Grown-Up Mac n Cheese!

One of the first meals I learned to make for myself, aside from scrambled eggs and fried chicken, was fettuccine Alfredo. When I was little, I was wary of fettuccine Alfredo, although I have no idea why. With its copious amounts of butter, cheese, and cream, fettuccine Alfredo is kid-friendly and artery-threatening. In high school, I'd make it for myself on weekends when my parents weren't around (apparently I hadn't watched enough Saved by the Bell episodes because I never thought to throw a hilariously disastrous house party). I used this little cookbook that my mom has had since the 70s; it is, strangely enough, a "cheese" cookbook (who would have thought there were enough cheese-based recipes to fill a cookbook?), and I've only ever seen anyone in my family use the fettuccine Alfredo recipe.

My mom usually makes fettuccine Alfredo for special occasions, like our annual Christmas party (easy for quadrupling, smaller stain risk than marinara) or birthdays, when we usually pair it with lobster (a delicious holdover from one of my mom and dad's favorite chefs ever. There version is not as good as his, where lobsters would volunteer to be a part of such a good meal, but it's still pretty amazing).

I like making fettuccine Alfredo because it is one of the few meals I can make reliably without using a recipe. Since expanding my cooking repertoire, I try to adhere fairly closely to recipes, but it's hard to go wrong when you're mixing cheese, cream, butter, and pasta. It was one of the recipes I made a lot last year, when I eschewed my last few months of college-provided food to cook for myself and Dave in his little kitchen (mistake. I could write an ode to Roy and the other Cabot chefs, who would grill me hot dogs even when the dining hall was closing and regularly turn out fresh-baked cookies). Dave's roommates were intrigued, and so I taught them how to make it and Kevin said (with delight) "It's like grown-up mac and cheese!"

And for a couple reasons: aside from the obvious cheese-pasta relationship, it's also easy to make and delicious. The only real difference is that while instant mac and cheese can be life-saving, instant fettuccine Alfredo is a disaster. Thick and sticky, a rubbery paste, everything is blended together into a gummy white substance without any of the discernible flavors of butter, cream, or cheese. The best Alfredo sauces aren't the thick and white things served in most restaurants or cafeterias, but are rich and decadent, with small shavings of unmelted cheese clinging to the pasta. Each bite should be coated in the creamy sauce, and when you pick it up, little strands of melted cheese should stretch from fork to plate. Hot, rich, delicious, and so so good. Hungry yet?

1/2 pound fettuccine
4 tablespoons butter, diced
1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
black pepper

Boil water and cook fettuccine, removing while slightly al dente
Drain pasta and return to pot, putting heat on lowest setting
Add butter, cream, and 3/4 cup Parmesan, stirring until most of the cheese and butter has melted
Add pepper to taste
Serve immediately, topped with the remaining Parmesan

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