Penne Tofu with Impostor Alfredo

This is my humble contribution to the National “Italian Food” Day, as announced by Foodimentarycom.

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.

Image result for il vero alfredo images

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.

Image result for il vero alfredo images

This is one of the most exciting events that have ever happened to me. Statistically, the chances of something like this happening are so minuscule as to make one believe in pure coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidences, though, so I think there is a message here somewhere. A while ago, I posted this recipe for Penne Tofu with Impostor Alfredo.  In my post, I mentioned the history of the famous Alfredo sauce which I pieced together from several sources, but mainly this one: .  The very next day, among other comments, I received this long and fascinating article written by the granddaughter of Signor Alfredo di Lelio – THE Alfredo! 

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.


28 Comments Add yours

  1. What a story Dolly, and a comment from mr Alfredo himself, that’s just fabulous. Your vegan Alfredo sauce sounds wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Myra! Sr Alfredo is not around already, so the comment is from his granddaughter who is now running the restaurant.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah yes of course 🙂 still awesome

        Liked by 1 person

  2. lghiggins says:

    Very interesting history of Pickford and Fairbanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Linda!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That sounds so very good, the whole menu!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Mimi! I am so crazy about everything Northern Italian that this weekend I am doing an entire Italian dinner for a bunch of guests.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A_Boleyn says:

    Amazing story about the ‘invention’ of that delicious dish. I’m very sympathetic of the hoops you have to go through to deal with your dairy and other issues.

    Have you ever tried pasta made with chickpea flour/besan? Tastes good and it’s not bad texture wise. A little fragile since you don’t get any gluten development. Here’s the link to my livejournal page.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the link. I have never tried to make pasta with besan (honestly, I haven’t made my pasta for ages!), but I tried besan in crepes, pancakes, and savory muffins, where I would usually use either soy or coconut flour, In all three cases I liked it, but my husband commented on “funny taste.”
      The gluten issue here is not mine, but my husband’s, and it has to do with adult ADHD, rather than allergy or celiac disorder. For this purpose, spelt is fine, and even whole wheat or multigrain, which is not gluten free, but gluten reduced, is acceptable.
      Isn’t this Alfredo story amazing, though?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. spearfruit says:

    Interesting article, Interesting receipe. Thanks for sharing Dolly

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Gary.


    1. Thank you so much, Derrick

      Liked by 1 person

  6. A very intresting story – and good recipe ( except tofu ! ) may be cheese as gruère ?
    merci – amitiés 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course, you can use cheese, if you can have cheese, but I can’t, so for me tofu is a good alternative. I do miss cheeses so!
      Thank you for your kind comment, darling!


  7. Love especially the vegan sauce. And all guten free is fantastic too. Thank you, Dolly! Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Michael. Have a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Dolly! You too! Michael

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love everything cooked with coconut milk😃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am with you on that! Thank you for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. ilonapulianauskaite says:

    Hi, i love food, i like to cook and to eat even more, you are a great cooker, i like your energy and smile on your mine picture, always calls me to stop by and to express my opinion about your meal😌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment dear Ilona; I am so glad you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Food happens. This is really an interesting history of a recipe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for a wonderful phrase “food happens.” I’ll quote you as soon as I have a chance!


  11. Shades of Mom says:

    Wow. Surely going to try. Thanks for the post


    1. Thank you so much; I am so glad you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

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