The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Fettuccine alla Romana

It’s recipes like this that make me wonder why anyone would buy a jar of congealed hydrogenated oil, corn syrup, and stabilizers calling itself “Alfredo sauce.” This is almost as easy as opening that jar.

This recipe was featured in an article by Craig Claiborne from 1968 and I love the whole “La Dolce Vita” quality it has. It’s an unapologetic combination of butter, cream, cheese and ham all carefully engineered so that it can be thrown together in about 10 minutes. Near-instant gratification.

One of the reasons I chose to make this recipe is that I was in Rome last week and it fit in with my new goal of being more Roman.  In addition to wearing much better shoes and taking a daily mid-morning cappuccino and pastry break, I of course want to make some good pasta. 

All this recipe asks of you is that you shred some prosciutto (the recipe says 1/3 cup but I prefer weights, so this is 1.5 oz. No extra charge for the conversion), cook some peas, grate some parmesan (and if you only splurge on real Parmigiano-Reggiano a few times a year, this is the time to do it), and cook pasta.

I used the “fresh” fettuccine in the dairy case which pretty much convinced me to buy a pasta-making attachment for my KitchenAid (like that’s hard to do. Why don’t you twist my arm and get me to watch a George Clooney movie while you’re at it). It was  fine but it didn’t even start out al dente.

You need to have everything ready to go because once the pasta is cooked it’s very quickly tossed with butter and then the remaining ingredients and should be eaten immediately (that instruction always intimidates me a little and in this recipe Craig Claiborne actually says the noodles should be “served within seconds after they are cooked.” How’s that for pressure? You’d better have the table set and the family sitting at it with forks poised).

Claiborne also says you should warm your serving dish so I put mine in a 200-degree oven while the pasta cooked. Just don’t forget your oven mitts!

Fettuccine alla Romana is on page 310 of The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

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