A velvety and creamy homemade alfredo sauce that’s perfect for tossing with tender pasta. The recipe is a simple combination of cream, butter, garlic, parmesan cheese, and nutmeg reduced until it’s a smooth consistency.
Twirling a forkful of noodles covered in a luscious alfredo sauce is a culinary delight. The typical store-bought or Olive Garden stuff can be rather heavy and packed with thickening agents.
This alfredo sauce recipe is made with just seven ingredients and naturally thickened by reducing the liquid. It’s an easy sauce to master, but timing the addition of each ingredient is key to develop its full flavor potential.
A bonus is that it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare! So get those noodles boiling as the sauce simmers. Toss this creamy cheese sauce with your favorite pasta for a fast and satisfying meal.
Alfredo sauce ingredients
A good alfredo sauce is made with simple ingredients; butter, cream, minced garlic, freshly grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. The garlic adds strong pungent aromatics the moment it gently infuses into the butter.
The heavy cream provides richness and velvety consistency. Aged hard parmesan provides a nutty and savory taste. A little salt, pepper, and nutmeg round out the flavor of the sauce.
How to make alfredo sauce
- Heat a large pan over medium-low heat.
- Melt the butter, add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
- Add cream, salt, and pepper, simmer over medium heat.
- Reduce sauce until thickened down to 1 cup.
- Turn off heat and stir in freshly grated parmesan cheese and nutmeg.
- Toss alfredo sauce with pasta and serve hot.
How do you thicken the sauce?
Alfredo sauce is thickened by simmering the cream cheese sauce over medium heat. After about 10 minutes, some of the water in the heavy cream gets evaporated which causes the dairy solids in the sauce to concentrate, thus thickening the sauce.
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 slightly.
What’s the difference between bechamel sauce and alfredo sauce?
Both are dairy-based sauces, however, Bechamel is a Fench white sauce thickened with a roux made with butter and flour. It uses milk and is the start of other popular sauces likes Mornay, which adds cheese for dishes like macaroni and cheese.
Alfredo sauce uses heavy cream that’s 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 this sauce
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 compared to milk, so it’s more stable when using in dairy-based sauces.
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons (6 g) minced garlic
- 1 ½ cup (300 ml) heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- 1 cup (45 g) parmesan cheese, freshly grated, finely shredded
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 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 cream, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper, stir to combine.
- Bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan to make sure the cream does not curdle.
- Reduce the sauce to about 1 cup, about 10 to 12 minutes. The sauce should be slightly thickened, coating the back of a spoon.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and nutmeg. If the sauce is too thick, add in some of the pasta water or more cream, a few tablespoons at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
- Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
- 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