Four Cheese Fettuccine

My favorite dish as a kid was spaghetti with butter and parmesan cheese (the powdery kind, mind you). It was years before I would tolerate spaghetti with spaghetti sauce, and to this day, I still prefer it without.

But the first time I indulged in the miracle of the universe that is fettuccine alfredo, I was hooked. Thoroughly convinced it was the best. food. ever.

Not much has changed.

And so! For years I have searched for a recipe that achieves in my kitchen what various restaurants mysteriously create every day: a creamy, cheesy, tangled mass of warm pasta that knocks my socks off.

When I stumbled across this recipe, it was love at first sight. I HAD to try it. The first taste was enough to convince me that it was definitely worth making over and over and over. And I have!

To be sure, this dish certainly steps it up a bit from the powdered parmesan I grew up on. I’ll admit, my new found love of these cheeses takes a larger chunk of my budget than your standard block of orange cheddar. But oooh, they are worth every grated bite.

If you’ve ever passed up the cheese stands at your local farmers market because the prices look too steep, I urge you to take a second look: these cheeses have virtually reduced my Italian restaurant expenses to zero and have opened up a whole new world of recipes that I might never have thought about were they not in my fridge. Two of the four (the asiago and the chèvre) are locally produced by vendors at my farmer’s market and priced within a buck or two of their imported grocery store counterparts. Win-win.

This dish comes together with surprising quickness. The most labor-intensive part is grating the cheeses. You definitely want to use a fine grate rather than a rough one for better melting, especially for the harder varieties. The cheesy-creamyness is not so much a sauce as it is a mixture –  the heat of the pasta and the cream melt two cups of cheese quite quickly. At no time are you actually cooking a sauce, you’re just sorta tossing everything together right before you wolf it down. And trust me, you will.

Speaking of which, it’s time for seconds.

Four Cheese Fettuccine
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 lb fettuccine
1/2 c grated asiago cheese
1/2 c grated chèvre (yes, chèvre will grate, just be gentle)
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c grated gruyère cheese
1 c heavy cream
1 T butter, softened
1 whole garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
parsley to garnish, fresh minced or dried

Grate the cheeses before you begin cooking to allow them time to come to room temperature. Heat cream over low heat to boiling and then simmer slowly. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add fettuccine. Cook pasta to al denté (cooked through, but with a bite, as in not soggy). Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl to reserve pasta water. Return pasta to the pot. Pour in the cream, plop in the butter, and sprinkle in the cheeses, salt, and pepper. Stir or toss gently, adding pasta water to smooth texture (I use about 1/2 cup). When mixing, lift the pasta from the bottom and heap on top of the cheese to help it melt more evenly. The liquid will try to settle at the bottom, so continue to toss until sauce clings to the fettuccine. Taste, try to avoid fainting with delight, and then add more salt and pepper if needed. The mixing business should happen pretty quickly.

Vigorously rub garlic on the plates or bowls you are using to serve. Scoop pasta onto plate and garnish with roughly chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

A note on re-heating: I am a HUGE fan of leftovers, but this dish doesn’t really stay very attractive as a next-day lunch. I’m not saying you shouldn’t leftover-ize it, just know that the “sauce” will separate into cheesy globs and buttery juice. The wolfing down effect it elicits will remain the same.