Linguine Alfredo, the right way… Guilt-free decadence

Why do we always think we have to improve everything?

Why do we feel the need to tinker?

Why do we not just accept that some things are at their best just as they are.

Is a perfect, sun-ripened, just picked tomato actually improved by a 'drizzle of truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt from the Camargue and a shaving of aged Parmesan'?

Maybe it's the ego of the cook that's improved by doing all that…. The tomato doesn't need it.

Does a well-made, naturally creamy risotto really need to be 'finished with 4 tablespoons of butter' as many US chefs like to advocate?   (I recall listening to a debate on the Food Network in the US about how fattening risotto was…. I've been making risotto of all types for years and had no idea what they were talking about.  Then I heard the butter bit – yikes!)

If 1/4 cup of heavy cream is good – does it necessarily follow that a whole cup is better?

I've been a wee bit behind on my magazine reading this past year, but I used the trip to Bordeaux (to take my cook top in for repair – again) to do some catching up.  One of the articles I read was in Saveur on the real Alfredo sauce.

You know, as in Fettuccine Alfredo?  Aka: Heart Attack on a Plate?

It turns out that the real version, luscious and creamy though it is, doesn't have any heavy cream in it.

Nor any medium cream or light cream.  Or cream cheese.  Or mascarpone.

It was a simple dish of 3 ingredients: pasta, butter, Parmesan.

Okay, so the real version required actual effort, as in careful tossing, stirring, and fussing, to make those 3 ingredients into the perfect dish that it is.  It's much easier just to heat up some heavy cream and not bother with the work.

But is it better?

The author said 'No'.  Adding the cream and bacon fat or whatever other things a particular recipe called for masked the purity of the main ingredients.  It didn't enhance them.

Much like that perfect tomato.

Naturally, I had to accept this (in my own mind) challenge.

I was stunned with the results.

So, here is another easy, 3 4 ingredient recipe from Thyme for Cooking.

Okay, I couldn't resist either…. I had to tinker….

My problem was with the amount of butter the actual recipe called for – lots and lots.  I substituted just a wee bit of Greek yogurt for some of it.  (she ducks….)

It was the best Alfredo sauce I've made, full of flavor and I could enjoy it without guilt.

Can't say much for the photo though….

Linguine Alfredo

Linguine Alfredo

4oz (125gr) linguine
3 tbs butter
1 cup (3oz, 90gr) freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbs Greek yogurt
1/4 – 1/2 cup pasta cooking water

Cook the linguine according to package directions, until 'al dente'.  Drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water.  Put the pot on very low heat and add the butter, yogurt and pasta.  Sprinkle half of the Parmesan over the top.  With 2 large forks start tossing the  pasta like you would a salad. When the Parmesan is well distributed sprinkle the rest over the top.  Continue tossing.  If / when the cheese starts to stick a bit to the bottom of the pan, add 1 – 2 tbs pasta water.  Continue tossing the pasta, adding a bit of water when needed, until the pasta is covered with a creamy sauce.  It took be about 10 minutes of tossing and fussing before the cheese was melted into the butter forming a proper, creamy sauce.

If you stop tossing too soon, or just combine the ingredients, you have Linguine with Parmesan. 

You have to work it to get Linguine Alfredo.

Is it worth it?  Oh. My. Yes!

12 thoughts on “Linguine Alfredo, the right way… Guilt-free decadence”

  1. I’m with you on keeping pure when ingredients are good. Your alfredo looks like something I’d love to try – the other kind is just too rich for me. Good luck, by the way, with that blankety-blank cooktop! Grrr!

  2. Actually, I find those perfect, sun-ripened tomatoes improved with some basil and fresh mozzarella. With a drizzle of balsamic vinagrete (sp?). But I’ve never been all that fond of raw tomatoes by themselves. Probably comes from living in Minnesota and dealing with very sad, trucked in, winter tomatoes 9 or 10 months out of the year. 😉
    The recipe sounds *wonderful* and totally something I can get behind. Even iit doesn’t quite work the first time, you can’t go wrong with pasta, butter, and Parmasan!

  3. Year on the Grill…. Sigh…. Okay, a bit of salt.
    Zoomie, try the pasta; don’t mention the cook top.
    Cindy, and who needs all that heavy cream? Although, it is good in a Hot Irish….
    Penny, and without all the cream, easily enjoyable!
    Laurie, I’m a bit the opposite – after all those years in Minnesota, when I actually GET a perfect tomato I can eat it like an apple… but I eat lots with basil and mozzarella, too. and you are right about pasta, butter and Parm…

  4. Yes, indeed, real alfredo sauce is wonderful! We had the same revelation as you after reading that issue of SAVEUR and would never go back to making “alfredo” sauce with cream.
    …never thought of adding a bit of yoghurt – what a nice idea!

  5. Elizabeth, that was a truly wonderful article. And I had the yogurt just sitting there for something else. It was a nice touch, just a wee bit helped bind it all nicely.

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