3-Ingredient Fettuccine Alfredo Without Cream Recipe

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by Maggie Turansky

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Fettuccine Alfredo is one of the most delicious and indulgent 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 was made without cream?

Invented by Roman chef Alfredo di Lelio in either 1907 or 1908, 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 recipe uses the same three ingredients and general technique that Chef di Lelio did all those years ago!

Classic Fettuccine Alfredo
Classic Fettuccine Alfredo

How to Make Fettuccine Alfredo without Cream

As I’ve already said, fettuccine Alfredo is one of the simplest 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!

3 ingredients needed for this fettuccine alfredo recipe
3 ingredients needed for this recipe

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 recipe, I recommend using a high-quality European butter rather than the cheap, less flavourful butters that are common in American supermarkets.

Ladle about 120 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.

Sprinkling in your parmigiano reggiano
Sprinkling in your Parmigiano Reggiano

Please use real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese that you’ve grated yourself. Using a younger parm (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. Do not drain the pasta water — you want it to cling to the noodles and you may need to add more to loosen the sauce!

Tossing your fettuccine Alfredo
Tossing your fettuccine Alfredo

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.

Delicious fettuccine Alfredo ready to serve!
Delicious fettuccine Alfredo ready to serve!

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.

Classic Fettuccine Alfredo Without Cream

3-Ingredient Fettuccine Alfredo Without Cream

This recipe is the classic way to make this dish. Achingly simple and much lighter than the Italian-American counterpart, try this for yourself if you're looking for a comforting Italian classic in a flash.
4.5 from 128 votes
Servings 4
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 500 g (1 lb) fettuccine pasta
  • 100 g (7 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 100 g (1 cup) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese finely grated


  • 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.
    Sprinkling in your parmigiano reggiano
  • Remove your pasta from the cooking water using tongs or a spider (do not drain the water!) and transfer it directly to the skillet.
    Tossing your fettuccine Alfredo
  • 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.
    Delicious fettuccine Alfredo without cream ready to serve!



Calories: 741kcal | Carbohydrates: 94g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 411mg | Potassium: 308mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 820IU | Calcium: 328mg | Iron: 2mg

Disclaimer: Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

Tried this recipe or have questions?Click here to leave a comment!

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 great recipe for fettuccine Alfredo? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

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Maggie is the creator behind No Frills Kitchen. She is a world traveller, home cook and recipe developer who loves to experiment with new cuisines and techniques at every chance she gets. No stranger to improvising and making do with the equipment and ingredients she has available, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others. Read More

4.48 from 128 votes (128 ratings without comment)

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