Chicken alfredo combines a creamy pasta sauce with tender slices of lean protein. The white meat is butterflied for quick cooking and seasoned for maximum flavor. The heavy cream reduces until a smooth and velvety sauce is able to cling to the fettuccine noodles.
This chicken alfredo recipe has simple ingredients like cream, garlic, parmesan cheese, fettuccine noodles, and tender chicken breast. A classic combination of flavors for a gourmet Italian dinner that your family will love!
Chicken can be tricky to cook the meat evenly throughout. I find that butterflying or cutting the chicken through the center to create two thinner pieces ensures faster and more uniform cooking. The cream simmers until it thickens, driving off moisture so that each noodle is coated in the delicious cheese sauce.
How to make chicken alfredo
- Cut the chicken into four cutlets.
- Season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
- Heat the olive oil and then add the chicken, cook until internal temperature reaches 165ºF (74ºC).
- Slice chicken into ½-inch pieces.
- Cook the fettuccine pasta until al dente, then drain in a colander.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.
- Add 2 tablespoon butter, once melted add garlic and saute until fragrant.
- Add heavy cream, salt, and pepper.
- Bring to a simmer, stir to prevent curdling and reduce to 1 cup of sauce.
- Stir in parmesan cheese and nutmeg.
- Toss pasta with the alfredo sauce, top with chicken and parsley.
Faster cooking chicken
Cooking the entire chicken breast in a pan can be challenging. Since its thicker on one end and tapers towards the bottom, it can often yield raw or dried out areas. An easy way to fix this issue is to butterfly the chicken.
A quick slice through the center of the meat saves time and provides uniform pieces for even cooking. The chicken can also be pounded to an even thickness with a mallet or rolling pin, just make sure to still cut the breast in two.
Flavoring the chicken
I like to keep the seasonings simple with kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and sweet paprika. A small amount of the red spice creates a gorgeous golden hue on the surface. Cooking over medium heat in a stainless steel pan provides a nice sear and keeps it juicy.
A long, flat noodle-like Fettuccine provides more surface area for the creamy cheese sauce to stick onto. Although noodles with holes in the center like bucatini or penne can trap the sauce inside for flavorful bites. Cook the noodles until al dente because mushy pasta will absorb too much sauce instead of coat it.
Making a cream sauce
The alfredo sauce is made by reduction, which means simmering the mixture of ingredients until it thickens. The cream, garlic, butter, salt, and pepper are reduced first since most of the moisture is coming from the dairy products. This allows for better monitoring as the consistency of the cream changes.
The parmesan cheese is added at the very end to just melt it in the sauce and prevent clumping. This adds a nice savory and nutty flavor to the dish. Toss immediately then serve with sliced chicken and chopped parsley.
Serve this with
More Pasta recipes
Save some pasta water
The water used to boil the noodles will be salty and starchy. The starches released from the cooked wheat can help thicken the sauce and add a bit more savory seasoning. It can also correct an over-reduced or cooled sauce by making to looser. This better coats the noodles so it doesn’t feel too heavy. Start with 1 tablespoon water, toss with pasta, and add more as needed.
- 1 pound (454 g) boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, and as needed for seasoning
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, as needed for seasoning
- paprika, as needed for seasoning
- 3 quarts (946 ml) water
- 8 ounces (227 g) fettuccine
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 2 teaspoons (6 g) minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cup (300 ml) heavy cream
- 1 cup (45 g) parmesan cheese, freshly grated, finely shredded
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon (4 g) chopped parsley
- Cut each chicken breast in half through the center to create two cutlets, four total.
- Lightly season both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat, once the pan is hot add the olive oil.
- Add the chicken and cook for 6 minutes. Flip over and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 5 to 7 minutes, turn off the heat.
- Rest the chicken for 5 minutes and then slice into ½-inch thick pieces.
- Wash and dry the pan to use for making the alfredo sauce.
- Bring 3 quarts of water and 1 ½ teaspoon salt to a boil in a large pot.
- Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes, or according to manufacturers directions.
- Place noodles in a colander and do not discard water.
- While the noodles are cooking, make the alfredo sauce.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.
- Add the butter, once melted add the 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.
- Add the pasta to the sauce, gently tossing to combine.
- Divide the pasta among bowls, top with sliced chicken and chopped parsley.
- Double the sauce and noodle ingredients to make 4 larger entree portions. Reduce the sauce to 2 cups, the time may take longer to reduce the sauce.
- If the sauce concentrates too much, just add a few tablespoons of hot pasta water or cream.