The Ingredient That Westernized Traditional Alfredo Sauce

If you're looking for a comfort dish that will immerse you into a day-long food coma, look no further than fettuccine Alfredo. A cheesy, creamy pasta dish that Italian food enthusiasts know and love, Alfredo sauce is so crave-worthy you can almost conjure up the taste from memory alone. Thanks to its simplicity, Alfredo sauce can be used in an assortment of Italian-inspired plates that reach beyond the classics. Alfredo sauce can be employed in pizza recipes, chicken roasts, casseroles, dips, and even marinades.

While the novice pasta connoisseur might only see Alfredo sauce as an occasional indulgence, Alfredo sauce has a long history and it wasn't always the creamy delight many Americans know it as today. According to Today, the iconic Italian sauce was created in the early 1900s by a man named Alfredo di Lelio. The Italian restaurant worker invented the recipe for his pregnant wife using only three ingredients — fettuccine pasta, butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Eventually, di Lelio opened his very own restaurant, and through the grapevine, his fettuccine recipe made its way west to the Americas. Once it arrived in the US, however, American chefs started adding their own flair to the popular dish that came to be known as fettuccine Alfredo.

Americans added heavy cream to the original Alfredo sauce recipe

In an interview with Today, New York City chef Shea Gallante points out that executing di Lelio's "artisanal" fettuccine Alfredo recipe can be a tough act. Only using butter, parmesan, and noodles is tricky because the ingredients don't emulsify easily and can quickly coagulate to make a clumpy mess of cheesy butter, which is exactly why American chefs introduced heavy cream to the original fettuccine Alfredo recipe.

Not only does heavy cream keep the cheese and butter from separating, but it gives Alfredo sauce the rich, creamy texture we know and love today. Despite utilizing butter and cheese, di Lelio's archetypal Alfredo sauce is a lighter dish boasting a darker yellow hue than its American variation.

If a modern American ordered a fettuccine Alfredo plate from Olive Garden and ended up with the di Lelio special, they'd likely send it back to the kitchen without hesitation. Although most Americans are familiar with the heavy cream-infused remix, Alfredo di Lelio's cream-free fettuccine Alfredo is the very genesis of the universally-enjoyed pasta dish.