Sunday, October 18, 2009

Who's alfredo of the big bad pesto?

One of my all time favorite dishes is fettuccine Alfredo.  Add to that  basil pesto and chicken, and I fall in love!

Alfredo sauce is one of those things I always felt afraid to make, and when I tried the first time, I ended up with a greasy lumpy mess.  But with the help of recipes and patience, I managed to come up with something smooth, creamy and delicious.

The basics for two servings are pretty straight forward for this.  I pre-make my pesto when Basil is fresh in the store.  A basic blend of basil, olive oil, and pine nuts that I make in the food processor.  I freeze it in an ice cube tray lined with plastic wrap and then pull them out and bag them in a zip-lock bag.  Then I can pull them out and use them whenever I want to add pesto to a dish.  Since they are mostly dry, I drop them straight into the sauces and as they defrost, they blend well.

So I start with a little bit of olive oil and a 2 tablespoon pat of butter that I heat up in a large saucepan.  To it, I add 2 or 3 minced cloves of garlic.  Heat them up on low heat just to get the garlic releasing its awesomeness, but not hot enough to brown.

To that, I add about a pint of heavy cream.  I drop in two "cubes" of the pre-made pesto (about 3 tablespoons).  Then I give it a good few turns of fresh ground pepper from a mill and then I bring up the heat and let it begin to bubble.  Don't want to boil it, but want to get it up to a good simmer, stirring frequently.  I like using a silicone scraper to mix.  It's heat resistant, and it does well to scrape the sides of the pan where splash-ups will thicken faster than the rest of the sauce.

Once it heats through and starts to thicken up a little, I add about 1/3 cup of shredded parmigiana in small sprinkles at a time.   The idea is that the cheese needs to blend and not lump.  I sprinkle a little, let it heat, and then I switch to a whisk (plastic or silicone if you're using a nonstick pan), and then I beat the hell out of it.  Little more cheese.  More beating, and so on until its incorporated.  The sauce should be hot enough that the cheese won't lump and stick to your whisk.  If you find it is, pick up the heat just a bit, and remember to keep up the whisking so it won't stick to the bottom.

One thing to keep in mind is that the sauce will thicken as it cools, so if you find your sauce is hot and already thickening up too much, you can whisk in a small splash of milk to bring it down a little.

And that's the basics!

I toss some fettuccine or even sometimes some angel hair pasta in salted boiling water and pull it out just as it turns al dente.  Grill or fry up a chicken breast, cut it up, and serve it over the bed of pasta and smother it in the sauce.  Serve with a baby spinach salad, and you have a meal fit for a food coma.

So these days I'm not so afraid.  Like with most cooking the trick is to keep up with it and not step away.  And boy is it worth it. :-)


  1. Mmmm... alfredo. :) Have you tried using an immersion blender to incorporate the cheese into the sauce? It might save you a little shoulder strain versus the whisking.

    I'm loving your blog - can't wait to read more!


  2. Hadn't tried the stick blender, but that's in part because I don't have a good one (it's on the Christmas list for this year). But its a great idea! And thank you!