A Light Alfredo

Before I share with you my favorite dinner-for-one recipe, I must tell you- it took me almost fifteen years to make an Alfredo sauce that I found satisfactory. I’ve endured curdled cheeses, floury tasting sauces and worse. All the recipes and stories that I’ve read and listened to have been priceless: I’ve gleaned an average of half a technique or ingredient per recipe and thrown out the rest as failures. So, if you fail your first time, don’t feel bad; and if you succeed but don’t like how it tastes, I won’t feel bad either.

I believe that if I over-manage the reader, it will confuse instead of enlighten. Instead, I will provide the ingredients, some direction and my personal favorite and best, a laundry list of criticisms, which will be italicised to enable you to tune them out. How considerate of me. Niki will attest, this option is not available in real life.

Squid’s Alfredo (not to be confused with squid Alfredo, which I’m sure would be absolutely disgusting):

1 tablespoon of butter
half pinch of pepper
2 cups of heavy cream
2 cups of grated Parm Regg.
salt
one lemon and a zester.

pasta cooked al dente, reserve about 1 cup of pasta water.

Take the cream out of the refrigerator.
In a large saucepan melt the butter and heat the pepper.

Some recipes call for white pepper. You can barely taste it over the taste of the cheese. I opt for black.
Some recipes call for heating garlic or onion in the butter. If you must, white onion. If you refuse to acknowledge that garlic in Alfredo is not in regular Alfredo, you’ve made the dangerous turn into Everything Tastes Like Garlic town and you’re only steps away from Let’s Put Cheddar On it country.

Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer and reduce to about half. It takes about half an hour.

Do not use flour to thicken. While you may be able to cook out the flour taste, the knowledge that you’ve just made an Alfredo gravy will haunt you, as will the thought that you’ve just taken one of the good earth’s fattest dishes and made it fattier but less good tasting.
Do not use cream cheese or some other disgusting commercial trend to thicken. If you walked up to a bar and ordered a martini and got water in a martini glass your brain may just be bewildered enough to try to taste a hint of alchohol in that first sip. Do not do such a mean thing to your mind. Cream cheese is not an Alfredo.

Remove the cream from the heat and let stand a bit.
Whisk the cheese vigorously into the cream.

Once, someone tried to cook an Alfredo sauce for me using shaker cheese. If you’ve never had the displeasure, shaker cheese tastes like salty breadcrumbs. It’s even worse than cream cheese Alfredo- but not by much.
If you add the cheese while the cream is too hot, the cheese melts instantly and instead of getting a thickened cream-and-parm dynamic, you get the feared ‘balls of melted cheese’ sauce. If you notice it happening, don’t try to fight it by whisking ever more furiously. A ball of cheese will clump up and get bigger and worse before it gets better. Don’t rush to add the cheese. Wait a while. Go open a bottle and pour a glass and have half, and better yet, add the cheese a handful at a time to make sure it isn’t all wasted if you’ve started putting it in too early.

Add one pinch of lemon zest to the cream and stir just to lighten the taste up a bit.
Salt to taste.
If the sauce seems a bit thick, add one half-ladle of salted pasta water to the pasta and stir on low heat until a desired consistency is reached.
The traditional pasta for Alfredo sauce is fettucine. I like using any large flat pasta, such as papardelle, or this occhi di lupe. Smaller pastas get drowned and overpowered by the sauce.
Top hot, freshly cooked pasta with your sauce and toss.

Garnish with shaved parmesan.
A red, not white, will nicely pair with a sauce as heavy and powerful as the Alfredo is.

N.B. This recipe actually feeds more like 4 people (or one person 4 times). I like to make a little more because Alfredo warms up quite well if you heat it slowly on low heat. If you’d really like to make it for one, halve the recipe and eat heartily.

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