Fettuccine Alfredo with Mushrooms. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

In the words of Jay-Z, “Allow me to reintroduce myself.”

Regular readers of The Washington Post’s food coverage are probably already familiar with me and my work. But now that I’ll be taking over the Post’s Dinner in Minutes column, trying to fill the shoes left by former Post recipes editor Ann Maloney, I thought I’d give you a refresher about me and explain the types of recipes I plan to highlight in this space.

I was born and raised in Chicago and went to college in St. Louis, so soul food and hearty Midwest dishes form the foundation of my culinary philosophy. To me, that means there’s generally a thread of comfort in many of the recipes I create. On top of that, I spent about 13 years in New York City, which introduced me to a more global pantry and deepened my love for streamlined cooking due to the tiny kitchen I had to put up with for most of my time there. (My D.C. apartment kitchen is so much bigger.)

I’m an omnivore but have become more conscious about my consumption of meat and seafood. I also have a fin fish allergy, so I won’t be featuring them during my tenure. Outside of what I can’t consume, there isn’t really much I won’t eat.

In terms of flavor profiles, I enjoy the big and the bold as well as dishes that are simple and subtle – and everything in between. I’m a curious cook who loves to experiment in the kitchen and also finds pleasure in revisiting old favorites. Long story short, I love it all!

The mission of the Dinner in Minutes column is to provide readers with reliable weeknight recipes that will (hopefully) quickly become family favorites and can be made in 45 minutes or less. I plan to share a variety of dishes to suit myriad tastes, but I think this is one that almost everyone will love. For my first act, I’m highlighting an Italian American classic: fettuccine Alfredo. It’s creamy, comforting, easy to prepare and a worthy addition to your dinner repertoire.


The dish was created – or updated, rather – in the early 20th century by Roman restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio. It is based on fettuccine al burro, which is simply pasta coated in a sauce of butter and cheese. That’s it. Just three ingredients (plus salt). However, di Lelio increased the amount of butter for a richer, creamier sauce. The story goes that he prepared it as a way to nourish his wife after she gave birth to their son and lost her appetite – and, needless to say, she found it again with each forkful of comforting carbs and dairy. This updated version landed on his restaurant’s menu, and when it made its way to the United States, its name was updated to reference di Lelio.

The key to a silky sauce in the original version is creating an emulsion with the pasta cooking water, butter and cheese. However, this requires a skilled hand lest you end up with a broken sauce. For a less finicky, albeit nontraditional Alfredo sauce, cooks at some point started adding heavy cream. And as someone who is all about making things easier, I add it, too. Other additions often include black pepper, garlic, some sort of meat and/or vegetable, and a flourish of fresh parsley.

My version starts by cooking chicken or mushrooms in a skillet until nicely browned. (Chicken is probably more popular, but I prefer mushrooms.) The Alfredo sauce is then prepared in that same skillet, which can add even more flavor if there are browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, depending on the material it’s made out of, that then get incorporated into the sauce. Lastly, the pasta and some of its cooking water join in on the fun while the fettuccine finishes cooking and marries with the sauce. (Remember, you always want to finish pasta in the sauce if it’s warm.)

Yes, one could argue that this recipe is a far cry from the original, but it still possesses the same comforting, nourishing spirit – and can be on the dinner table in just 30 minutes.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken. Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Fettuccine Alfredo

3 to 4 servings (makes about 6 cups)


Total time: 30 mins

This Italian American version of fettuccine alfredo can be made with chicken or mushrooms – or whatever protein or vegetable you wish – for a comforting bowl of pasta. Compared with the Roman version of the dish, this recipe includes cream for a more foolproof alfredo sauce, which is made in the same skillet used for the chicken or mushrooms to save from washing an extra pot. The type of skillet you use, stainless steel in particular, can lead to brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan that will then get incorporated into the sauce, turning it beige instead of the more expected creamy white. If you want a whiter sauce, opt for a nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, or thoroughly wipe out the pan before making the alfredo.

Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Add a splash of water or cream, and, to avoid a broken sauce, reheat gently in a skillet over low heat, tossing occasionally, or in the microwave.


1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more for the pasta water and to taste

8 ounces dried fettuccine


6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, divided

2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts (12 ounces total), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick strips; or 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, such as button, cremini, oyster or a mix, sliced or torn into bite-size pieces (see Variation)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup heavy cream

3 1/2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup)


Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving (optional)


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, until just shy of al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water, and drain the pasta.

While the water comes to a boil, pat the chicken dry with towels and season both sides with the salt, pepper and garlic powder. In a 10-inch or larger saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter until foaming. Add the chicken and cook without moving, until browned on the first side, about 2 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook until browned on the other side and cooked all the way through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

To the same skillet, add the heavy cream, along with the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, and cook, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom (depending on the type of skillet used; see headnote). Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese until completely melted.

Return the chicken to the skillet, then add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water and cook, stirring regularly, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce has reduced to coat the pasta, adding more pasta cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency of the sauce. Taste, and season with more salt or pepper, as desired. Divide among bowls, garnish with parsley, if using, and serve right away.

Substitutions: Instead of fettuccine >> use any long pasta shape.

Variations: To make the mushroom fettuccine alfredo, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter until foaming. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper and garlic powder and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 1 to 2 minutes more. Leave the mushrooms in the skillet and proceed with making the sauce and finishing the pasta as instructed.

Nutrition per serving (1 1/2 cups with chicken), based on 4: 748 calories, 47g carbohydrates, 195mg cholesterol, 47g fat, 2g fiber, 33g protein, 29g saturated fat, 892mg sodium, 1g sugar

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.