Giada de Laurentiis’ Lemony Fettuccini Alfredo

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Sometimes, you just need creamy pasta–especially when the weather demands comfort food.

In spite of the ample amount of cream in this dish, lemon juice and zest brighten the whole thing up–and you can’t help but feel like you’re getting away with something as you dish up another forkful of heavy-cream-coated carbs, without the associated heaviness plastering you to your chair like the lead-filled protective apron the doctor drapes over you when it comes time to get x-rays.

I distinctly remember the first time my mother told me to add freshly grated nutmeg to ricotta cheese. I remember thinking, “Nutmeg? In cheese?” My understanding of the spice up until that point was pretty much exclusive to “pumpkin spice” flavored things. Though I was somewhat aghast at this idea, my mother informed me that this was, in fact, the traditional way to make lasagna–and my trust in her knowledge had handsome returns when it came time to eat. Needless to say, I’ve never looked back when it comes to adding nutmeg to savory dishes. A warming spice with an almost menthol-y personality, a little nutmeg goes a long way; but if you skip it, it’s often the “missing link” at the flavor party. The point is, don’t skip the nutmeg. Freshly ground is best. (That goes for all spices, all of the time, by the way. But that might be another blog post.)

I will say this is another recipe that truly is at its best when prepared right before dinner. The leftovers are, well, not a prime example of what the original dish can be–I’ll put it that way.

But if you’re having company, or even if you want to spruce up date night with your partner, this recipe has an element of indulgence, and the romance that pasta brings. (Why do I think pasta’s romantic? It might have something to do with this iconic scene, not gonna lie.)

this recipe tastes complex, but relies on a few “big player” ingredients–lemon, parmesan, and nutmeg…and of course, butter!

One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is, there’s no thickening agent to make the sauce coat the pasta, like cornstarch or flour. The sauce relies on the cream curdling slightly with the addition of lemon juice; then the flavor is softened slightly with the addition of a few pats of butter. What could be bad about that?

i even drizzled some sauce over my panfried chicken…because you can never have too much cream, right?

Giada de Laurentiis’ Fettucine Alfredo

Serves 6

  • 18 oz fettucine (fresh is yummy but dried is great too)
  • 2 ½ c heavy cream
  • ½ c lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 12 Tbs butter 
  • 2 c grated parmesan
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1-2 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil (garnish)

Juice and zest lemons, and grate parmesan and nutmeg.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add fettucine and cook until al dente, 6-8 minutes, and drain in a colander in the sink. Do not rinse the pasta.

Stir 2 cups of cream and lemon juice into a heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Add butter and cook over medium heat until butter melts, about 3 minutes. 

Remove from the heat, add pasta, remaining ½ cup of cream, parmesan, lemon zest, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and toss until cheese is melted and pasta is coated. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper as needed, bearing in mind the parmesan contains a lot of salt.

Return pot to burner and warm over low heat, about one minute, or until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Plate with fresh basil and serve immediately. Simple steamed greens, salad, and meat are great compliments, as is a glass of white wine.

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Lighter but still enormously satisfying!

More on the background of cinnamon in the sauces….This is a Sicilian tradition, not a northern Italian tradition. Sicily is in the Mediterranean and has long ties to the Arabic world. Trade included exotic spices which often didn’t reach the mainland. My grandmother would also use a touch of fennel, anise seed and nutmeg in salads and sauces. Herbs like fennel grew in the cracks in the streets! Weeds. Sicilian cooking is very distinct from the mainland. I think it’s the best food in the world. Seriously.

Love, Mom