before Alfredo Di Lelio’s invention, there were pastas with plenty of butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, but let’s reiterate that fact.
Alfredo Di Lelio with his golden cutlery ph. Tourism Rome
The pasta we now call “Fettuccine Alfredo” (sometimes Fettuccine all’Alfredo), which fell into obscurity for years, is attributable to a specific personality. Alfredo Di Lelio, born in 1883 in Trastevere, was a cook and the son of restaurateurs.
He began his career in the family’s trattoria in Piazza della Rosa, a square that vanished following the construction of the Galleria Colonna.
He later owned two restaurants: Alfredo alla Scrofa on Via della Scrofa, which then passed to new owners, and Il Vero Alfredo in Piazza Augusto Imperatore, where his direct heirs can be found today.
As of today, the two establishments are not connected.
According to various chronologies, Di Lelio is said to have invented the dish in the early 1900s (the date and place vary depending on the sources), or rather he would have codified it in the manner we now call “Fettuccine Alfredo” to restore the strength of his wife Ines, who had recently given birth.
Extremely thin fettuccine, quickly boiled, with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese drizzled on top, whipped directly into the dish and then strictly off the heat, represent the magic of this unique recipe for Roman cuisine, which typically does not make abundant use of butter.
What determines its success is the quality of the ingredients and the skillful mantecatura, achieved through precise movements that can still be found in the restaurants that have taken up its legacy.
At Alfredo alla Scrofa, Alfredo and his pasta found exceptional fame, which even today shows no signs of waning. Among the many world days, there is also one for this recipe, which occurs every year on February 7 under the name National Fettuccine Alfredo Day.
A particular moment that marked a turning point in the history of the dish occurred in 1920 during the Roman honeymoon of two of Hollywood’s leading actors at the time, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.
They ate Alfredo’s pasta and were so impressed that on a subsequent visit they gifted him with a pair of engraved gold cutlery, which to this day are still used in both restaurants, making explicit the question as to which of the two pairs is the original one, if only one or neither.
Those cutlery, as well as the continuous influx of Italian and especially U.S. celebrities from the worlds of entertainment and culture, have made the dish known in America, where it is more famous than in Italy to this day.
Fettuccine Alfredo has been twisted in all sorts of ways, from the addition of chicken, shrimp, and parsley to being turned into jars of industrial ready-made sauces.
However, it is experiencing a resurgence. Some chefs have brought the dish back to the menu, such as Trippa chef in Milan Diego Rossi, who makes his own version with chicken broth, and Jacopo Mercuro, who has turned fettuccine Alfredo into the stuffing of a fried cube with a crispy breadcrumb coating, to be eaten before a 180-gram pizza in Rome.
FETTUCCINE ALFREDO, THE AUTHENTIC RECIPE FROM ROME
- 500g (1 lb.) of egg fettuccine
- 1/2 lb. butter
- 1/2 lb. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Salt, to taste
- A grinding of fresh pepper (optional)
- Boil water in a large pot and add a pinch of salt. Cook the fettuccine until al dente.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet over gentle heat.
- Drain the fettuccine and transfer it to the skillet with the melted butter.
- Add a pinch of salt and mix vigorously with a fork and spoon or tongs.
- Add cheese and a ladleful of pasta water, mixing until the cheese melts into a smooth, creamy sauce. Add more pasta water if needed.
- Serve the fettuccine immediately, with additional grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper.Enjoy your Fettuccine Alfredo!
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