ATK Kids

How to Make Cheesy Buttered Pasta Even Better

You can improve upon this oft improvised dish with a few tricks.

Published Aug. 9, 2022.

There’s something so nostalgic about a big bowl of buttered, Parmesan-dusted noodles. They have healed me from childhood tummy aches, adult hangovers, and everything in between.

All you have to do is boil some pasta, drain it, and toss it with a hunk of butter, grated Parm, and a little salt (if needed). In just a few minutes, you have an easy, cozy pasta dish with minimal effort.

I love to make these noodles for a solo lunch or dinner, but they’re not exactly impressive. What if there was a way to transform these few ingredients into something a bit fancier?

There is. And it’s called fettuccine Alfredo.

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You may think of fettuccine Alfredo as cream-laden and stodgy, but the original recipe is more like an elevated version of cheesy buttered noodles. Invented in Rome in 1914, it contained just fettuccine, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, butter, and salt. The first printed recipe appeared in the United States in 1928, but because American butter and Parmesan-style cheese weren't as rich and creamy as they are in Italy, the dish transformed into a different beast.

The folks at Cook’s Country employed a few tricks to return this dish to its Roman roots. First, they boiled a pound of pasta in 3 quarts of water (versus the typical four) so the resulting pasta water would have the right amount of starch to thicken the cheese sauce.


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They also used real Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (American imitators won’t produce the same creaminess), finely grating it on a rasp-style grater for feather-like shreds that melt into the sauce seamlessly.

To bring the final dish together and fully emulsify the sauce, it’s important to vigorously stir the ingredients together, let the pasta sit for a minute, and then vigorously stir again.

Since this recipe is a childhood classic, the ATK Kids team adapted it for young chefs, scaling it down to make it a simple meal for one. But adults and kids alike are sure to delight in this nostalgic favorite. 


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