Penne Tofu with Impostor Alfredo

Where do newlyweds go on their honeymoon? To all kinds or romantic places, right? And what is more romantic than Rome, where even the word romantic comes from? Imagine a legendary couple (the term celebrity wasn’t trendy yet), both of them world famous movie stars, “America’s Sweetheart” and “The King of Hollywood,”  enjoying their honeymoon in romantic Rome, stopping for a quick bite at a nondescript little restaurant on Via della Scrofa, and coming back to America with a recipe that has since become as beloved as they were.


Here they are, in 1920, embarking on their voyage across the Atlantic. And here is a very short compilation of rare documentary footage.

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, the Hollywood royalty, happened to walk into an ordinary restaurant owned by one Alfredo di Lelio.  A little while before that momentous event, signora di Lelio had been suffering from morning sickness – happens to married women sometimes! – and wasn’t able to keep any food down. Her husband, looking for something neutral,  tossed some butter and Parmesan with plain, or white pasta, pasta in bianco,  and his grateful sposa gobbled it up.  Since she ate this concoction daily – the poor lady couldn’t eat anything else! – he figured he might as well put it on the menu. So he did,  dressing whatever in-house pasta they prepared with butter and Parmesan.

On the day the stars appeared, signor Alfredo was serving fettuccine. They loved it, asked for the recipe, and brought it back to the U.S.  Gracious as usual, they sent Alfredo a gold fork and spoon set engraved “To Alfredo the King of the Noodles.” Fettuccine Alfredo became famous  – in the U.S.! – and so did Alfredo’s restaurant. Today, besides the original Alfredo alla Scrofa restaurant, there is Il Vero Alfredo (the true Alfredo) in Rome, and another one near Rockefeller center in New York. There was one even in Disney World but it closed down – I guess, Mickey and Minnie did not care for pasta too much. Each one of those proudly displays “the original” fork and spoon set with the engraving.  Italians, however, have never bought into this craze, so don’t try to order Fettuccine Alfredo in Italy, other than in Alfredo restaurants. They wouldn’t even know what it is!

I’ve always loved it, though, and I don’t care who calls it what! Altogether, I love cheese, but it doesn’t like me. I am constantly looking for substitutes, and none of them work for me – neither for cooking, nor for noshing.  Until, that is, I came across this miraculous substance – nutritional yeast. I won’t tell you that it tastes like cheese, but with some additions and some tweaking, it tastes delicious.

Imp Alf 1.jpg

I used gluten free penne pasta. First of all, I couldn’t find gluten free fettuccine, and secondly, the only reason fettuccine became a part of the recipe was that it happened to be there on the propitious day of the stars’ visit.

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While the pasta was cooking – and it only took a few minutes to make it al dente – I decided to turn it into a main dish, which meant I had to figure out some non-invasive protein to toss in. I quickly cubed and stir-fried some Extra Firm tofu.

Imp Alf 4

While all of that was cooking and frying, I threw some nutritional yeast, garlic, and lemon juice into the food processor, thought about it some more and added coconut milk and pre-soaked cashews which I was actually getting ready for something else. I pulsed it, and scraped the sides, and pulsed again, and scraped again, added salt and pepper, and pulsed some more.

Imp Alf 5

Eventually, I got something smooth and creamy, a little darker than Alfredo sauce, and not exactly the same taste, but very tasty nonetheless.

Imp Alf 6

In less than ten minutes my pasta was ready and drained, the tofu cubes nicely browned, so all I had to do was to toss it all together, sprinkle some fresh basil on top, and pour a glass of chilled Victor Lazio Chardonnay. Preceded by a delicious Florentine salad (to see recipe, please click here), we had a delightful Italian dinner.

P.S. There was also a No Bake No Dairy Choco-Blueberry cake for desert – please click here!


  • 2 cups cooked pasta (1 cup dry)
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 cup soaked raw cashews
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh basil to garnish


  • Cook pasta according to instructions.
  • Gently press and drain tofu, cube into bite-size pieces. Stir-fry in barely misted frying pan until lightly browned.
  • Place the rest of ingredients into food processor, pulse until smooth. Scrape sides to achieve creamy consistency.
  • Drain pasta, toss with tofu and sauce, garnish with basil.





41 Comments Add yours

  1. Interesting recipe, some new ingredients learnt, nutritional yeast? Cashews would add the creaminess, nice to go through the post, Dolly😊.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Ashy, I just discovered it myself, and I am thrilled!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Will have to find out more about it, I am not aware what it is😊.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s also called nooch, and it’s deactivated yeast, sort of what they look to make beer, but deactivated and dried.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. voulaah says:

    It looks so yummy this recipe
    I want to try that when I have more time next week end

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am so glad you like it, and all you need is less than 10 minutes!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. voulaah says:


        Liked by 1 person


    With reference to your article I have the pleasure to tell you the history of my grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “Fettuccine all’Alfredo” (“Fettuccine Alfredo”) in 1908 in the “trattoria” run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). This “trattoria” of Piazza Rosa has become the “birthplace of fettuccine all’Alfredo”.
    More specifically, as is well known to many people who love the “fettuccine all’Alfredo”, this famous dish in the world was invented by Alfredo Di Lelio concerned about the lack of appetite of his wife Ines, who was pregnant with my father Armando (born February 26, 1908).
    Alfredo di Lelio opened his restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in Rome and in 1943, during the war, he sold the restaurant to others outside his family.
    In 1950 Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 “Il Vero Alfredo” (“Alfredo di Roma”), whose fame in the world has been strengthened by his nephew Alfredo and that now managed by me, with the famous “gold cutlery” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).
    See also the website of “Il Vero Alfredo” .
    I must clarify that other restaurants “Alfredo” in Rome do not belong and are out of my brand “Il Vero Alfredo – Alfredo di Roma”.
    I inform you that the restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo –Alfredo di Roma” is in the registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence” of the City of Rome Capitale.
    Best regards Ines Di Lelio



    Con riferimento al Vostro articolo ho il piacere di raccontarVi la storia di mio nonno Alfredo Di Lelio, inventore delle note “fettuccine all’Alfredo” (“Fettuccine Alfredo”).
    Alfredo Di Lelio, nato nel settembre del 1883 a Roma in Vicolo di Santa Maria in Trastevere, cominciò a lavorare fin da ragazzo nella piccola trattoria aperta da sua madre Angelina in Piazza Rosa, un piccolo slargo (scomparso intorno al 1910) che esisteva prima della costruzione della Galleria Colonna (ora Galleria Sordi).
    Il 1908 fu un anno indimenticabile per Alfredo Di Lelio: nacque, infatti, suo figlio Armando e videro contemporaneamente la luce in tale trattoria di Piazza Rosa le sue “fettuccine”, divenute poi famose in tutto il mondo. Questa trattoria è “the birthplace of fettuccine all’Alfredo”.
    Alfredo Di Lelio inventò le sue “fettuccine” per dare un ricostituente naturale, a base di burro e parmigiano, a sua moglie (e mia nonna) Ines, prostrata in seguito al parto del suo primogenito (mio padre Armando). Il piatto delle “fettuccine” fu un successo familiare prima ancora di diventare il piatto che rese noto e popolare Alfredo Di Lelio, personaggio con “i baffi all’Umberto” ed i calli alle mani a forza di mischiare le sue “fettuccine” davanti ai clienti sempre più numerosi.
    Nel 1914, a seguito della chiusura di detta trattoria per la scomparsa di Piazza Rosa dovuta alla costruzione della Galleria Colonna, Alfredo Di Lelio decise di trasferirsi in un locale in una via del centro di Roma, ove aprì il suo primo ristorante che gestì fino al 1943, per poi cedere l’attività a terzi estranei alla sua famiglia.
    Ma l’assenza dalla scena gastronomica di Alfredo Di Lelio fu del tutto transitoria. Infatti nel 1950 riprese il controllo della sua tradizione familiare ed aprì, insieme al figlio Armando, il ristorante “Il Vero Alfredo” (noto all’estero anche come “Alfredo di Roma”) in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 (cfr. il sito web di Il Vero Alfredo).
    Con l’avvio del nuovo ristorante Alfredo Di Lelio ottenne un forte successo di pubblico e di clienti negli anni della “dolce vita”. Successo, che, tuttora, richiama nel ristorante un flusso continuo di turisti da ogni parte del mondo per assaggiare le famose “fettuccine all’Alfredo” al doppio burro da me servite, con l’impegno di continuare nel tempo la tradizione familiare dei miei cari maestri, nonno Alfredo, mio padre Armando e mio fratello Alfredo. In particolare le fettuccine sono servite ai clienti con 2 “posate d’oro”: una forchetta ed un cucchiaio d’oro regalati nel 1927 ad Alfredo dai due noti attori americani M. Pickford e D. Fairbanks (in segno di gratitudine per l’ospitalità).
    Un aneddoto della vita di mio nonno. Alfredo fu un grande amico di Ettore Petrolini, che conobbe nei primi anni del 1900 in un incontro tra ragazzi del quartiere Trastevere (tra cui mio nonno) e ragazzi del Quartiere Monti (tra cui Petrolini). Fu proprio Petrolini che un giorno, già attore famoso, andando a trovare l’amico Alfredo, gli disse che lui era un “attore” della cucina romana nel mondo e gli consigliò di attaccare alle pareti del ristorante le sue foto con i noti personaggi soprattutto dello spettacolo, del cinema e della cultura in genere che erano ospiti di “Alfredo”. Anche ciò fa parte del cuore della bella tradizione di famiglia che continuo a rendere sempre viva con affetto ed entusiasmo.
    Desidero precisare che altri ristoranti “Alfredo” a Roma non appartengono e sono fuori dal mio brand di famiglia.
    Vi informo che il Ristorante “Il Vero Alfredo” è presente nell’Albo dei “Negozi Storici di Eccellenza – sezione Attività Storiche di Eccellenza” del Comune di Roma Capitale.
    Grata per la Vostra attenzione ed ospitalità nel Vostro interessante blog, cordiali saluti
    Ines Di Lelio

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cara Singora Di Lelio, I am so very excited about your very gracious and detailed response! I know Piazza Augusto Imperatore, but unfortunately have never been inside your family’s famous restaurant. The history of your family is so fascinating that I truly appreciate your taking the time to share it with my readers and myself. I would like to ask your permission to include your comment in my blog as a post, so that more people can enjoy it and learn from it. And of course, next time I am in Italy, I will make sure to stop by and thank you in person.
      Per quanto riguarda più profonde, Dolly Aizenman


      1. I thank you for publishing my article. I will be happy to have you as my guest at my restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” in Piazza Augusto Imperatore – Rome, founded by my grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio. Cordiali saluti Ines Di Lelio

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Mille grazie! When I publish your article, I will send you the link.
        Here is the link:


  5. lilyandardbeg says:

    That’s a brilliant recipe: super fast and seems rather tasty (and, as always, I love the story) 🙂 will have a go (I’ll probably use some miso paste for tofu, it’s a life long addiction). Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I hope you like it. I’ve never used miso paste; does it give you the same chewy texture as tofu?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lilyandardbeg says:

        It just adds flavour, umami/fermented. I love it and use it pretty much everyday. I even make my own 🙂 It’s just fermented soy, barley (or rye) with salt. I absolutely love it. Korean miso paste is rather decent (Japanese is often hard to get-well, in the UK at least).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you! I love miso soup, and it’s hard to find kosher miso paste, so now I’ll look into making it on my own. Still, it wouldn’t give you the same texture as chunks of tofu, would it?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. lilyandardbeg says:

        ah, no, I use miso paste with/on tofu: when I fry tofu I habitually use miso paste on it, I like the combo so much that when a recipe says : ‘tofu’ my brain gets ‘misotofu’ message 🙂


      4. I got it, thanks, will try.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. lilyandardbeg says:

        I like bitter, umami and seaweed-type tastes (thus the caraway). I love African robusta coffee, single malt whisky from Islay, broccoli, mushrooms, yeast and fermented food. So, some people might consider my taste terrible, though I prefer the term ‘sophisticated’ (another disclaimer: my taste is not sophisticated, really, I’m just using it as a euphemism for ‘acquired’ – though I must have acquired it very early in life…) Ah, I’ve checked, you can get kosher miso paste in the UK, so hopefully it’s available in the USA as well 🙂


      6. Oh,I have the same “terrible” taste in almost everything. Whisky I leave to my husband. I love good cognac and I like grappa. Fermented foods are very healthy,and,as you know, I pickle everything. Thank you for checking on kosher miso paste. I’ve been able to buy it,occasionally, but as there aren’t many customers who buy it, stores don’t carry it. Next time I am in NYC,I’ll stock up on it (and also on cognac!).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Love tofu – this looks great so I’ll be trying it here at IK HQ😀. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I hope you like it, and I hope Izzie likes it too!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sumith Babu says:

    Fettucini Alfredo with tofu and cashewnuts!! An amazing combination of flavours😊 I love Alfredo sauce:) worked 6 years in an Italian kitchen in cruise liners, reminds me those good memories. Thanks for this post Dolly

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sumith, I really appreciate your opinion!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Looks fantastic! I love tofu.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am glad you like it – I love tofu myself and try to invent all kinds of dishes with it.


  9. This is a great vegan alternative!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And all it takes is less than 10 minutes!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on koolkosherkitchen and commented:

    Today is a National Fetuccine Alfredo Day, says Enjoy my non-dairy imitation of this legendary dish, Beautiful People, and please remember: my book is only one click away ar amazon/author/koolkosherkitchen.


    1. Thank you for pingback.


    1. Thank you for reblogging.


    1. Thank you so much, dear Carol!


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