Alfredo Sauce

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This rich and creamy alfredo sauce is effortless to prepare! I’ll show you how to reduce the garlic cream sauce until it’s a thick, smooth consistency—perfect for tossing with fettuccine.

Alfredo sauce and fettuccine pasta in a pan
Table of Contents
  1. Cream selection
  2. Garlic elevates the flavor
  3. Cheese selection
  4. How do you thicken the sauce?
  5. What’s the difference between bechamel sauce and alfredo sauce?
  6. Ways to use it
  7. FAQ
  8. Alfredo Sauce Recipe

A simple culinary delight is twirling a forkful of noodles covered in a creamy alfredo sauce. I know it’s tempting to head to the Olive Garden to satisfy a craving or grab a store-bought jar, but they are loaded with thickening agents and preservatives to keep the dairy shelf-stable. In under 30 minutes, you can make this restaurant-quality gourmet sauce at home.

My recipe has seven ingredients with a straightforward process. However, timing the addition of each component is key to developing its full flavor potential. The magic happens right on the stovetop. It’s naturally thickened by reduction, evaporating some liquid until velvety in texture. Get those noodles boiling as the sauce simmers, then toss them together for a quick and easy meal.

ingredients to make alfredo sauce

Cream selection

I use heavy cream, also labeled as heavy whipping cream. It usually contains no less than 36% milkfat, providing a nice velvety consistency. The high amount of fat reduces the chance of the sauce curdling, which is critical during the reduction process. 

Recipe Resources

Garlic elevates the flavor

Cream has a neutral taste, so it needs a spicy kick like minced garlic to infuse more flavor. I briefly saute the garlic in melted butter to mellow the harsh sulfurous notes and develop a nuttiness to the sauce. You don’t want to brown the butter or burn the garlic. Just a minute or less is all you need to transform that raw, intense taste.

butter and garlic sautéing in a pan

Cheese selection

A hard, dry-aged Italian-style cheese is a beautiful addition to the cream base. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano are excellent choices. The aging process creates a granular texture, heightening the salty, nutty taste and enhancing the sauce’s flavor.

You’re not looking for a stringy cheese pull like mozzarella. I recommend finely grating the cheese with a microplane. The smaller pieces dissolve quicker into the cream, better distributing its flavor.

How do you thicken the sauce?

The alfredo sauce thickens by simmering it over medium heat until reduced to about ⅓ of its volume. After about 10 minutes, some of the water in the heavy cream evaporates, causing the dairy solids to concentrate, thus thickening the texture.

Stirring in a generous amount of grated parmesan cheese also adds viscosity. I reduce the sauce to 1 cup, but it will thicken up more as it cools.

grated parmesan cheese added to white cream sauce

What’s the difference between bechamel sauce and alfredo sauce?

Both are dairy-based sauces. However, Bechamel is a French white sauce thickened with a roux made with butter and flour. It uses milk and is the start of other popular sauces like Mornay, which adds cheese for dishes like macaroni and cheese.

Alfredo sauce uses heavy cream thickened by reduction on the stovetop, then finished with Parmesan cheese. Just make sure to continuously stir the sauce and scrape the bottom and side of the pan so that those hotter areas don’t become curdled as the sauce cooks down.

Ways to use it

FAQ

What is traditional alfredo sauce made of?

A good alfredo sauce is made with simple ingredients; butter, heavy cream, minced garlic, freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. It’s simmered on the stovetop until the sauce has reduced to a thick consistency.

Can I use whipping cream instead of heavy cream?

Yes, you can use whipping cream. However, it contains 30 to 36% milkfat compared to at least 36% milkfat in heavy cream. The difference means that the sauce will not be as rich and thick. If you want similar amounts of fat, add 20% more whipping cream. For this recipe, 1 ¾ cups of whipping cream and reduce until 1 cup is reached.

What is the difference between Parmesan cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano?

Parmigiano Reggiano is exclusively made in Northern Italy (Parma, Bologna, Reggio Emilia, and Modena). The production uses strict guidelines on regional ingredients. It’s also aged between 12 months to 3 years for maximum flavor. Parmesan is aged for at least 10 months but can be produced in any location, making it less expensive. Both can be used interchangeably in recipes.

spoon mixing alfredo sauce in a pan

Prevent curdling in cream sauces

Curdling is when the proteins in milk clump together. This happens when the emulsion of fat, water, and protein by high heat (boiling) or acid (lemon juice) gets disrupted. Heavy cream has a higher proportion of fat-to-protein than milk, so it’s more stable when used in dairy-based sauces. To ensure a smooth consistency, you need to agitate the sauce to prevent curdling or film from forming on the surface.

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Alfredo Sauce

Easy to make homemade alfredo sauce recipe that’s perfect for tossing with fettuccine noodles and chicken or shrimp.
Pin Print Review
4.62 from 36 votes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, as needed for seasoning
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, or parmigiano reggiano
  • teaspoon nutmeg

Instructions 

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add butter. Once melted, add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Do not brown the butter or garlic.
  • Add the heavy cream, salt, pepper, and stir to combine. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, frequently stirring, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan to make sure the cream does not curdle.
  • Reduce the sauce to about 1 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. The consistency should be slightly thickened and be able to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and nutmeg. If the sauce is too thick, add water or more cream. Add 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency—season with salt and pepper to taste.

Equipment

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 1 cup of sauce, enough for 8 ounces of pasta. Double the ingredients for 1 pound of pasta.
  • Serving Size: 1/4 cup
  • Storing: Cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating: Warm in a pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add more cream or water if needed.

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Nutrition Facts
Alfredo Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 357 Calories from Fat 306
% Daily Value*
Fat 34g52%
Saturated Fat 21g105%
Cholesterol 114mg38%
Sodium 715mg30%
Potassium 68mg2%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 10g20%
Vitamin A 1245IU25%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 337mg34%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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17 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Tami M says

    I have never made an Alfredo sauce before, and this one looks nice and thick & rich….unlike so many that look thin and without substance. I’ll comment again once I make it, but guess who’s going to get some Fettuccini today? hehehe Jessica….this looks WONDERFUL!!! A sauce my Italian Gramma would have been proud of. 😀

  2. Ian says

    I mean, the simplest Alfredo sauce sauce is simply butter, parmigiano-reggiano and pasta water to thicken, but this sounds delicious.

  3. Debra says

    I made this recipe after trying many others that just didnt cut it. This one is absolutely the best! Easy, delicious, and with a hint of nutmeg! This is now my go to! Thank you Jessica!

  4. Akash says

    nice recipe, made it a few times, but can you suggest a way to make it feel lighter? maybe a less strong cheese or some sort of freshness in the dish?

    Great recipe though, works perfectly

  5. Cecil says

    I use this to cream spinach…it is wonderful and quite easy. Just saute the spinach first to remove most of the moisture so it does not dilute the Alfredo.

  6. Jim S. says

    I have to disagree with you on this sauce. I’m sure it is very tasty, it just is not the sauce created by Alfredo Di Lelio in the nineteenth century.

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