Real alfredo should never (never!) include cream; the silky sauce is the result of an emulsion between the grated cheese, melted butter, and starchy pasta water. This is part of BA’s Best, a collection of our essential recipes.
12 ounces fettuccine or other long pasta
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
Transfer 1 cup pasta cooking liquid to a large skillet. Bring to a gentle simmer, then whisk in butter, a piece at a time, until melted. Whisking constantly, gradually add cheese, making sure it’s completely melted and incorporated before adding more. Add pasta and toss to coat, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce blankets noodles completely. Serve topped with pepper and more cheese.
Recipe by Carla Lalli Music
Photograph by Michael Graydon & Nikole Herriott