I Maccheroni alla Moda di Victor

Victor’s Pasta with Parmesan, Butter, and Cream

Many Italians maintain no sauce can match the simple goodness of butter and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan). This is my husband’s own version, to which he has added a little cream.

Simple as the dish appears to be, it has its secrets. One is the sequence in which the ingredients are added to the pasta. Another is the manner in which the pasta is tossed. The basic principle of this sauce is that the cheese must melt in contact with the pasta and coat it. Thus it is added first, while the pasta is steaming hot. You begin to add butter when you see that cheese is coating every strand of spaghetti or every rigatoni. At the end, my husband, who allows no one else to prepare this dish, tosses the pasta with cream to bind all the components smoothly.

Cook the pasta to a firmer consistency than you would ordinarily, because it will continue to cook a little more as you toss it in the hot bowl. Make sure you follow the recipe’s directions for preheating the bowl. If it isn’t hot, the pasta will cool too rapidly and the cheese won’t melt satisfactorily.

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  • 1 pound spaghetti or rigatoni
  • cups freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano (Parmesan)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, partly softened to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Black pepper in a grinder


  1. Place a ceramic bowl in which you will later toss and serve the pasta in a 100° oven.
  2. Drop the pasta into a pot of abundant boiling salted water.
  3. When the pasta is done—barely tender and distinctly firm to the bite—remove the bowl from the oven (remember it’s hot; use a towel or potholders), drain the pasta, and put it in the bowl.
  4. Add ½ cup of the grated cheese, toss the pasta repeatedly, distributing the melting cheese evenly.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter, toss again until the butter has melted, then add another ½ cup of grated cheese and another tablespoon of butter. Toss, turning the pasta over, 10 or 12 times, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and toss again, 4 or 5 times.
  6. Add the cream, distributing it evenly in a thin stream. Toss the pasta again until it absorbs the cream.
  7. Add the remaining ¼ cup of grated cheese, several grindings of pepper, toss 2 or 3 times, and serve at once.