Real Fettucine Alfredo

The first sentence introducing Bon Appetit’s Fettuccine Alfredo recipe may come as shocking to some. It reads: 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.

Looking back on, uh, my entire life, every recipe of Fettuccine Alfredo I’ve ever had or made has contained cream. Of this I’m positive. It’s such a shocking statement and strong opinion that I, of course, felt compelled to try out the recipe the moment I saw it. The only real way to try out such a prideful recipe, in my opinion, is to do a taste test comparing this it to a gold standard one. For this I reached for my go-to recipe, which contains heavy cream, favorite Alfredo recipe: the Pioneer Woman’s.

For this challenge, I called on my cousin and her BF to join me. I invited them over for dinner and they had no idea what they were walking into but were certainly delighted when I told them the plan. I also put them to work making them grate cheese and mix together the pastas. Alison and I set two different bowls of pasta together because that’s how we eat. We don’t mix things together. Matt added both kinds of Alfredo to one large bowl. We tried one recipe and then the other. And then tried the first recipe and went back to the second.

Alison drew a clear winner, this recipe made without cream. Matt and I couldn’t discern between the two. They were both amazing in completely different ways but Matt and I deemed this recipe the more “healthy” of the two. Ha ha.

This creamy Alfredo recipe made without heavy cream (or cream of any kind) is definitely a winner.


  • 16 oz. fettuccine  pasta
  • Reserved pasta water (about two cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • ¾ stick (6 T.) butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 c. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente. Drain, reserving about 2 cups of pasta water.
  2. Add 1 cup of the pasta water 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. 
  3. Add pasta and toss to coat, adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce blankets noodles completely. Serve topped with freshly cracked pepper and more parmesan cheese.

Recipe rating: 

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