The creamy and comforting white sauce pasta (also known as Alfredo pasta) makes it a popular choice for those seeking a satisfying and indulgent meal. It serves as a blank canvas for creative additions, allowing for endless customization and personalization with various ingredients and seasonings to match your palate. While there is so much one can do with the white sauce pasta, there is nothing like the classic version.
Table of contents
- History of white sauce pasta
- Fun facts about the white sauce pasta
- Step-by-step instructions
- Types of pasta and sauces
- Quick recap
History of white sauce pasta
White sauce pasta/ Alfredo pasta has a rich history and some interesting facts associated with it. White sauce pasta traces its origins to Italy, particularly in the city of Rome. Alfredo di Lelio, an Italian restaurateur, is credited with creating it in the early 20th century. Alfredo initially developed the recipe as a simple butter and cheese sauce to appeal to his pregnant wife's taste buds, as she was experiencing a loss of appetite. Later, the dish gained popularity among his customers, and he continued to refine the recipe by incorporating ingredients like heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Eventually, it became known as ‘Fettuccine Alfredo’, named after its creator.
Fun Facts about white sauce pasta
- Fettuccine Alfredo gained international fame when Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, two Hollywood stars, visited Alfredo's restaurant in Rome during their honeymoon in the 1920s. They were so impressed by the dish that they brought the recipe back to the United States, where it became popular.
- Traditional Fettuccine Alfredo consists of fresh fettuccine pasta tossed in a sauce made from butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese. However, variations of white sauce pasta have emerged over the years, incorporating additional ingredients like garlic, mushrooms, chicken, or bacon to enhance the flavour.
- White sauce pasta has become a beloved and versatile dish worldwide, with countless variations and adaptations in different cuisines. It has evolved to include different types of pasta, such as penne or spaghetti, and has become a staple on the menus of Italian restaurants globally.
- While traditionally made with heavy cream, variations of white sauce pasta can be prepared with lighter alternatives such as milk or a combination of milk and cream, catering to different dietary preferences.
For the sauce
- 20 grams butter
- 20 grams of refined flour
- 250 ml milk
- 1 small onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves
- Salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper powder
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
For the pasta
- 1 cup penne pasta
- Water for cooking
- Salt to taste
For the garnish
- Basil leaves
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Note: The garnish ingredients can be adjusted according to personal preference.
Preparing white sauce pasta involves a few key steps. Here's a simplified breakdown of the preparation process:
- Boil water: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil for cooking the pasta.
- Chop ingredients: Prepare the vegetables, protein (if using), and aromatics by washing, peeling, and chopping them into desired sizes.
- Grate cheese: Grate the desired amount of cheese for the white sauce and garnishing.
- Measure ingredients: Measure and gather all the necessary ingredients, including butter, flour, milk, salt, pepper, and any additional seasonings.
- Melt butter: In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat for the white sauce base.
- Prepare cooking tools: Ensure you have a colander or strainer ready for draining the cooked pasta.
- Set up the cooking station: Arrange the ingredients, utensils, and cookware on your countertop for easy access during the cooking process.
- Take a half-cut onion and attach a bay leaf to it using cloves.
- In a pan, pour milk and add the onion with the bay leaf. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Remove the onion from the milk.
- In a separate deep-bottomed pan, bring water to a boil. Add salt to the boiling water, then add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions.
- Drain the pasta and set it aside for later.
- In a pan, melt the butter.
- Add the refined flour to the melted butter and cook on low flame for 20-30 seconds.
- Gradually add the infused milk to the pan, stirring continuously. Cook the mixture slowly until it becomes smooth, free of lumps, and thickens.
- Add grated cheese, salt, and white pepper powder, and mix well.
- Add the boiled pasta to the sauce, along with the mixed herbs and chilli flakes. Mix everything well to coat the pasta evenly.
- Serve the white sauce pasta hot and garnish it with fresh basil leaves and some parmesan cheese.
Types of pasta and sauces
Pasta comes in a delightful variety of shapes and sizes, each uniquely suited to different types of sauces. Let's explore some popular pasta types and the sauces that pair best with them:
- Spaghetti: This long, thin, and cylindrical pasta is a classic favourite. It pairs perfectly with tomato-based sauces like marinara, Bolognese, or arrabbiata. The thin strands of spaghetti effortlessly cling to the rich and chunky textures of these sauces, creating a harmonious balance of flavours.
- Penne: Penne, with its cylindrical shape and angled ends, is a versatile pasta choice. Its hollow centre and ridged surface make it an ideal match for thick and hearty sauces, such as creamy Alfredo sauce or robust meat-based ragù. The nooks and crannies of penne capture the sauce, delivering bursts of flavour in every bite.
- Farfalle (Bowtie): With its distinctive bowtie shape, farfalle adds a touch of whimsy to any dish. This pasta variety is well-suited for both creamy and light sauces. It pairs wonderfully with creamy cheese sauces, such as a rich Alfredo or a velvety Gorgonzola sauce. It also complements lighter sauces like pesto or a delicate tomato cream sauce.
- Rigatoni: Rigatoni, characterised by its large and ridged tubes, is perfect for capturing and holding chunky sauces. Its robust structure makes it an excellent choice for baked pasta dishes. Rigatoni pairs wonderfully with meaty sauces like hearty ragù, chunky vegetable sauces, or even a spicy sausage-based sauce.
- Linguine: Linguine is similar to spaghetti but flattened, with a slightly wider shape. It is a versatile pasta that works well with both creamy and light sauces. Linguine shines with seafood sauces like white clam sauce or a classic lemon butter sauce. It also complements the simple aglio-e-olio or a fresh tomato and basil sauce.
- Fusilli: Fusilli features a spiral or corkscrew shape, making it an excellent choice for holding thick and chunky sauces. Its spirals cling to sauces, such as a meat ragù or a rich tomato sauce with chunks of vegetables or meat. It also works beautifully in pasta salads with dressings and vinaigrettes.
- Ravioli: Ravioli consists of small pockets of pasta filled with various savoury fillings like cheese, meat, or vegetables. It pairs wonderfully with lighter sauces such as sage and butter, allowing the delicate flavours of the filling to shine. Ravioli also complements creamy tomato-based sauces or a simple marinara.
- For the sauce: Butter, refined flour, milk, onion, bay leaf, cloves, spices and herbs to taste
- For the pasta: Penne pasta with water for cooking and salt to taste
- For the garnish: Basil leaves and grated parmesan cheese
- Boil the pasta: Fill a pot with boiling water, add salt, and cook the pasta until tender. Drain and set aside.
- Prepare the white sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan, add flour to create a roux, and stir until combined.
- Gradually add milk: Pour milk slowly into the saucepan while stirring continuously until thick and smooth.
- Season the sauce: Add salt, pepper, and desired herbs or seasonings to the white sauce.
- Combine the sauce and pasta: Mix the cooked pasta with the white sauce until evenly coated.
- Alternatively, add toppings and mix-ins: Enhance the dish with sautéed vegetables, cooked chicken, or herbs according to preference.
- Serve and garnish: Plate the white sauce pasta and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, herbs, or a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.