It’s February 7th and that can only mean one thing: It’s Fettuccine Alfredo Day. To celebrate this wonderful culinary invention, I’ll share my own Fettuccine Alfredo dish, using heavy cream instead of butter:
Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo (With Bacon)
It’s so good, so easy, and so cheesy rich, you’ll have your own Fettuccine Alfredo Day at least once a month…maybe Fettuccine Friday?
Before We Get Started, A Little History
You probably guessed it: This dish is named after an Italian dude with the name Alfredo, certo! His name was Alfredo Di Lelio, an Italian restaurateur, and he served it at his restaurant “Alfredo on the Via della Scrofa” in Rome in 1914.
But now it gets interesting: The name “Alfredo sauce” is almost completely absent in Italy, although there are plenty of pasta sauces which are similarly based on the combination of butter and Parmigiano. A pasta dish that uses butter and Parmigiano is most likely called “alla Romana,” especially in Rome.
Then why do we call it “Alfredo” in North America? It turns out that Alfredo De Lelio’s restaurant in Rome was visited by early Hollywood actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, who were in Rome, on their honeymoon, in 1920. They liked it so much that they introduced it to their friends back home. And of course, they called it Fettuccine Alfredo, “Alfred’s pasta.” Now that that’s settled, I’ll show you how to make this dish “my way,” creamy and cheesy without any butter.
Enough History…Now Let’s Get Cooking
Start out with shrimp (thaw, peel, and devein as necessary, depending what type of shrimp you use). Rinse them, pat dry with paper towels, season with salt and freshly cracked pepper, squeeze some lemon juice over, and put in the fridge. Next, cook bacon your favorite way (mine is baked) and chop.
Before starting up the stove, I recommend getting all the other ingredients ready. Smash and chop garlic, chop shallot, cut cherry tomatoes in half, chop parsley and sage, and grate cheeses. Measure heavy cream and hot chili pepper flakes.
Next, cook pasta in salted water, set some pasta water aside, rinse pasta under cold water..
Now It Happens Quickly
Heat a tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add shrimp and garlic. Stir constantly for about 3 minutes, but make sure the garlic doesn’t brown and turn bitter and inedible. Lower heat as necessary. Once the shrimp are pink and curled up, remove shrimp and garlic, but leave all the bits and juices.
Add another tablespoon olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to scrape everything loose from the bottom of the pan. Add shallots and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper (just a pinch each), and stir for two minutes.
Next, add heavy cream and hot chili pepper flakes, and stir for another three minutes. Adjust heat so that heavy cream is bubbling but not boiling.
Now it’s time for the magic: Add cooked pasta back to the pan; let it absorb the cream and reheat for a minute. Toss shrimp and garlic back in the pan and add parsley, sage and bacon. Then, add grated cheeses and lazily stir all ingredients for about 2 minutes. As the cheese melts, it emulsifies the liquid to form a smooth and rich coating on the pasta. If it’s too thick, add some of the pasta water you set aside earlier.
Serve and garnish with some more parsley and maybe even some more grated Parmigiano Reggiano, why not?
Avoid These Common Mistakes
Overcooking the pasta
Overcooked pasta can ruin any dish. To avoid this, strain and rinse pasta just before they’re al dente; it should definitely have an “undercooked” bite to it. Once you add the pasta to the cream, it will cook a little more, to become perfectly al dente.
Overcooking the shrimp
Shrimp cooks fast. The smaller they are, the faster they cook…anywhere from one to three minutes. As soon as they turn pink and opaque (and curl up), they’re done.
Not using Parmigiano Reggiano
This might sound a little snobby. I don’t alway use parmesan in my dishes, but when I do, it has to be Parmigiano Reggiano. And while we’re at it: if you use romano cheese, please do yourself a favor and buy Pecorino Romano, the real stuff. Either way, never ever buy pre-grated parmesan cheese. It’s mixed with preservatives (and other stuff) to keep it dry and prevent it from caking. Therefore, it doesn’t melt uniformly and you won’t be able to create a smooth and creamy sauce.
- Add some pasta water to the sauce for desired consistency
- You can cook bacon and shrimp a day ahead
- If you don’t bake your bacon and instead cook it in a skillet, save some bacon drippings to add to the sauce
- You can substitute shallots with onion; I personally prefer shallots
- Don’t like shrimp? How about mushrooms or sausage or chicken instead?
Facts About Parmigiano Reggiano – “The King of Cheeses”
- A long history – Parmesan is no ordinary cheese. It has been continuously made by some of the same families for generations. The earliest recorded history of its existence is from Benedictine monks, going back as far as 800 years. Generally, it is still being made in the same way up to today, maintaining tradition.
- A matter of aging – One wheel of freshly made parmesan cheese weighs about 110 pounds, or 50 kilograms. In comparison, after some time of aging, in about two years, the same wheel of cheese will shrink down to 88 pounds, or 40 kilograms.
- How old? – The age of the parmesan cheese contributes to its taste: the older it is, the stronger the flavor and the more complex the taste. Parmesan that is young is called giovane; vecchio for middle aged; and for the oldest, the name given is straveggio.
- Milk matters – A single wheel of parmesan would cost you 160 gallons of milk, or 600 liters. This means that, for a kilogram of parmesan cheese, 4 gallons or 16 liters of milk will be needed.
- Cheese rind – The wheel’s rind will tell you several details about the cheese: its year of production, the place it was made from, and its trademark region DOP, or Denominazione d’Origine Protetta – also known as Protected Designation of Origin. Also, remember not to throw away the rind, as you can just put it in your cooking along with other ingredients for added flavor. You may remove it just before serving.
- Low-fat cheese for everyone – The aging process of parmesan renders it lactose-free, without any preservatives. The making of the cheese is also all-natural, with no added ingredients beside the cow’s milk, salt, and calf rennet needed for production. It is also easy to digest because of its relatively low fat.
- Proper storage – Parmigiano Reggiano cheese has to be stored properly, wrapped in cool waxed paper. By storing it this way, you’ll be able to store it for up to four weeks or more. Relatively young cheese can be stored even longer, letting it ripen until it achieves a more aromatic quality.
- Special knife – Since parmesan cheese is hard, you won’t cut it but instead break it, preferably with a specially designed knife shaped like an almond. For grated parmesan, make sure to grate it fresh to enjoy the wonderful aroma.
Love pasta? Check out more of our pasta recipes now:
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- One Pan Pasta, Deliciousness Made from Your Pantry and Two Fresh Ingredients
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- A Twist on a Classic Pesto Recipe
- Homemade Black Squid Ink Pasta
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Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo, Mamma Mia that’s good!
- 1 lb shrimp
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 3 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
- 8 oz fettuccine pasta
- 1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small shallot (or onion)
- 1 c heavy cream
- 1/2 c flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 Tbsp sage, chopped
- 1 tsp hot chili pepper flakes
- 1/4 c Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
- 1/4 c Pecorino Romano, freshly grated
- 1 tsp salt and pepper (each)
- Thaw, clean, and rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper, squeeze some lemon juice over, and put in the fridge.
- Cook bacon your favorite way (mine is baked) and chop
- Cook pasta in salted water, set some pasta water aside, rinse pasta under cold water
- Heat a tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and add shrimp and garlic. Stir constantly for about 3 minutes, but make sure garlic doesn’t brown and turn bitter and inedible. Lower heat as necessary. Remove shrimp and garlic, but leave all the bits and juices.
- Add another tablespoon olive oil. Use a wooden spoon to scrape everything loose from the bottom of the pan.
- Add shallots and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper (just a pinch each), and stir for two minutes.
- Add heavy cream and hot chili pepper flakes, and stir for another three minutes. Adjust heat so that heavy cream is bubbling but not boiling.
- Add cooked pasta back to the pan; let it absorb the cream and reheat for a minute.
- Toss shrimp and garlic back in the pan, and add parsley, sage and bacon.
- Add grated cheeses and lazily stir all ingredients for about 2 minutes. As the cheese melts, it emulsifies the liquid to form a smooth and rich coating on the pasta. If it’s too thick, add some of the pasta water you set aside earlier.
- Serve and garnish with some more parsley and maybe even some more grated Parmigiano Reggiano
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