Alfredo sauce originated in Rome during the early 1900s, when master chef Alfredo di Lelio combined select ingredients to satisfy and nourish his pregnant wife. The simple but flavorful sauce was originally served over fettuccine, or egg noodles, which absorb the sauce's rich, fatty flavor. Alfredo di Lelio's dish remains a favorite among people in all stages of life, including pregnancy. In general, dishes containing Alfredo sauce are safe for pregnant women.
Food Safety in Pregnancy
The American Pregnancy Association, APA, urges expectant mothers to use caution when selecting foods, since many popular foods can cause serious complications for the mother or unborn child. The APA specifically urges women to avoid raw, unpasteurized dairy products, since these may contain listeria, a form of bacteria responsible for miscarriage, stillbirth and infections in the newborn. According to the Centers for Disease Control, pregnant women account for 17 percent of diagnosed cases of listeria infection. Proper precautions are essential for the health of both the mother and baby.
Traditionally, Alfredo sauce was a very simple food containing few ingredients. Alfredo di Lelio's original recipe contained equal parts unsalted butter and grated Parmesan cheese. In the United States, where unpasteurized butter is rare, Alfredo sauce carries little or no chance of contamination -- especially since it is cooked thoroughly before serving. Extrapolations of this recipe may include a variety of spices and seasonings, such as pepper, cream, milk, garlic, onion, mushroom or starch. None of the ingredients commonly used in Alfredo sauce carry any specific risk for pregnant women.
Although the risk of illness from Alfredo sauce is slim, pregnant women should not overindulge in fatty foods. Traditional Alfredo sauce contains excessive amounts of saturated fat, which can be harmful to the health of an expectant mother. Heidi Murkoff, author of the "What to Expect" series, recommends that pregnant women get no more than 30 percent of their calories from fat. Excessive dietary fat during pregnancy can cause women to gain too much weight, which may be difficult to shed after the baby's birth.
General precautions can help to prevent food-borne illness during all stages of pregnancy. To prevent infection from listeria, the Centers for Disease Control urges pregnant women to cook all meats, eggs and dairy products thoroughly before eating them. Homemade Alfredo sauce made from unpasteurized butter should be heated to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy any possible traces of listeria. Additionally, pregnant women should thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables to eliminate bacteria that could cause food-borne illness.