The Original Fettucine Alfredo Recipe

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The original Fettucine Alfredo, from Rome
Fettucine Alfredo, with just the original 4 ingredients

The Original Fettucine Alfredo Recipe

According to the cookbook, Cooking the Roman Way, by David Downie, the original Fettucine Alfredo recipe had just 4 ingredients. Namely, Fettucine noodles, butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeese and salt.

I remember Fettucine Alfredo being the one pasta, outside of Spaghetti and Mac and Cheese, that was around during my childhood. For the most part, I grew up in the 70s. By the 1980s, I was just out of High School.

During the 70s, outside of Italian Restaurant menus, Fettucine Alfredo was the one pasta dish that could be found on contemporary menus. Usually it was doused in a heavy cream sauce and garnished with chopped parsley. It still often is.

But in Downie’s book, he explains the original Fettucine Alfredo recipe, created in Rome about 100 years ago, had just the four simple ingredients, without the exta heaviness that cream brings.

And its creator? Alfred Di Lelio, owner of the Roman restaurant, Alfredo’s.
In his establishment, waiters would make a dramatic presentation of the pasta, mixing it tableside before serving. Below is the technique that introduced this famous pasta to the world.

Butter + Cheese

It’s simple to make, easy to shop for (just 4 ingredients, remember?) and utterly delicious. It’s also highly caloric…and I have to admit, when I make this I sometimes cut back on the butter, but you should at least try it once full fat!

Roman Fettucine Alfredo

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes


Servings: 4 Servings

Original Fettucine Alfredo

The original Fettucine Alfredo recipe is made with just 4 ingredients and originated in Rome about 100 years ago.


  • 1-1/2 lbs Fettucine Noodles, dry or homemade
  • 1 cup butter softened (2 sticks), cut into tablespoon slices
  • 1-1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt to taste


  1. Bring about 5 qts of water to boil in large stock pot or pan
  2. Bring 2 qts of water to boil in a shallow pan, large enough to immerse your serving platter (you’re just using it to heat your platter) – set platter in water.
  3. Once your pasta water is boiling, add salt, enough so it’s akin to sea saltwater
  4. Stir rapidly, then add your noodles, while water is still churning.
  5. Remove your platter from the hot water, taking care to use oven mitts, and dry off.
  6. Put the butter slices on the warm platter, and let them melt
  7. Remove 1/2 cup of pasta water, and set aside
  8. Drain pasta while it is stil ‘al dente’ (just slightly firm, not soggy) and transfer to butter platter while it is still dripping with pasta water
  9. Working quickly, sprinkle the grated cheese over the noodles, and pour the reserved pasta water on top.
  10. Carry the platter to the table, and at the tabletop, begin your performance of tossing the pasta, butter, and cheese together, taking about 2 minutes to make sure all the ingredients are combined.
  11. Serve forth, preferably with good bread!


If you would like to make this without serving it tableside and without putting the serving platter in the hot water bath, you can heat up your butter in a wide skillet, and add the drained noodles with reserved pasta water, and toss in pan before serving.

Feel free to add salt to taste. You can reduce the amount of butter by about 1/4 cup (half stick) and still have a really delcious dish.


This recipe was adapted from ‘Fettucine Alfredo al Triplo Burro,’ from the cookbook, Cooking the Roman Way, by David Downie.

Cooking the Roman Way, by David Downie, is an excellent cookbook with much food history.