Fettuccine Alfredo is one of the most delicious and indulgent of Italian pasta dishes. This rich pasta slathered in a creamy parmesan sauce is the definition of comfort food for many, however, there are countless out there who are looking for a lighter than the traditional Italian-American sauce that relies on a healthy amount of heavy cream to get its famous results. But did you know that the original form of this dish is a fettuccine Alfredo without cream recipe? It’s true!
Invented by Roman chef Alfredo di Lelio in either 1907 or 1908 and it quickly gained popularity. Alfredo’s dish was known for its creamy consistency and also for the fact that he prepared it tableside — it was that quick and easy to make. And this fettuccine Alfredo recipe without cream uses the same three ingredients and general technique that Chef di Lelio did all those years ago!
So if you’re looking for an amazing three-ingredient fettuccine Alfredo recipe without cream, then look no further. Unlike other classic Italian dishes (like my mushroom risotto), this recipe is so incredibly easy and fast to throw together that it’s sure to quickly become one of your favourites. Forget any other version of this dish you’ve had before, you will soon realise that this pasta doesn’t need to the addition of heavy cream or any other ingredients that have been added to it since it emigrated Stateside.
Whether you’re looking for something a bit lighter than the Italian-American cream-based version of this dish (there is still a fair bit of butter in it, so we can’t be under any pretences that it is light) or you’re looking for a classic Roman fettuccine Alfredo to perfect your Italian pasta skills, then you’ve come to the right place. This fettuccine Alfredo without cream recipe is sure to astonish you both with how quick and easy it is and how delicious it tastes — I promise you won’t miss the cream!
3-Ingredient Fettuccine Alfredo Without Cream
As I’ve already said, fettuccine Alfredo is one of the most simple dishes that you could have in your repertoire and it uses classic Italian pasta techniques that are also used in other Roman dishes like cacio e pepe, pasta alla gricia and spaghetti carbonara (yes, this one traditionally has no cream in it, either!).
The way that the sauce gets its signature creamy, silky consistency is by creating an emulsion of butter, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and starchy pasta water. Three ingredients. That is it. Much like other fantastic Italian fare (including my homemade gnocchi recipe), you don’t need many ingredients to make a remarkable dish!
To make this dish a bit easier and for the sauce to come together a bit better, I also recommend cooking your pasta in a bit less water than you typically. Heavily salt 2-3 litres (8-12 cups) of water and bring to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add your fettuccine pasta (using fresh pasta here is always better than not!), stir to prevent it from sticking together and cook for about a minute less than it says to on the packet.
Meanwhile, melt your butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Because there are so few components to this 3-ingredient fettuccine Alfredo recipe without heavy cream, I recommend using a high-quality European butter rather than the cheap, less flavourful butters that are common in American supermarkets.
Ladle about 125 millilitres (1/2 cup) of pasta cooking water into the skillet and whisk to combine with the butter. Now, whisking constantly, sprinkle in your Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. This is pretty much the exact same process used in my lemon pasta recipe and my pesto pasta, if you are interested.
Please use real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that you’ve grated yourself. You can also use Grana Padano if you’d like, however, it is imperative that you don’t use any kind of pre-grated cheese as it won’t melt and emulsify in the sauce. Using a younger Parmigiano Reggiano (12 months old) will also assist in its ability to melt.
Whisk constantly as you add your cheese. Once your pasta has finished cooking, transfer it directly into the skillet using tongs or a spider. Do not drain the pasta water — you want it to cling to the noodles and you may need to add more to loosen out the sauce!
Toss the noodles in your sauce until the pasta is completely coated and the sauce is emulsified, glossy and creamy. Add in a bit more pasta water here and there to get the desired consistency and continue tossing until it’s reached. Taste to adjust for seasoning, adding salt and pepper where necessary.
And that is it! All you need to do is serve it up and top with a bit more parmesan cheese if desired. Some freshly ground black pepper is always a good addition, as well.
- 500g (1 pound) fettuccine pasta
- 100g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 100g (3.5 ounces) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
- Salt & pepper
- Bring 2-3 litres (about 8-12 cups) of heavily salted water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add your pasta, stir to ensure it doesn't stick together, and cook for one minute less than it says on the package.
- Meanwhile, melt your butter in a large skillet over medium heat. While the pasta is cooking, ladle about 125 ml (1/2 cup) of the pasta cooking water into the pan. Whisking constantly, gradually sprinkle in your cheese until a loose yes homogenous sauce has formed.
- Remove your pasta from the cooking water using tongs or a spider (do not drain the water!) and transfer it directly to the skillet.
- Toss the pasta in the sauce, adding a bit more pasta water if needed to loosen the consistency, until the sauce coats the noodles and it is glossy and emulsified, about one minute.
- Serve immediately, topping with more Parmigiano Reggiano and black pepper to taste.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 522Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 534mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 16g
Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
And there you have it, an incredibly easy fettuccine Alfredo recipe without heavy cream and using only three ingredients! This is such a quick and delicious recipe that it’s sure to make it into your regular recipe repertoire.
Are you on the hunt for a recipe for fettuccine Alfredo without cream? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!