Did you know? Authentic Alfredo doesn’t use a drop of cream. It’s actually a beautiful emulsion of pasta water, butter, and high quality cheese that creates the creamy, dreamy sauce. I decided to add pancetta and thyme to make this into an easy, hearty, yet elegant weeknight meal even my picky husband would like! I had never used malfaldine, but found that those ruffly edges hold the sauce wonderfully. Papardelle is easier to find and would work just as well.
If I could narrow down 2 things that make this dish it would be Parmesan reggiano, and Pancetta.
Pancetta is basically Italian bacon. And in Italian cooking, a little better. It has the tanginess of prosciutto, is meatier than bacon, and less greasy. It’s actually not that hard to find, either. Ask your butcher, or look in your deli section of your local grocery store. Boar’s Head sells it diced and all ready to go! (In a pinch, you could substitute bacon.)
Parmesan reggiano…ahh. I could eat its shavings with a spoon. When I was little, I used to sneak chunks of it’s salty, tangy goodness and suck on them when Mom wasn’t looking. You cannot substitute this for anything in a jar. It must be fresh, and shredded into an almost powder-like consistency for the emulsion to work. You can pick up a block of the Locatelli brand and shred it yourself, but most stores have it in their deli sections, in plastic bags or containers, already shaved up for you! Easy-peasy.
- 1lb Mafaldine
- 1/2 c diced pancetta
- 1/4 c finely chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup pasta water
- 3 tbsp cold butter
- 3/4 c finely grated Locatelli
- Fresh thyme to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Set a large pot of water to boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta 2 mins under al dente. Reserving 1 1/2 cups of the water, drain pasta and set aside. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce.
- Meanwhile, heat a high-sided skillet to medium high heat and toss in pancetta. Finely chop the onion and add into pan. When pancetta is crispy and onions soften, chop 3 cloves of garlic, add to pan and cook 2 more minutes. Scoop out mixture into separate bowl and set aside.
- Pour 1 cup of pasta water back into saucepan, deglazing the pan. Cut up butter into thirds, adding one piece at a time while whisking, waiting until fully incorporated before adding another tablespoon.
- Very slowly, sprinkle in the cheese while whisking constantly. It will incorporate into the sauce. When fully emulsified, it should be creamy and thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. Add pancetta mixture back into sauce.
- Add the pasta to the pan. Using tongs, toss and lift pasta to coat. If sauce becomes too thick, add in a little remaining pasta water. (I found that I didn’t need to)
- Dish onto plate and top with fresh thyme, black pepper and more grated parm. Serve immediately and enjoy!