Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fettuccine Alfredo

As I previously mentioned, I was raised on meat and potatoes. Steaks, chops, boiled chicken legs and the ubiquitous mashed potatoes smothered in butter and gravy. For most of my childhood, the only pasta I knew was macaroni and cheese.

By the late 60's, prepared foods were more prevalent and cheaper and spaghetti was added to our diet. It came in a box with a foil pouch of seasonings to which was added a can of tomato paste and water. It was a welcome respite from the endless cycle of meat and potatoes.

When I moved out of my parents’ house, I was shocked at the infinite variety of food and flavors. I had difficulty ordering food in restaurants because I didn’t know what most of dishes were and was too ashamed to admit it. So I would order whatever sounded the most exotic to me on the menu.

One evening, it was Fettuccine Alfredo. I had no idea what I was ordering beyond the fact that it was pasta and it was Italian. My ignorance was such that I didn’t know that “Alfredo” was a sauce. So you can imagine my surprise when my pasta arrived covered with a white sauce instead of the expected tomato sauce. Even worse, the sauce was made with a lot of eggs that didn’t taste like they were cooked properly. They were raw and slimy. My dining companion, assured me that my dish had been made and cooked properly.

It was one of the worst meals I had ever eaten. The memory of that dish was so horrific, that I buried it in the remotest recesses of my memory.

Now fast forward about fifteen years. I had had years of cooking for a fussy eater. So fussy in fact, that our diet was restricted to half a dozen or fewer dishes. Standing in the pasta aisle at the supermarket, I realized that I had reached the point where I just couldn’t face another dinner of spaghetti and Ragu sauce. A box of fettuccine with a recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo on the side caught my eye. It sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. More importantly, would my daughter eat flat pasta covered in a white sauce? And how did I know that Alfredo was a white sauce?

Back home in my kitchen, with the pasta merrily boiling and my white sauce prepared, the unwelcome answer hit me as I poured the beaten eggs into the pan. I panicked. If I wasn’t willing to eat slimy, half-cooked eggs, there was no way that my daughter would either. There had to be something I could do salvage dinner. I stirred and stirred and thought and thought and stirred some more. Just as I was about to dump dinner and order Chinese, a miracle happened: the eggs cooked. I found myself stirring something akin to scrambled eggs.

I drained the pasta, added it to the “sauce” and found myself with an edible dish. Not at all authentic, but my picky offspring was willing to eat it and so was I. It has become one of those recipes that I make when I am in a hurry or too tired to fuss. It is so flexible that it can be a main dish or a side dish.

Just for the record, I’ve never ordered Fettuccine Alfredo in a restaurant again since that disastrous meal decades ago.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Fettuccine Alfredo
(source: Ronzoni Fettuccine box)

16 oz. (1 package) Fettuccine
½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup whipping cream
4 eggs

Cook pasta in boiling salted water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; blend in cheese. Stir in whipping cream; heat almost to boiling, stirring constantly with a whisk. Place eggs in a small bowl; beat slightly. Stir a small amount of hot cream mixture into egg mixture; pour egg mixture into saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with whisk until thoroughly heated, about 5 minutes. Tossed cooked, drained pasta and sauce. Serve immediately.

6 servings

Compost: eggshells

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