Friday, April 13, 2012

Lemon-Pepper Fettuccine features
quick, easy version of Alfredo sauce

A couple of years ago I read an article in Saveur magazine about fettuccine Alfredo and what it really is.
   There is no cream in authentic Alfredo sauce – just butter and parmesan cheese.
   This how fettucine Alfredo was prepared by its inventor, Roman restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio:
   “The dish was prepared tableside, with much theatrical flourish, to the accompaniment of a tenor and a violinist. A tangle of steaming fettuccine, fresh from the pot, was placed on a warm platter dotted with pats of sweet butter. As the heat from the noodles and the platter melted the butter, a smiling and mustachioed di Lelio, clad in a white coat, gracefully lifted and twirled the fettuccine with a gold fork and spoon, pausing to mix in copious amounts of finely grated parmesan.”
   Adding cream to fettuccine Alfredo is apparently an American tweak to the recipe. The Saveur article’s author, Todd Coleman, theorized that “the cream provided a shortcut for achieving the kind of silky sauce created by laborious tableside tossing.”
   I thought of this article as I made Lemon-Pepper Fettuccine (click for the recipe) from Food Network Magazine.
   Although the recipe didn’t have an authentic Alfredo sauce the way Alfredo di Lelio made it, it does have an Alfredo sauce the way many North Americans make it: With butter, cream and cheese.
   The pasta was delicious, with a nice balance of lemon and pepper. The sauce was very easy to make, with no tableside tossing involved – perfect for a weeknight.
   Dried fettuccine pasta (I used Catelli Smart) is boiled and drained, with some cooking water reserved.
   Minced shallot is cooked in butter in a skillet until lightly golden.
   Heavy cream (I used whipping cream), an egg yolk and finely-grated lemon zest (lemon peel) are whisked together in a bowl.
   The heat on the skillet is reduced to low. Grated pecorino cheese is added, then the cream mixture.
   Though the recipe doesn’t specify this, I poured the cream mixture into the skillet slowly, constantly whisking as I did.
   This was in an effort to keep the cream from burning, even though the heat was on low.
   Make sure to constantly whisk the cream until it’s slightly thickened, which takes about two minutes just as the recipe says.
   The recipe then calls for adding two – three teaspoons of freshly-ground pepper, but I only used about 1 ½ teaspoons. Any more would have resulted in pasta that was too peppery for my tastes.
   The pasta is added to the skillet and tossed, with reserved pasta cooking water being added to loosen the sauce if necessary.
   The fettuccine is served with more grated pecorino cheese on top.

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