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A Brief History of Alfredo Sauce
Alfredo is inspired by the creamy sauce served in the 1920s at the famous Roman restaurant Alfredo alla Scrofa. Their fettuccine Alfredo was made with unsalted butter and aged Parmigiano-Reggiano mixed directly with hot, cooked pasta. The warm pasta water surrounding the strands of fettuccine emulsified with the butter and cheese to coat the pasta, in a similar fashion to cacio e pepe.
Cooks in the United States experimented with the original Alfredo recipe, thickening their sauces with cream cheese, low-moisture mozzarella, or a roux, and flavoring them with minced garlic cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper. These Alfredo sauces were heartier than the original and required less of the expensive Italian cheese than the original recipe called for. While not at all true to the original recipe, American-style Alfredo sauce has its own addictive richness and has become a favorite pasta sauce in its own right.
How to Use Alfredo Sauce in Your Cooking
Although Italian Alfredo sauce is traditionally served with fettuccine, American-style Alfredo lends itself to a wide variety of delicious recipes and pasta shapes. Try substituting other long pasta shapes, like spaghetti or bucatini, for the fettuccine in fettuccine Alfredo, or use Alfredo sauce to coat any twisty or hollow pasta shape, including penne and gemelli.
Though Alfredo past typically pairs best with mild proteins (grilled chicken Alfredo, shrimp Alfredo), it is delightful with dark green veggies like kale and broccoli, whose bitterness balances the richness of the cream sauce. Sauté chopped vegetables separately in olive oil, then combine them with pasta and sauce.
3 Ways to Make Alfredo Sauce
There are many ways to make the best homemade Alfredo sauce, and it seems that the only ingredient these different sauces have in common is grated parmesan cheese. Below are three of the most common types of Alfredo sauce, along with the ingredients you'll need to make them:
- Classic Roman fettuccine Alfredo: The original fettuccine Alfredo sauce isn’t made on the stovetop; instead, add two simple ingredients—room-temperature butter and fresh parmesan cheese—directly to plain pasta.
- Easy American Alfredo sauce: The simplest way to make the best Alfredo sauce is to combine equal parts heavy cream and parmesan cheese in a medium saucepan, simmering over low heat until thickened. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- French-style Alfredo sauce: This is really more of a mornay sauce (béchamel plus cheese), but it's a great way to make a thick Alfredo-style sauce for casseroles, and it stands reheating better than a traditional Alfredo sauce. In this method, melt butter and whisk in flour to make a roux, which thickens the sauce. You can then add cheese and heavy cream to thin the sauce out to your desired consistency.
Easy Homemade Alfredo Sauce Recipe
Prep Time5 min
Total Time15 min
Cook Time10 min
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or white pepper
- In a large skillet over medium heat, combine heavy whipping cream and parmesan cheese. Reduce to low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced by about half, about 10 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve hot with your favorite pasta shape.
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