The success of this Roman dish depends on first-rate ingredients. If you can find an unsalted European-style butter, such as Plugra (widely available at gourmet groceries), use it here. It has a richer flavor and a lower water content than everyday brands. For the best taste, seek out heavy cream that is not ultrapasteurized. When you buy a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, ask the clerk to cut a wedge fresh from the wheel to make sure it is not too dried out.
In Italy, this luxurious dish is served in small portions as a first course. Try it before a simple main dish of poached or baked fish or grilled meat.
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 5 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- 1 lb. homemade tagliatelle (see related recipe at left) or purchased fresh fettuccine
In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the cream and butter to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 1 minute. Add 6 Tbs. of the cheese and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper and a generous pinch of nutmeg. (Be judicious with the salt. Parmigiano-Reggiano is salty, so too much added salt will throw this creamy, sweet sauce out of balance.)
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), 1 to 3 minutes, depending on the freshness of the pasta. Drain the pasta well.
Put the pasta in a warmed large, shallow bowl. Pour on the sauce, sprinkle with 6 Tbs. of the cheese and toss well. Serve immediately. Pass the remaining cheese at the table. Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course.