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The Root of the Matter--Discovering the History of Alfredo Sauce and Learning the Flavor of Parsnips

11/01/09: Fettuccine Alfredo with Garlic Bread and Pan Fried Parsnips

Meal details: For the main dish I made Fettuccine Alfredo, a simple pasta dish that has only three ingredients--pasta, Parmesan cheese, and butter. For a side dish I pan fried some parsnips. And I baked a loaf of store-bought garlic bread.

Defining moments: First time making an Alfredo sauce from scratch, I've only done a similar sauce from a Hamburger Helper box!

Recipe sources: The pasta dish came from this site. The parsnips were prepared in a similar way that was dictated by a customer who stopped at my family's fruit and vegetable market. Here is a short recipe for the parsnips:

Pan Fried Parsnips in Butter
Yield: 2 servings

  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/4" thick coins
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Place parsnips in a pot on a medium-high burner. Add water and cover. Let parsnips cook until they are fork tender. Add butter and salt and fry parsnips for 8 minutes with the lid off.

I decided not to do a dish for the Food Network Chefs Cooking Challenge that is being hosted by the I Blame My Mother blog. (Read more about it here.) It is because I wanted to make something really easy and not spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen this week. But do not fear! I have already selected next week's recipe from Brian Boitano, so be expecting that soon.

What I learned: I learned a lot about Alfredo sauce this week, a lot of things I didn't expect. When I was searching for a recipe for this type of sauce I find all sorts of different versions. Some included cream, others cream cheese. I then discovered that these recipes are far from being authentic Alfredo sauce, for the true sauce has only three ingredients: pasta, Parmesan cheese, and butter.
So where does this recipe come from and what does "Alfredo" translate as?
Alfredo is actually a name of a chef (Alfredo di Lelio is his full name) who lived in this past century. He owned a restaurant in Rome called Pasta Alfredo and his recipe, Fettuccine Al'Burro (which means Fettuccine with double butter), was born there. He didn't make it for his restaurant, though, actually he came up with the simple pasta dish for his wife. She had a lost of appetite during her pregnancy so he wanted to make a healthy, nutritious dish for her and win back her appetite.
The pasta dish gained real popularity when movie stars--such as Elizabeth Taylor, Tyrone Powers, and Ava Gardner--stopped by his restaurant and were photographed eating their fettuccine with Pasta Alfredo's famous golden forks.

OK, enough with the history lesson. Did I learn anything about the parsnips? Yes, I learned that they are strong in flavor and taste like a carrot with a bit of celery. My parsnips weren't as tender as I wanted them to be. I think they would have been softer if I allowed them to cook longer in the pot with the lid on to sort of braise them. I really need to test them with a fork.

Any modifications? Yes, I made some ingredient adjustments to the Alfredo recipe. The recipe from the website has a 1:1 ratio for the cheese and butter. I made a little batch of sauce following this ratio and I thought it was way too buttery! I couldn't really taste the cheese. So my amounts were: 3 cups Parmesan, and 1 1/2 cups butter. And that was enough sauce to coat 2 pounds of pasta. These new amounts worked perfectly together.

How it tasted? It was a simple pasta dish but very satisfying. It is very easy to make, too, as you can well imagine! The parsnips were good, but I would have enjoyed them more if they were more tender. And I thought they needed a bit of pepper. I think roasting them will be a very good method to try.

How about a 2nd time? For the Alfredo sauce, yes. For the parsnips, yes, but only if I make the alterations that I stated above.

The photos of my dishes were accidentally deleted from the camera so they didn't make it to the blog this time. :( But do not fret you photo addicts, here are two shots of the parsnips my family freshly dug from our parsnip patch:

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