Way back in the 80s, when I was a mere teen, my BFF's mom, Pam, used to make a fettuccine alfredo that would knock our aerobics socks right off. She'd cook the pasta, al dente, of course, saving about a cup of pasta water to use in lieu of heavy cream. This trick, which I would later learn is commonplace, was embedded in my brain by Pam's firm instructions to whoever was manning the pasta pot: "SAVE THE PASTA WATER! DO NOT THROW AWAY THE PASTA WATER!" Boy was she right.
A while back, I found what I thought was a version of Pam's recipe in Real Simple Magazine (which calls for broccoli). I read the recipe to my friend who confirmed my suspicions. I tried it out and while it'll never taste quite the same as Pam's, it's pretty darn close.
In a large pot bring to a boil:
- 7-8 quarts water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 16 oz. fettuccine (any noodle will work, but fettuccine is best)
While water returns to a boil, use tongs to stir and separate noodles. Do this every 2 minutes, or so, until noodles are al dente, 5-7 minutes.
When noodles are done turn off the heat then use a glass, liquid measuring cup to scoop out about 1 cup water. Drain noodles in a colander, then rinse them in cold water to stop further cooking.
Place pot back on the burner, turn flame to medium high, and add:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup pasta water
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Simmer and stir until butter is melted. Throw in the pasta and, using tongs, combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper, pasta water, butter, if needed.
- About 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
- 1/4 cup freshly chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
Serve in individual bowls or in casserole dish. Top with a little more Parmesan.