Just a handful of ingredients transform into the most perfect, creamy, cheesy pasta.
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Carefully add pasta and salt to boiling water. Use tongs to bend pasta into water (ask an adult for help). Cook, stirring frequently, until pasta is al dente (tender but still a bit chewy), 10 to 12 minutes.
Turn off heat. Use ladle to carefully transfer ¼ cup cooking water to liquid measuring cup. Set colander in sink. Carefully drain pasta in colander (ask an adult for help). Return drained pasta to now-empty saucepan.
Add cheese, butter, and 2 tablespoons reserved cooking water to saucepan with pasta. Return saucepan to low heat.
Use tongs to toss and stir constantly to combine, about 30 seconds. Turn off heat, cover saucepan, and let pasta sit for 1 minute.
Toss and stir pasta constantly again until sauce thoroughly coats pasta and cheese is melted, about 30 seconds. (If sauce is too thick, thin as needed with remaining cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time.)
Pasta with just butter and cheese might seem simple, but it actually has a fancy name when served in restaurants—fettuccine alfredo. To make this dish at home, use authentic Parmesan cheese from Italy (look for the Italian words “Parmigiano-Reggiano” on the rind of the cheese). When the cheese, butter, and reserved pasta cooking water are stirred into the just-drained fettuccine, the dish will appear very watery. But don’t fret: After a covered 1-minute rest and a vigorous stir, everything will come together in a creamy sauce.
When grating or shredding, use a big piece of cheese so your hand stays safely away from the sharp holes. Here’s how to do it: