Food, Guest Authors, Recipes

From the Chronicle Kitchen:
Saveur: The New Comfort Food

I’m ecstatic that Saveur’s Editor in Chief James Oseland is our guest blogger today.

James edited the recently released Saveur: The New Comfort Food, the fourth cookbook Chronicle’s published with the award-winning magazine. It’s a tour de force collection of the best comfort food recipes from all over the world.

What’s your favorite food of comfort? Have a photo of it to share with us? Leave a comment on James’ post and you’ll be eligible to win a copy I’ll be rewarding to a random lucky person. Good luck!

For diners whose experience of fettuccine Alfredo has been limited to the four-cheese, flour-thickened, super-saucy variety found in chain Italian restaurants, the real deal is a genuine revelation.

Invented in Rome in the early 1900s by the restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio, it’s so simple that when we first made it in the Saveur test kitchen a few years ago, I didn’t think it would work. It’s literally one of the easiest recipes in the entire universe.

You slice two sticks of butter into pats and dot them around a serving platter. You spread the pasta (al dente dried fettuccine works best) atop the butter. You toss it…and toss it…and toss it, gradually adding heaps of parmesan cheese.

And then you eat it. Or rather: And then you scarf it with reckless abandon. The dish is a testimony to the quiet alchemy of sauce-making. There’s no roux, no precise timing, no day-long simmer. Yet the glorious emulsion that forms from all that tossing IS a sauce—oh, and what a sauce it is.

With a dusting of cracked pepper atop the pasta, and a side salad of bitter, young greens, fettuccine Alfredo as Mr. Di Lelio used to make it is quite possibly the perfect meal.

Fettuccine Alfredo
Mixing the ingredients on a warmed platter will help them melt quickly to make a satiny sauce. For the best results, use dried pasta, which doesn’t break as easily during tossing as fresh egg pasta does.

Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. dried fettuccine
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into thin pats
3 1/4 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Serves 4

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, place butter pats on a large, warmed serving platter. Drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cup pasta water, and place the pasta over the butter on the platter.

2. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly over pasta and drizzle with 1/4 cup reserved pasta water. Using a large spoon and fork, gently toss the pasta with the butter and cheese, lifting and swirling the noodles and adding more pasta water as necessary to create a smooth sauce. Work in any melted butter and cheese that pools around the edges of the platter. Continue mixing pasta until the cheese and butter have fully melted and the noodles are coated, about 3 minutes. (For a quicker preparation, bring the reserved ¾ cup pasta water and the butter to a boil in a 12-inch skillet, and then add the pasta, sprinkle with the cheese, and toss with tongs over medium-low heat until the pasta is creamy and coated, about 2 minutes.)

3. Serve the fettuccine immediately on warmed plates.

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18 Comments

  • tricia September 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    If you're thinking about comfort food, roast chicken is one of the best. The roasting smell when you come home from work starts my family salivating.

    Reply

  • Vicki Rulli September 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Growing up in a big ethnic family (and neighborhood) I have lots of favorite comfort foods….but I think my mom’s (and grandma’s) version of Chicken Paprikash tops the list. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo….but since I have been archiving the family recipes…I will very soon!

    Reply

  • Sue S. September 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    Wait, that is how I ate my spagetti when I grew up! My momma is full italian, her grama came off the boat thru Ellis Island when she was an infant. My momma always made her sauce from scratch and would home grow her peppers. Once batch of peppers was so hot when she made the sauce you couldn't eat it so instead of waiting for her to make 2 batches out of the one to calm the heat, I decided to eat my sketti w/butter and fresh parm cheese! I was hooked and to this day I still eat it this way as do my kids and grandkids. I already love this chef he cooks like I eat!!! would love to get his cookbook and dive into all the pages and start gathering ingredients!!!

    Reply

  • Jennifer September 14, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    The great article on the Lincolnshire butcher in the new issue of Saveur reminded me of a great childhood comfort food…Toad in the Hole!

    Reply

  • Laila September 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    My easy comfort food recipe is potato wedges you've baked/roasted to perfection and then a dipping sauce made from mayo and sweet chilli dipping sauce. It is really yummy and really simple.

    Reply

  • art and lemons September 15, 2011 at 6:03 am

    This is my kind of book! My favorite comfort food: Pasta. Particularly brown butter pasta topped with a fried egg. The photo includes homemade quinoa flour pasta: http://flic.kr/p/92gpvG

    Reply

  • Paul Knipple September 15, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Good old spaghetti is a favorite for us. We make up large batches of marinara to freeze. Then we have easy, yummy dinners because the sauce thaws by the time the pasta water boils. <img src="http://www.paulandangela.net/images/marinara_mania.jpg&quot; />

    Reply

  • ncnguyen514 September 15, 2011 at 9:58 am

    My favorite comfort food is mac'n'cheese!

    Reply

  • Allison C September 15, 2011 at 10:48 am

    My favorite comfort food is definitely mac'n'cheese, but I'm craving POT PIE right now!

    Reply

  • Chris September 15, 2011 at 10:50 am

    My favorite comfort food is tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. A very close second is my great-aunt's lentil soup. Just thinking about them makes me feel me feel better on the dreariest of days!

    Reply

  • Lynn Daniell September 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    My all time favorite comes from my roots: Hungarian Goulash Soup ! I'm making that tonight !

    You can follow my recipes here and feel free to join !
    http://jumpintomykitchen.blogspot.com/

    Reply

  • Janel September 15, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I love macaroni and cheese and all of it's variations. You just can't go wrong with pasta and cheese for comfort food!

    Reply

  • fuuchan September 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Taiwanese beef noodle soup as my mom makes it. Its super simple that I can rattle off the ingredient list from the top of my head. The warm, savory aroma fills the house for the entire day after its been made. It freezes so well so any that isn't eaten immediately can be enjoyed for days afterward.
    It MUST be made with economy cuts of beef thick with gristle and connective tissue. The long, slow cooking reduces the meat to velvety, flavorful morsels and gives all its rich flavor and gelatin to the soup.
    It's nearly inedible if made with plain ol' cubed stewing meat.
    Sometimes I just sip the broth if I'm not having a full bowl of noodles. It's one of the recipes I will absolutely cherish my entire life.

    Reply

  • linda shiue September 16, 2011 at 2:44 am

    That Alfredo looks perfect! I often take comfort in an equally simple pasta and sauce equivalent: Chinese noodles tossed with oyster sauce, julienned scallions and grated ginger.

    Reply

  • lynneGB September 17, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Pierogna, hands down. This meal would be on my death row menu.

    Reply

  • Peter September 22, 2011 at 10:20 am

    And the lucky winner of a copy of SAVEUR: The New Comfort Food is: art and lemons! Thank you everyone for your fabulous posts and shares.

    Reply

  • Rick Shepard March 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I searched for awhile for a photo of Alfredo Di Lelio and found only a few. I'm from Rome, Italy, born in 1949. Alfredo alla Scrofa was one of our favorite restaurants. I have a terrific B&W photo from my parents' collection of a rather jovial smiling Alfredo holding a wad of fettuccine in his hand in front of a boy (not me) and his family (they look American, perhaps friends of ours). I also have a prize possession, a wooden pepper mill from the restaurant on which is etched in red the word Alfredo. Would be glad to send a photo of both. Rick Shepard

    Reply

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