Italian restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio created Fettuccine Alfredo in 1914 to help his wife regain her appetite after the birth of their first son, and it worked! Soon after he began serving it at his restaurant in Rome. Today, it’s one of the most popular pasta dishes in America, and the invention of the dish is commemorated on February 7 with National Fettuccine Alfredo Day.
Fettuccine Alfredo supposedly became popular in the United States when Hollywood stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks dined at Di Lelio’s restaurant while on their honeymoon. They spread the word when they returned to America.
And, of course…everything’s better with bacon, right?
If you don’t believe that…this recipe will convert you!
Guanciale (gwan-chalie), an Italian-style bacon made from hog jowl, is a prized gourmet delicacy in central Italy. Typically, it’s dry-cured, hand-coated with fresh cracked peppercorns, then smoked over smoldering hickory logs for nearly 24 hours. The result is a meat with a noticeably richer flavor than typical bacon, and is a popular addition to such classic dishes as spaghetti alla carbonara and pasta all’amatriciana.
I found it with the uncut bacon, and smoked hocks, at Fred Meyer, for about 1/2 the price of good bacon (about $2.50/lb).
Here’s what I do with it:
2 pound dried fettucine
1/2 lb chicken tenders, brined and grilled
1/2 lb pork cheeks (jowls) bacon, or Guanciale
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup finely grated Asiago cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs yolks
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350d
Cook the fettuccine in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. NEVER RINSE YOUR PASTA.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute until tender, add garlic. Add heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Cook until sauce has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Return the pasta to the pot it was cooked in, set over medium-high heat along with the reserved cooking liquid. Add the butter-cream mixture, half of the asiago, bacon, and chicken, and toss to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Sprinkle with remaining asiago and garnish with raw egg yolk, if desired.
NOTE: We made this recipe again last night, with (at my daughter’s request) tri-color spiral pasta. Turned out very nice, and, for a 4 y/o, a lot less messy!
PS – The raw egg yolk is another Italian thing, and adds an extra layer of richness to the recipe. Once served, break the yolk and gently fold into the dish. Alternatively, you can add the yolks to the pasta along with the sauce and blend it in then.