The Original Alfredo Sauce Was Simpler Than You Might Think

CORRECTION 2/8/23: A previous version of this article stated the dish was invented in 1914. Fettuccine Alfredo was first created in 1908.

Go to any Italian restaurant in the U.S. and without a doubt you'll find fettuccine Alfredo on the menu. When you're not in the mood for red sauce, the creamy pasta dish is always a solid go-to. Due to its popularity stateside, you might assume that fettuccine Alfredo is just as common in Italy where it originated, but the truth is that it's hardly a specialty there. In fact, Devour that if you go hunting for it in local restaurants, you will have just two options in Rome.

The American version of Alfredo sauce is typically made with a base of heavy cream, parmesan cheese, and butter. Some people add parsley and others add chicken, but most of us think of Alfredo as a creamy white sauce. The original Italian recipe, however, is a lot closer to cacio e pepe, Eattiamo says, made with the bare minimum amount of ingredients.

Authentic Alfredo sauce isn't really a sauce

If you want to make an authentic Italian pasta dish, it doesn't get any easier than fettuccine Alfredo, at least the kind of fettuccine Alfredo they make in Italy. According to Italian restaurant Il Vero Alfredo, the sauce only requires two ingredients: butter and parmesan cheese.

Restaurateur Alfredo Di Lelio invented the simple recipe in 1908 for his pregnant wife who didn't have an appetite for anything else. However, it ended up making waves as a traditional Italian dish when celebrity couple Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford tried it at Di Lelio's restaurant and introduced it to the American press (via Forbes).

When American chefs tried to make fettuccine Alfredo, the quality of the butter and cheese didn't yield the same rich consistency, and that's why heavy cream was added to the sauce, Giada de Laurentiis explained on an episode of her Food Network show, "Everyday Italian." This version became popular in America, while in Italy it has remained all but a step up from buttered noodles.