The thing about Pasta Alfredo is that it is basically well known only outside of Rome and especially in North America. There are two restaurants in central Rome that that can lay claim to the origin of this recipe and it became famous because famous foreigners got to enjoy it, including early Hollywood film stars. If you have a little gander around google you will encounter scores of articles to enlighten and amuse you. If you haven’t got the time or patience, I would advise you to click on the link below for an excellent article and video on the history and the recipe written by Elizabeth Minchilli.
For my part, I can say that most Romans – if they are going to make a simple butter and parmesan pasta at all – will not use fresh pasta (fettuccine) but dry pasta instead. The recipe is sometimes dubbed as the dish that is made for the man whose wife cheats on him (“la pasta del cornuto”); having squandered her time away from the kitchen in pursuit of forbidden pleasure and frippery, she will not have the requisite time to prepare a ‘proper’ pasta sauce. What else can a poor unfaithful wife do but resort to a quick and easy “pasta burro e parmigiano” that she can prepare in no time at all? As if. Anyway, I got a craving for this dish when I was pregnant the first time – so it was very amusing for me to discover that the original chef Alfredo who ‘invented’ this concoction did so in order to improve the appetite of his pregnant wife! There you go. Nothing to do with being unfaithful whatsoever. Also, it is the pasta to make after one has been ill for whatever reason. “La pasta in bianco” it is called (white pasta) and sometimes olive oil will be substituted for the butter. In Umbria they call it the Englishman’s pasta. I wrote a post about this some years ago: https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/english-pasta-spaghetti-burro-e-parmigiano/.
But back to today and the new pasta Alfredo I want to tell you about.
The Alfredo in question is Alfredo Minardi Baldoni who runs his family’s nine-generation vineyard and olive farm near Frascati. The vineyard and farm house/cellar couldn’t be prettier and more picturesque, with breathtaking views of the rolling hills of the Castelli Romani area, the peak of the ancient town of Tusculum, the town of Monteporzio, as well as the hills north of Rome and the seashore to the left.
I have been collaborating with Alfredo and his tours and wine tasting since last September, and our conversations are always about the history (and a bit of gossip) of where we live, wine (naturally!), olive oil and food. It didn’t take me long to discover that he likes his nosh, has a fine palate and is a dab hand in the kitchen.
I was telling him about that incredible pasta sauce I had enjoyed in Tuscany back in October, consisting of only three ingredients: sausages, mascarpone, and parmesan cheese (salt and pepper too). When we were discussing what two pasta dishes to offer our guests one Sunday, we decided go for a traditional Roman dish (Amatriciana) and to do a take on the famous (or infamous considering the ‘heavy’ ingredients) of the sausage-mascarpone-parmigiano recipe. And this is the result.
“What are we going to call this dish?” I asked him, minutes before serving the guests? He started prattling on about the ingredients and I shook my head. “No, we shall call this dish Pasta Minardi, after the vineyard!” I can take no credit for the tweak on the trio of ingredients, the ideas were all Alfredo’s (except maybe for the addition of mint). And hence, some time later, I reckoned it was a good idea to name this dish “Pasta Alfredo Frascati Style”.
Italian sausagues, mascarpone, freshly grated parmesan cheese.
A handful of almonds, a glass of white wine (Frascati naturally!), some olive oil and as much or as little garlic as you prefer.
Use a knife to finely chop the sausages after having skinned them. Then brown the garlic in the olive oil, taking care not to actually ‘brown’ them. They ought to be a golden colour. Remove the garlic afterwards (or keep it in the sauce, if you like it).
Add the chopped sausage to the pan and use a wooden spoon or spatula to break it up as much as possible. Careful not to overcook the meat otherwise it will tend to go all hard and chewy.
You can slice the almonds with a knife or you can do what I did. I covered them with parchment paper and used a meat pounder to crush them.
When the meat has just stopped turning pink, pour a glass of white wine into the pan (not directly on the meat) and turn the heat up to let the alcohol evaporate.
Now add the almonds. Stir.
The meat looks really ‘brown’ in the above photo but that’s not what it looked like in real life. Anyway, I added 4 tablespoons of mascarpone and mixed it in. I then added a fifth tablespoon to loosen up the sauce somewhat. I tasted it (delicious already!) and added a little bit of salt. Pepper (freshly milled) I always add at the end.
The pasta was boiling away (doesn’t look like it in this photo, I know). I used roughly 700g of pasta.
I transferred the sauce to a larger pan. A pan that I would use to finish off the pasta. At this point I added a few teensy mint leaves that I found on my balcony. Dried mint can work too, I suppose.
The pasta was almost ready, so I turned the heat on.
I had added some pasta water to the previous pan, to soak up whatever got left behind. I poured this into the new pan and then drained the pasta directly into the pan.
Here I am finishing off the pasta in the pan, adding more pasta water (as needed) and tossing and or stirring the pasta.
Pepper and parmesan last. Give it a good stir and serve.
A lovely wintry recipe, my appreciative guests commented as they enjoyed Pasta Alfredo Frascati Style a few evenings ago.
I should think so so too. This might not grow hair on your chest, but you will find yourself breathing better as you savour the richness of the texture, the crunch of the almonds, the saving grace of a faint hint of mint and the rounding off of a parmesan-mascarpone finish.