Red Sauce How Italian Food Became American

Before Fettuccine Alfredo, There Was Macaroni with Butter and Cheese

By on Tuesday, May 10th, 2022 at 8:09 am | 381 views

Fettuccine Alfredo is actually just cheese and butter -- not a drop of cream

Fettuccine Alfredo is a rich, creamy tasting pasta dish. The simple recipe of butter and cheese is a richer, more indulgent version of a basic pasta dish.

Cheese has long been a condiment of pasta. Roman soldiers would add it to their lasagna noodles, pultes (a wheat porridge), and lagana (a basic, early pasta). Butter was less common until after the fall of Rome when olive oil was hard to come by, but was also an early condiment.

The original Fettuccine Alfredo dish took these ingredients and increased their quantity. Alfredo di Lelio invented the dish in the hopes of helping his ailing wife gain her strength, so he wanted to add extra calories to her diet. In addition to making pasta noodles with extra eggs, he increased the amount of butter and cheese he added to the dish, creating sumptuous Alfredo sauce.

This version was adapted from Simple Italian Cooking by Antonia Isola, 1912, an English language Italian cookbook.

1 lb spaghetti


4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp Parmesan


Cook pasta.
Add butter and cheese to saucepan.
Toss with pasta over heat.