How to Make Alfredo Sauce

With just a handful of ingredients, 30 minutes, and a bit of know-how, you can have a homemade Alfredo sauce to toss with your fettuccine or use in a variety of creative ways.


What Is Alfredo Sauce?

A creamy, luscious Alfredo sauce is a culinary dream -- a handful of ingredients that add up to something wonderful. It hails from 1920s Rome, where it was created by restaurateur Alfredo di Lello. His hallmark dish, Fettuccine Alfredo, combined hot fettuccine with a sauce made of butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese, with generous grindings of pepper to help add spark to all that richness. While Fettuccine Alfredo is still a classic, much-loved dish, the sauce has become a favorite way to add opulence to many recipes, from casseroles to veggies to pizzas.

Homemade vs. Store-Bought

Sure, you can buy jars or refrigerated containers of Alfredo sauce, and certainly they fill the bill when you're pressed for time. However, some commercial products use cream cheese or food starches as thickeners, which can mute the sauce's hallmark butter, cream, and Parmesan flavors. When you make Alfredo sauce from scratch, it will taste fresher -- and the flavors of those three ingredients will be more vivid. Fortunately, homemade Alfredo sauce takes just minutes to make.

How to Make Alfredo Sauce

It's hard to believe that just three ingredients, plus salt and pepper, can result in such a wonderful sauce. This recipe makes enough sauce to serve with 8 ounces of pasta (four main-dish servings).

1. Gather the Ingredients

You'll need:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling over the final dish, if desired.

Tip: You can use pregrated Parmesan cheese, but it won't have the pronounced, intense freshness of cheese that you grate at home just before you use it. And if you really want to treat yourself to something wonderful, use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the Italian original, imported from Northern Italy). It might be more costly than domestic versions, but it offers a bold, snappy flavor that few look-alikes can match.

2. Thicken the Cream
  • In a 3-quart saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Make sure the butter does not brown -- one of the hallmarks of this sauce is its creamy white color.
  • Carefully pour the cream into the saucepan with the melted butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring the butter-cream mixture to boiling; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the sauce gently until it begins to thicken, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. This will take 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the Cheese
  • Remove the pan from the heat stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Tip: Be sure the pan is off the heat, as high heat can cause cheese to clump or become stringy rather than melt smoothly.

  • Continue stirring until the cheese is incorporated into the sauce. Your sauce is now ready to toss with pasta or use as desired.
4. Toss with Pasta

To serve with pasta, toss the sauce with 8 ounces of hot cooked, drained pasta (fettuccine is traditional and holds the sauce nicely with its long strands, but just about any pasta will work except miniature shapes). Transfer the sauced pasta to a warm serving dish and serve immediately. If desired, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and/or top with snipped fresh Italian parsley.

Other Uses for Alfredo Sauce

Alfredo sauce works well wherever a rich, creamy sauce is called for. Here are a few ideas. You can also use Alfredo sauce in recipes (for some examples, see the recipe links below):

  • Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken and Tomatoes: After Step 2 above, stir 1-1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken and 1/4 cup drained oil-packed snipped dried tomatoes into the thickened sauce. Heat through before adding the Parmesan cheese.
  • Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo: After Step 2 above, stir 12 ounces cooked medium shrimp and 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil into the thickened sauce. Heat through before adding the Parmesan cheese.
  • Alfredo-Sauced Pizza: Use Alfredo sauce as a pizza sauce instead of tomato sauce, and top with your favorite ingredients.
  • Alfredo-Topped Baked Potatoes: Combine Alfredo sauce with cooked vegetables such as peas, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, and red peppers. Heat through and spoon the sauce over hot baked potatoes.
  • Alfredo-Sauced Vegetables: Use as a sauce for cooked broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or a combination of vegetables.
  • Alfredo Meatballs: Combine with cooked meatballs for a luscious appetizer.

How to Make Alfredo Sauce
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