In the immortal words of Matthew McConoughey, alright, alright, alright… look at this meal—this is pretty terrific looking, no? (And it even looks great before you find out how cheap it is!)
I was on a quest to find some new pastas that looked good, tasted delicious, felt like Spring, and slid in under the wire at a truly reasonable budget. My brain locked onto the notion of tapenade, but in the spirit of green I went for some brightly-hued Castevetrano olives as the anchor. I love love love tapenade (read: olives; read: salt), but when made with black olives it is not always the prettiest condiment at the ball.
And then I wondered if pairing something creamy with the tapenade might not be a nice way to temper the intensity of the brininess, so when thoughts of creamy pasta float through the mind, the word alfredo is never far behind. And then we needed a vegetable. A cheap and cheerful and substantial vegetable. Green beans! One of the biggest bargains at the store, especially when they are in season and it feels like you are getting them for almost nothing.
Fettuccine Alfredo with Green Beans and Tapenade: No one will ever think this beautiful, sophisticated, delicious pasta costs about $3 per serving.Tweet This
The Parmesan and the olives are the priciest of all the ingredients, but you really don’t need all that much of each. And yes, you can buy the best aged authentic DOP Parmesan at the store, and spend more, but if you go with one of the less expensive versions (even domestic *gasp*) you can get off pretty cheaply. Just promise me that you will never reach for grated cheese in a can, that’s all I ask. And the olives are the base of the tapenade, which is the flavor punch that propels this Spring Fettuccine Alfredo from soft and innocuous to…. alright, alright, alright.
Otherwise the cost of the ingredients is quite moderate. And I was not reaching for the organic cream or the French butter here—my mission was clear—a sexy pasta on a budget.
Pasta on A Budget
Here’s the breakdown of costs:
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter – $0.75
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic – $0.10
- 1 cup heavy cream – $1.50
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste – $0.05
- ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan, divided – $3.00
- 1 pound dried fettucine – $1.00
- 3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half crosswise (about 2-inch pieces) – $2.00
- ½ cup Green Olive Tapenade (1/2 recipe) – $3.00
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley – $0.50
How to Make Fettuccine Alfredo
To make this pasta, melt the butter, and give the garlic a quick sauté. Whisk in the cream, simmer until slightly thickened, then whisk in some of the Parmesan.
While that’s happening, you cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the green beans to the pot for the last few minutes of cooking (little bean cooking shortcut). Return them to the pot and add the alfredo sauce, toss and plate it up.
You can do this in one large serving bowls or individual bowls. Then start dolloping that tapenade on top. A little parsley, a little more Parmesan, and toss (or let your guests toss their own—the presentation of the tapenade mounded on top with a shower of Parm is a pretty one).
You can then tell your friends or family how cheap this Spring Fettuccine Alfredo was…or just keep that little nugget to yourself.
Serve this with a colorful salad, such as:
- Baby Romaine, Chickpea, and Root Vegetable Salad with Slightly Spicy Dressing
- Romaine and Slivered Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing
- Fennel and Endive Salad
- Zucchini Ribbon Salad
- Endive, Arugula and Orange Salad
- 3 Great and Really Simple Green Salads
And if you’re looking for more cheap and cheerful Spring-friendly pastas…..
- Simple Vegetarian Spring Pasta Salad
- Pasta with Creamy Sundried Tomato and Scallion Sauce
- Campanelle with Chicken Sausage, Kale and Olives
- Pasta with Sautéed Kale and Toasted Bread Crumbs
- Pasta with Edamame, Mint and Basil Pesto
- Simple Ramp Pasta
- Thin Spaghetti with Fennel, Bacon and Parmesan
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Fettuccine Alfredo with Green Beans and Tapenade
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan divided
- 1 pound dried fettucine
- ¾ pound green beans trimmed and cut in half crosswise (about 2-inch pieces)
- ½ cup Green Olive Tapenade ½ recipe
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute until it just turns golden. Whisk in the cream and bring to a simmer. Season with salt (go lightly because of the salty tapenade) and pepper, then simmer for about 8 minutes until it its reduced and thickened. Whisk in ½ cup of the grated Parmesan.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fettucine according to package directions, adding the cut green beans during the last two minutes of cooking. Drain the pasta and green beans.
- Return the cooked pasta and the beans to the same pot, and pour in the hot alfredo sauce. Toss to coat the pasta and beans well.
- Immediately turn the pasta and beans into a shallow serving dish or plate it up in individual bowls. Give a final grind of black pepper, dollop over the tapenade, sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan and either toss yourself, or let each diner toss their serving. Sprinkle with parsley as desired and serve hot.
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