Sunday, January 3, 2010

Recipe: Gluten Free Fettucini Alfredo with Shrimp

Let me just say that old Alfredo had his "A game" on when he invented his famous Fettucini.  NOTE: This rendition is gluten free, but you can just use regular semolina pasta and all-purpose flour if you don't mind the wheat.  In either case, the results are outstanding. I'm just sayin'.

Fettucini Alfredo hails from Rome, and seems to have first appeared on the scene in 1914.

It all began with a dude named Alfredo di Lelio who was running a restaurant called Alfredo alla Scrofa.

In an attempt to provide sustenance to his pregnant wife, Alfredo di Lelio had the brain flash of adding more butter to an existing traditional Italian recipe known as fettucini al burro (fettucini with butter). It seems that fettucini al burro only added butter twice during preparation, and this just wasn't cutting it for di Lelio's wife. Alfredo wisely added a third round of butter and made his wife (and much of the Western world) very happy.

In its original Italian incarnation, Alfredo sauce was made of just butter and Parmesan cheese. Most Americans, however, (myself included) are used to Alfredo sauce being a velvety white concoction that is based on a cream sauce or white sauce.  I've always made Fettucini Alfredo using a white sauce (and my wife has liked it quite a lot, especially when pregnant).  So this recipe is American-style...

  • 3 Cups basic white sauce (see my recipe for gluten free basic white sauce)
  • 2 Cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 Cup dry white wine (like Chardonnay)
  • A pound or so of large raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined (sizes 11-15 or 16-20 per pound are best)
  • A pound or so of gluten free fettucini pasta (Use Tinkyada brand, everything else tastes like cardboard)
  • 1/2 Cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 Cup minced or crushed garlic
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon

Make the basic white sauce, and then begin incorporating the grated Parmesan cheese into it slowly—one small handful at a time.  The white sauce should be near boiling (but not actually boiling) while you incorporate the cheese.  Make sure all cheese has melted before you add the next handful.  Don't rush this step... if you do you'll get congealed Parmesan blobs instead of a thick, creamy sauce.  As long as the white sauce is nice and hot, you can keep slowly adding Parmesan.  This step may take 20 minutes or more.  Parmesan is the primary flavor source of this dish, so don't skimp!  

While you are incorporating the Parmesan into the white sauce, boil water for pasta.  Be sure to salt the pasta water generously.  The water should taste like a too-salty soup when you dip your finger into it.  The pasta won't have time to soak up seasoning from the Alfredo sauce prior to serving, so it is important to get salt into the pasta during boiling 

Once the white sauce is flavorful and cheesy, add salt and pepper to taste (the salt will boost and brighten the flavor from the Parmesan cheese).  Also add a tiny dash of nutmeg to the sauce at this time.  Nutmeg adds a touch of refinement to an Alfredo sauce, similar to how wine adds refinement to many other sauces and dishes.  Something about the nutmeg's gentle spice helps round out the creamy Parmesan flavor of Fettucini Alfredo.  Trust me.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and then oil it lightly to prevent sticking.  Put it back in the pot you boiled it in to keep warm until you're ready for it.

Now, before you embark on the "shrimp finale" of this dish, make sure the table is set, all other side dishes are finished and ready to serve, and your guests have been rounded up from out on the parapet.   Get your shrimp, chopped onion, crushed garlic, and white wine ready.  Juice the half-lemon into a small bowl so it's ready, too.

Shrimp go from raw to overcooked and rubbery very quickly.  You have a bit more leeway with larger shrimp, but even so you'll need to be careful and move quickly.  As with most cooked seafood, you'll be pulling the shrimp when they are still slightly under-cooked on the inside.  By the time they get into the dish and onto people's plates, the shrimp will be cooked perfectly. 

The shrimp finale goes like this:

Pour the Alfredo sauce into your fettucini, and stir things around a bit to combine thoroughly.  If for some reason things are out of balance and you are short on sauce, add milk or cream, and more salt to stretch it a bit.  Make sure the pasta and sauce are hot enough to serve.  If you're using a serving dish, you may want to warm it up so it doesn't cool the finished pasta down. 

In a large stainless steel saute pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.  You want about 1/8 inch of oil in the bottom of the pan.  Let the pan heat until the oil is shimmering and watery, which will probably take 5-7 minutes. 

Once the pan has come up to heat (note: you're now about 3 minutes from serving the dish), add the shrimp, garlic, and onion.  Heat the shrimp on one side until they are pink, which will take between 45 seconds and 1 minute.  Flip each shrimp individually, and move them around to ensure even heating (the shrimp in the center of the pan will cook more quickly than those at the edges).

While you're in there with the tongs, don't be afraid to move the onions and garlic around to ensure even cooking.  Give the shrimp another minute at most, then pull them out of the pan with tongs, and set aside in a glass bowl covered with foil.  You may still see patches of grey, uncooked flesh on the sides of the shrimp... that's fine.  The shrimp should spend (total) about 2 minutes in the pan cooking, and no more than 3 minutes.

Stir around the onions and garlic for another 30 seconds or so to finish them off.  Hopefully at this point you have some nice browning on the bottom of the pan, and the onions and garlic are starting to caramelize.

Deglaze the hot pan by adding the white wine and lemon juice to it, and scrape any remaining browned bits off the bottom of the pan (use a wooden scraper, not metal!).  The deglazing should take no more than 30 seconds, otherwise your deglazing liquid will evaporate (if this happens, just hit the pan again with more white wine, and then pull it from the heat).  Pour the deglazing liquid (with onions and garlic) as well as the shrimp (and any accumulated juice) into the pasta.  Stir things around and serve immediately.

If you like, garnish by sprinkling fresh chopped Italian parsely, thyme, or basil on top.  You could also toss on more grated Parmesan cheese.

Viva Alfredo di Lelio!


  1. Yes, it was outstanding, thank you.

  2. Hi Natalie,

    I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for stopping by.



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