Sometimes I make the best food when I'm not paying attention. I started cooking last night in the midst of an animated discussion with my husband about an interface design problem that had me stumped. While the pasta boiled, I threw together a white sauce, almost an Alfredo, using a little leftover cheese and Parmesan. I had no cream, so I used skim milk plus some 2%—it's lighter anyway. I left out the eggs—why bother?
It was, surprisingly, fabulous—creamy and salty and herbal and earthy; not what I expected from a humble white sauce. What did I do? I can't say exactly, of course, because (as noted) I wasn't paying attention. But here's the gist.
Fettucini (Almost) Alfredo
Pasta (fettucini or fresh tortellini)
3-4 Tbs butter
3 Tbs fresh rosemary leaves, whole
3-4 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
2 oz hard cheese, grated (Edam, Emmental, Gruyère, Cheddar)
1/2 to 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To Make the Pasta
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain and toss with olive oil.
To Make the Sauce
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Throw in the rosemary leaves and cook until the butter just starts to brown, about a minute. Whisk-in the flour and cook, whisking, about 2 minutes, until the roux starts to turn golden.
Reduce the heat and slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly to incorporate it into the roux. Cook on low heat, whisking attentively, until the sauce starts to thicken. It's okay if it boils.
Add the grated cheeses and cook until melted and incorporated. Try not to let it boil at this point. Grate in some fresh nutmeg, and season to taste with salt. Toss the cooked pasta into the saucepan and stir gently to coat with the sauce. Serve with grated Parmesan and fresh black pepper.