Elaine’s Fettuccine Alfredo


Elaine’s fettuccine alfredo.

If it was good enough for Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, this fettuccine alfredo recipe is worth a try. (Kennedy-Onassis said it was “terrific, ” by the way.)

As recipes go, this is a simple one. Like so many  gourmet dishes, the magic is in the ingredients. A fine quality cheese is essential. The cup and a half of heavy cream doesn’t hurt, either.

So, who was this Elaine after whom the dish was named?


Elaine was the infamous New York restauranteur Elaine Kaufman, proprietress of the eponymous upper east side Manhattan restaurant that attracted the who’s who of the New York celebrity and intellectual scene from 1963 until its closing in 2011 after her death. Her restaurant was so quintessentially New York that Woody Allen filmed a scene from Manhattan in the restaurant. Billy Joel mentioned the restaurant in the lyrics of Big Shot.

Kaufman was designated a living landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2003.

Her eccentricities were legendary. 

After graduating from high school, she dyed her hair green (this was in the 40s!) and refused to seek permanent employment in the limited range of mostly office jobs open to women. (I don’t know for sure, but I suspect dyeing one’s hair green would pretty much foreclose most job interviews in the 1940s.) Eventually, she opened a restaurant in a then-unfashionable section of Manhattan.

Kaufman’s Elaine’s, a saloon and a salon, was less known for the food than it was for the scene–a fact that irritated Kaufman to no end.

Elaine’s was far from a luxe destination. Comedian Alan King described the restaurant as being decorated “like a stolen car.”

Kaufman said of her venture, “I live the party life. Elsa Maxwell used to have to send out invitations. I just open the door.” And flock they did. From Sinatra to Allen. From Mailer to Styron. From Baryshnikov to Ephron. Even Trump. They came. (I bet Elaine didn’t take any ‘tude from Trump! Just sayin…)





Like Seinfeld’s “soup nazi,” you didn’t cross the mercurial Kaufman. She regularly railed at the mediocre reviews her restaurant received for its food. She once punched a belligerent customer in the face. Regularly, she yelled at customers who took her restaurant for granted and didn’t order enough food. She was fiercely protective of her customers, once hurling a garbage can lid at paparazzi photographer Ron Galella.

She had a sense of humor, too. Once when she was asked for directions to Elaine’s restroom, Kaufman, without missing a beat,  told the customer “Take a right at Michael Caine.”

Here is a link to the obituary that the NY Times ran when Kaufman died. It is worth your time to read if only for the Normal Mailer anecdote.

Elaine’s Kaufman’s Obit in NY Times

This recipe was adapted from a recipe that originally was published in the New York Times. The link to the original recipe appears at the end of this post.

Ingredients: Elaine’s Fettuccine Alfredo.
2 T. sweet butter
1 small clove garlic (finely chopped)
1 1/2 C. heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
1 pound fresh fettuccine
1 C. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Garnish with minced parsley or basil leaves


Melt sweet butter in a large saucepan. Add garlic and sauté until it is fragrant but not brown. Whisk cream and egg yolk in a bowl and pour mixture into butter/garlic mixture. On medium low heat, cook cream mixture until it reduces and thickens a bit. Do not let mixture boil.

Boil fettuccine in a pot of water until it is al dente. Drain.

Pour cooked fettuccine into the cream sauce and stir until the fettuccine is well mixed in the sauce. You can add a bit of pasta cooking water if you need to make the sauce more liquid as you cook it. Add grated cheese and toss to mix.

Garnish with parsley or basil and lots of freshly-ground pepper.


Here is a link to the original NY Times recipe for Elaine’s Fettuccine Alfredo:

Elaine’s Fettuccine Alfredo from The New York Times

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