One of my husband's favorite dishes is Fettuccine Alfredo. For years I was afraid to even attempt making Alfredo sauce, thinking it was much too complicated and I would screw it up for sure. Fortunately for my husband, he traveled frequently and often had a pretty decent expense plan. So he made sure to get Fettuccine Alfredo while he was on the road.
But two or three years ago, my husband and I were talking to the cheese monger in The Fresh Market and she asked if we wanted some free Parmesan cheese rinds. (I've since been told by The Fresh Market folks that they no longer give away Parmesan rinds, sadly.) Not one to turn down a freebie I said yes, but also asked what I should do with them. She said her favorite thing to make with Parmesan cheese rinds was Alfredo sauce. "Oh, I'm much too afraid of messing up Alfredo to attempt that!" I said.
She very politely explained just how easy making Alfredo sauce really was. Place the cheese rind in a stainless steel pan, pour in some cream and once that has thickened remove the rind and add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Nothing to it, she claimed.
I'd always thought Alfredo sauce was much more complicated, involving varying combinations of butter, cream, garlic, olive oil, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and/or sherry. Some Alfredo sauces do have long ingredients lists and seem to be much more complicated. Perhaps the people who make those particular sauces enjoy them more than the super simple recipe the cheese monger gave me. But my husband is extraordinarily happy when I make him Fettuccine Alfredo, so I know for certain this recipe works for me.
This is not a recipe you can walk away from while it's cooking, so have everything ready before you start the Alfredo. Have the pasta boiling in the pot, salad made, cheese grated and chicken or broccoli (or both) cooked. And unless your 7 year old won't scream "Why do I always have to set the table?" resulting in a 10 minute tantrum, make sure you set the table first too.
You could add minced garlic and/or ground pepper if you'd like, but I wouldn't recommend salt. The Parmesan will give it plenty of salt. If I add broccoli at the end, though, I do salt the broccoli while it's steaming. All measurements are rough estimates. Don't try to substitute milk or half and half for the heavy cream. This is not one of those times you can get away with it. If you can't come across Parmesan cheese rinds, you can make this without one.
1/2 pint heavy cream
approx. 4x3 inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1/2 - 3/4 cups of Parmesan cheese
8 ounces fettuccine or linguini noodles
Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Once the water has come to a rolling boil, add pasta. Cook until al dente.
Once your pasta has started cooking, in a stainless steel pan, place a cheese rind in the middle. Pour in heavy cream.
Over medium to medium high heat, let this come to a nice bubble. Give it a good stir with a whisk every 30 seconds or so. Once it has started to bubble and thicken, stir continuously.
After 2 minutes, turn down the heat to medium or medium low and remove rind. Stir in about 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Thin with more cream if needed. Once the cheese has melted, give it a taste. Add more cheese if you feel it needs it. Immediately stir in your drained pasta, sauteed chicken and broccoli if desired.