Do we share a similar culinary point of view? Over the years that I've been working within the field of culinary arts, I've slowly drifted away from fussy, overly complicated food, and come to appreciate more and more the deeply rooted satisfaction granted by simple combinations of good ingredients. Personally, I believe human beings' ability to appreciate soul satisfying, simply prepared dishes is built into us, and forces us to close our eyes and smile when we take of bite of something as elemental as, say, Fettuccini Alfredo.
"Fettuccini Alfredo?" you say? Yes, but not that stuff that most U.S. restaurants call "Fettuccini Alfredo" I'm talking about the original, three ingredient, super easy dish of Fettuccini noodles, good butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese invented by Roman restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio sometime in the first quarter of the 20th century. Three ingredients! That's it! No cream, no garlic, but so very good...can you believe it?
Last week I lead my culinary students through their class on the preparation of fresh pasta. Our school may be called Le Cordon Bleu, but the French know a good thing when they taste it, and the art of fresh pasta making is something we instructors take very seriously. Each of them combined one heaping cup of bread flour with two eggs and a pinch of salt, and kneaded the dough until it was smooth and elastic. We then rolled it out nice and thin and cut it into approximately ¼ inch wide by 10-12 inches long fettuccini noodles. We boiled the noodles for 2 to 3 minutes in salted water, and then slipped them into a waiting, gently warmed saute pan that had a good three or four tablespoons of butter softening on its bottom. A generous handful of finely grated Parmesan cheese then covered the noodles, which were carefully tossed in the pan before being splashed with a bit of the precious pasta cooking water to loosen the "sauce" a touch. One more handful of grated cheese followed by another gentle tossing, and the masterpiece was ready!
I think that my students weren't quite ready for just how delicious such a seemingly simple dish was going to be. They were caught off guard by the first bite, but I witnessed almost every one of them closing their eyes and smiling before digging in and devouring the rest.