How To Make A Perfectly Thick Alfredo Sauce (Bonus: Tips From Pro Chefs & Answer To All Common Questions)
Something smells delicious in the kitchen. Tonight’s dinner – Fabulous Fettuccine Alfredo.
Here comes the fabulous moment; pouring the perfectly-made alfredo sauce on the pasta, combining to a perfect mix.
Boy, do we love eating great pasta!
This marvelous sauce is simple, yet so tasty. There are dozens of recipes out there for preparing it, and thousands of recipes for fabulous meals include the alfredo sauce; it is famous worldwide, and many cultures enjoy it every day. Perfectly cooked, it will enrich the dish, adding opulence and succulent aroma.
In the perfect world, you’ll have the perfect ingredients, the perfect execution, and the perfect dinner every time. No curdling, perfect blending, and flawless serving.
But, we don’t live in a perfect world.We’re not professional chefs; sauces we make usually don’t have the perfect thickness, texture, etc.
They simply don’t end looking perfect like we see it on screen. Our sauces get loose, watery, or even worse; we get the horrible lumps all over our pasta.
You are probably wondering:
"How to thicken alfredo sauce perfectly? What is the best method?"
Today we’re talking about this magnificent sauce, and everything about it; how to prepare it, how to thicken it, and which are the best recipes. We share some tips from pro chefs and answer the most common questions about the process of making a perfect alfredo sauce.
Let’s make that sauce PERFECT. EVERY TIME.
Heads up: This article is quite long, so we separated it into sections and made buttons just for you to jump to desired sections right away:
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What is Alfredo sauce/origins?
This incredibly easy to prepare (but difficult to master) sauce comes from 1920s Italy when famous chef Alfredo Di Lello made it for his well-known Fettuccine Alfredo, a dreamy pasta everyone craved for.
The famous recipe consisted of heavy cream, butter, and parmesan cheese. It retained the core ingredients, but it evolved through time, gaining popularity worldwide, especially in the US, where it arrived in the 30s with Italian immigrants
The sauce is originally created for pasta, but smart and witty chefs around the world created many versions of the sauce and provided dozens of new and intuitive ways to add this sauce to many meals, enriching the taste significantly.
They even started using it in meals where the tomato sauce was the main ingredient. Imagine a pizza with Alfredo sauce instead of classic tomato sauce.
The sauce has numerous variations today and numerous variations in preparing. Many chefs have different approaches coating their meals with this incredible sauce. Any chef will guarantee that his method is the best; rivalry-like relations between sauces and chefs exist from the dawn of time.
This is a good thing, as the masters of the craft compete against each other to provide the explosion of taste and delight in our mouths. May that competition never end.
All of us tried to prepare Alfredo sauce at least once. It went well, or didn’t, but we all had the experience of creating it, or at least witnessing it being made by the chef on screen. It’s so simple that an amateur could make it, right?
We usually get fired up after we see the latest Top Chef show, and go to the kitchen to make it on our own. The main difference between the TV show and reality – the final product isn’t as good as it is on screen. This sauce tends to curdle while cooking and it’s somewhat difficult to reach the perfect thickness.
There are many solutions to this problem, and we’ll try to address it, through buying the sauce, cooking it, the process of thickening, and the advice from professionals.
Cooking vs. buying Alfredo sauce
Many people (the laziest of us) don’t bother with cooking the sauce if they can’t hit the perfect thickness. It’s always easier to go and buy the stuff. The advantages of this approach are obvious, but here’s the deal: homemade Alfredo sauce tastes ten times better. It is fresh, rich in flavor, and, of course, you can add your personal touch to the sauce.
Making the Alfredo sauce
If Italian cuisine has taught us anything, it’s that simplicity is usually a good thing. Alfredo sauce is a testament to that philosophy and proves that only three ingredients (and a bit of spices), can make a wonderful, tasty dish.
As far as the ingredients are concerned, it is best to choose fresh ones. If you don’t mind paying a few extra coins for freshly made pasta, it would be highly recommendable to buy it. Butter and cream from grass-fed cows are always a healthier and more desirable option.
Here is a simple recipe which can be prepared in less than 15 minutes. This amount of sauce is enough for about 400g of pasta, which can serve 3-4 people. Here is the process of making the Alfredo sauce, broken down into steps. Follow these six simple steps, and you’ll have fun making this absolutely delicious dish.
- ½ cup of butter
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- 1 ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
1. Melt the butter
- Throw the butter in a medium sized saucepan.
- Put it on medium heat and let the butter melt.
- Make sure that you keep occasionally stirring. This will prevent the butter from burning and browning.
Alfredo sauce is known for its white color, so browned butter might ruin the aesthetics of this creamy creation. Don’t let the butter boil. By boiling it will start separating, and you won’t have a creamy sauce. Be patient and careful.
2. Add the cream
When your butter has melted nicely, it is time to add the heavy cream. Do this by pouring it slowly into the saucepan. It is crucial to keep stirring while pouring since the ingredients will mix better this way.
We recommend a wooden spoon for this process, but any other mixing tool would be okay as well (e.g. whisk).
3. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil
After all of the cream is in the pan, nicely mixed with the butter, you should have a silky substance. The next thing to do is bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat. After it starts boiling, reduce the heat to low, and let the sauce simmer for about 8 minutes. This process will lower the moisture of the sauce, and it will start to thicken.
4. Add salt and pepper
There is nothing worse than a bland-tasting Italian dish! While the sauce is simmering, add the spices for a proper flavor. Stir them well, so salt and pepper will spread evenly in the mixture. They will give an extra kick to your taste buds and complement the aroma.
5. Add the parmesan
Last but not least, add the lovely, fragrant Parmesan cheese. Before you do that, it is critical that you take the pan off the heat.
If you don’t do that, the cheese will get stringy, and your Alfredo will not have its desired consistency and silkiness. Mild steering (or whisking) throughout the whole process is necessary.
6. Pour the sauce over the pasta
Now that you have your lovely sauce it is time to serve it. Pour a desired amount of the sauce over the pasta. Alfredo sauce is most commonly served with fettuccine, but any other pasta will do just fine.
It is best to serve the sauce while it’s hot. Use the tongs to stir the mass and make a smooth mixture. Curling the pasta while serving enhances the appearance of the pasta on the plate.
How to thicken Alfredo sauce?
As you saw before, it’s easy to make a decent-looking Alfredo sauce. But, during the preparation, you might encounter the curdling problem; the mass simply doesn’t spread even on all sides of the cooking bowl, and you get chunks of curdled mass floating in the watered-like substance. The consistency of the sauce simply falls apart during this phase.
If you add the pasta at this moment, you risk even bigger lumps of curdled mass being hidden in the pasta. That’s when the real problem occurs; as we notice that the sauce gets too loose, we add more ingredients, watering it down even further. The sauce then ends up being too watery, with lumps that aren’t evenly spread over the mass.
How to deal with this problem and make the perfect Alfredo sauce silky and creamy?
There are many ways of handling this issue, and they all include different approaches. Let’s talk about what is essential in creating a perfect silky texture of Alfredo sauce:
The sauce is usually prepared on medium heat, putting the butter to melt first. When the butter turns to liquid, you add the cream slowly. The important thing at this stage is to lower the heat. Some chefs lower the heat to a minimum or even get the cooking pot away from heat while whisking the cream with butter.
This allows for the perfect combining of the mass and a quality foundation for the next steps. So, lower the heat while adding cream or remove the cooking pot from the heat entirely.
You won’t make a perfect Alfredo sauce while watching the new episode of Game of Thrones while cooking. You have to stir the sauce frequently.
Sstart off with a gentle stir, allowing the liquid butter and cream to combine, and then use the whisk and increase the intensity of stirring.
Whisking is perfect for this sauce because it covers more ground while whisking, and prevents lumps and curdling more efficiently than the regular wooden spoon.
Timing is vital while making this sauce. Different ingredients react differently to heat, especially over time. This relates to butter, cream, and cheese the most; the butter needs 1-2 minutes to melt on medium heat while the cream is much more sensitive to heat (thus lowering the temperature is necessary).
Next, Parmesan cheese melts in 2 minutes on medium heat, and it needs 3-4 minutes to melt at low temperature, especially when it’s added to the mass combined with butter and cream.
Every moment after the 4-minute mark will get the sauce more sensitive and prone to loosening, not retaining the texture and silkiness. Most chefs have a developed sense of timing, but if you’re a beginner, having a kitchen stopwatch next to you will be pretty helpful.
There are dozens of solutions for this situation. We’ll mention the most common solutions, and say a thing or two about the usage so that you can choose the appropriate one. The best advice for this situation is – "Every recipe has its own thickener", and it should be used according to the recipe.
Second best advice – "Be creative"
Every kitchen’s essential ingredient, and the first solution you might reach for. It dissolves quickly, and it’s best to add it while the foundation of butter and cream is simmering.
If your sauce seems watery, separate a small bowl and create a thickening mass from cold water, oil and flour.
Add it and whisk vigorously. It tends to form lumps if not handled with care but cold water helps here. Be sure to simmer for two more minutes after adding to allow the flour mass to blend with the sauce.
Adding more butter to thicken the Alfredo sauce is the oldest trick in the book. Allow the butter to melt, and pour it over the pasta & sauce; it contains fat and milk, that are excellent in bonding with sauce and pasta when they’re already combined.
The taste will be enhanced a bit. This method is useful, but not as efficient as others. Some strong stirring is recommended.
Bonus: There is a combination of these two ingredients that creates Kneaded Butter, which is even more efficient. You mix the flour and cold butter into a paste and add small balls into the sauce while stirring.
Here’s an interesting option which gets used quite often lately because of the aroma that it brings to the mixture, and the very efficient thickening.
But, you have to be careful with cornstarch; it shouldn’t be added to the boiling butter/cream mass. Cornstarch is a great addition to the sauce - it enhances the flavor and thickens the sauce well.
Still, don’t use it if you don’t plan on serving everything right away. Cornstarch tends to gelatinize while being put away.
Very efficient, tasty, and adding texture and thickness to the sauce perfectly, egg yolks are used the most when thickening the Alfredo sauce.
The best practice is to separate the yolk from the egg white, mix it with some pasta boiling water and a bit of the loosened sauce.
Important part – keep the temperature low, as the eggs tend to curdle on higher temperatures.
The most widely used sauce thickener is definitely roux – the gentle mixture of flour and fat, usually butter.
This thickener is made separately from the sauce itself, on medium heat, with constant active whisking. When adding to the sauce, roux should be added partially, using a small spoon.
The cooking bowl should be put away from the heat when adding roux, and vigorous whisking is imperative in the process. After adding the whole roux to the sauce, return the bowl to low heat for another couple of minutes.
Pro Tips – Advice from Professionals
When you want to learn something, what is the best way of doing it?
Ask the professionals for advice.
We all see them doing it perfectly on television, on all sorts of websites, blogs, and commercials for a bunch of recipes. The Alfredo sauce made by these professionals is always perfect.
What could be the secret behind their flawless sauces?
We’ve done some research and found out what do professional cooks actually do when they make the Alfredo sauce. Next, we’ve selected some tips from them exclusively for you so feel free to implement them in your kitchen and amaze your guests, your spouse, or your children.
Here are the pro tips on Alfredo sauce:
One of the most recognizable chefs of all time, cooks the mixture of pre-melted butter with ham (first minute), onion (next two minutes), garlic (next 30 seconds), and then adds heavy cream to the sauce until the volume is reduced by half.
He adds cheese only after the sauce is poured over the pasta.
A professional recipe tester with America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated magazine, prepares the dish traditionally, with the accent being on natural ingredients and homemade pasta.
Still, this recipe has its unique assets; Chef Kevin adds a liaison at the end, which is “An egg yolk used to thicken the sauce, and also adds a velvety mouth-feel.”
An internationally renowned, multi-Michelin-starred chef and a global cooking superstar, hates when a meal is prepared wrong. His tip on preparing the Alfredo sauce is to add cold milk to butter and flour mixture while in the early stages of preparation.
The milk is poured one-third at the time while giving it a vigorous whisk. For the finishing touch on a perfect sauce, Ramsay uses a pinch of nutmeg to bring out the flavor and finishes with cheddar.
Here’s the video of the chef doing it himself:
A highly popular celebrity cook, adds the pasta cooking water to the Alfredo sauce in the preparation phase.
Next, she adds both fettuccine and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the same time and then tosses the bowl for some aggressive coating and bonding of the mass.
If some curdling occurs, she recommends adding more pasta cooking water to loosen up the mass, because the water bonds with the pasta incredibly and loosens the sauce.
Food Network Host, and one of the most famous chefs from Canada prepares the sauce on a low heat, with a slow start, and gentle sautéing until the butter and garlic bond to a soft mixture. Then the cream comes into play, simmering for several minutes.
Next, the combination of cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper come in until the mass is ready for the cooked pasta with onions.
This way onions aren’t processed in heat as much, affecting the aroma in an amazing way.
A professional chef at Alfredo of Rome in NYC relies on the heavy amount of butter (2 whole sticks), and half of pound of grated Parmesan cheese (The recipe is hosted on the Martha Stewart site).
That’s it. The secret ingredient – pasta boiling water. It seems like more than one professional from our list prefers using this trick.
We have to trust Russell – he is a professional chef at Alfredo, he probably knows a thing or two about this sauce.
An award-winning Author, international chef, and Culinary Diplomacy Specialist advises combining the butter and cream together right from the start. This base provides a rich foundation for the sauce.
Next, Chef Amy turns the heat off, and whisks the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in the mass, hitting the creamy texture perfectly. Black pepper’s sharpness adds up to the flavor and chopped Italian parsley mildness rounds up the final flavor.
Here’s a video of chef Amy preparing the Fettuccini Alfredo:
One of the pioneers of television cooking and celebrity chef famous for winning a battle with McDonalds prepares Alfredo sauce with an egg yolk.
Cream and yolk go together, and then enters the Parmesan and seasoning. For loosening up, Jamie uses pasta cooking water. Yes, another pro uses this method.
An Australian celebrity chef boils the cream first and then lowers the temperature. He reserves some cooking water and adds beaten egg yolks to boiling cream. Fettuccini pasta is next, with Parmesan cheese.
During the coating of the pasta, the sauce will thicken. That’s when the cooking water comes in, to loosen the sauce a bit, and creates a perfect mixture. Additional Parmesan, chives and parsley come only as garnishing on the serving plate.
Top 5 Best Recipes with Alfredo Sauce That We Recommend
Now that you have the skills to make the best possible Alfredo sauce, creamy and thick in texture, let's see what the best options for this excellent sauce are.
As for any other sauce, Alfredo sauce can also be mixed with whatever you desire. Your imagination is the limit and don’t be afraid to experiment with tastes. However, if you would like to try out confirmed delicious recipes that have been posted and rated online, take a look at our list of 5 best recipes with Alfredo sauce.
To save you the trouble of searching for the best idea that includes Alfredo sauce, we have ranked them according to popularity and review rates on their respective sites.
All of us simply have to agree that Alfredo sauce goes delightfully on top of chicken. Varieties of recipes that include chicken and Alfredo sauce are abundant, but we believe we found the perfect ones.
The sheer mention of pizza with chicken and Alfredo sauce is enough to make us drool, so just wait till you’ve tried this recipe. We promise it will be an explosion of taste and ecstasy in your mouth.
Having the review rate of 4.9 stars at foodnetwork.com, Chicken Alfredo Pizza is perfect to carry the fifth place on our list.
The fourth place is occupied by an easy-to-make recipe ideal for a quick lunch or a light dinner. The recipe featured here includes beef burgers, but you can also use any minced meat you have to make the burgers.
If you follow the recipe precisely, you should have a cheap meal on your table in no time. The tenderness of beef goes perfectly with the silk-like Alfredo sauce and the crunchiness of French onions.
An almost five-star rating on food.com guarantees awesome flavors but beware because this recipe consists of ungodly amounts of cheese.
In the spirit of healthy living and vegetarian diets, we have decided to save a spot for a delightful vegetarian meal. Please note that if you are vegan, you should stay clear of Alfredo sauce as it contains dairy products, namely cheese.
Baking pizza is quite familiar to anyone who has ever tried cooking, but the extra cheese flavor of Alfredo sauce will certainly put this outstanding meal in a new perspective. Combined with various vegetables, Alfredo sauce is bound to make the vegetarian pizza a huge hit.
Kraftrecipes.com gave this recipe a grade just shy of five out of five hearts because of its health benefits and easy preparation.
Baked pasta with chunks of chicken and broccoli covered in delicious Alfredo sauce is more than enough to create an almost perfect recipe. Alfredo sauce is unsurprisingly best when combined with chicken and pasta as this recipe clearly demonstrates.
The cylinder-shaped Italian pasta called penne along with the broccoli and Alfredo sauce make this recipe an aesthetic beauty as well as a tasty meal.
With almost 50 reviews that give it high grades on pillsbury.com, you can safely try this recipe for your next lunch or dinner.
If there were any debates about the other places on our list, we could safely say that the first place was reserved for Fettuccine Alfredo from the start.
As you know, Alfredo sauce is an Italian sauce, so a combination with pasta came almost naturally. Fettuccine Alfredo is a world-famous meal and the variation we placed on our list brings out its best qualities.
The many different cheese flavors and fettuccini pasta will make you fall in love with this dish. This is a type of recipe that you will be coming back to on regular basis each time you crave for a quality meal with cheese.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve gathered some of the most common questions that you may ask regarding the Alfredo sauce, and tried our best to answer them. Check them out:
Is it possible to freeze Alfredo sauce?
An abbreviated answer would be yes, yes it is possible. However, you should be aware that freezing and subsequent reheating of Alfredo sauce could ruin the quality and texture. When defrosting Alfredo sauce, be sure to do it gradually in the refrigerator. If you attempt defrosting it quickly, you might have lumps and the sauce might become stiff or too dense.
Can I store Alfredo sauce in the refrigerator for later use?
Although this is entirely possible, Alfredo sauce will gradually lose its flavor and freshness. Take a plastic bag and wrap the sauce. This should be enough if you want to use the sauce later. We would not recommend holding it in the fridge for more than three days.
Is it possible for Alfredo sauce to become bitter?
Since none of the ingredients of the Alfredo sauce are bitter, this should be extremely rare. The primary cause for the bitterness is if the sauce gets burnt. Specifically said, if you use garlic in your Alfredo sauce recipe, the garlic could cause bitterness if it gets overcooked.
Can I use yogurt when making Alfredo sauce?
The original recipe does not include yogurt, but we encourage you to experiment. Yogurt does make the sauce healthier, but we haven't tried making Alfredo sauce with it. We can say with certainty that you should be careful with the ratio of yogurt in your Alfredo sauce. As you are probably aware, yogurt does not handle well when heated and could bring unwanted sourness to the sauce. If you are a vegan, you can learn how to make a vegan yogurt for yourself.
What to do if clumping occurs when cooking Alfredo sauce?
One of the main reasons for clumping is the ratio between butter and cheese. Too much cheese could make your sauce too thick and therefore lumpy. Also, be sure to cook the butter first and then put finely grated cheese into the mix.
Why didn’t the cheese melt entirely?
Take special care when selecting cheese for Alfredo sauce. There is a reason why the original recipe includes Parmesan cheese. Grate the cheese as much as possible and consult with a professional about the melting of individual types of cheese.
How do I make light and healthy Alfredo sauce?
The adjective “light” is not something frequently associated with Alfredo sauce because of the butter and cheese that are the basis of Alfredo sauce. There is a method we haven't had the chance to test yet, and it proposes changing cream and butter for low-fat milk and Greek yogurt. If you try out this method, be sure to post the results in the comment section for further reference.
What if my Alfredo sauce turns out to be too sweet?
Sweetness occurring in Alfredo sauce is quite rare since none of the ingredients are actually sweet. Sweetness may come as a result of under-salting of the pasta. Adding salt to the water in which pasta is cooked will solve this problem. This could help with any meal that contains pasta; it should be salted more than usual because the dough tends to sop up the saltiness.
Is there an ingredient I can use to substitute butter?
If you are out of butter, or you would simply like to try out something new, some alternatives can fill in the position. You should, of course, be aware that Alfredo sauce without butter is basically missing one of its key ingredients especially according to the original recipe. Substituting butter could lead to a change in the flavor of your Alfredo sauce.
Butter is predominantly there because of the flavor it adds and its emulsifying characteristics. In theory, any vegetable oil could take its place, especially Extra Virgin olive oil or even sunflower oil. You will feel the difference, but it could help if you are in a tight spot.
Is it possible to freeze Alfredo sauce?
Yes, you can freeze your sauce. Make sure your sauce is in freezer ziploc bags and then when you go to thaw it, just put it in the sink with water and let it float. It will thaw on its own. Be careful when opening it, you don't want to spill all of your hard work into the wrong place (this is because it's in a bag- has nothing to do with freezing).
Preparing the perfect dish, surprising your loved ones, and enjoying the beautiful meal together. There is nothing better than that. We don’t have to make it perfect every time, but we can say that after this article, you’ll be pretty closer to perfection.
Alfredo sauce is simple, beautiful, tasty, and simply amazing. How do you like to prepare it? What tricks do you use? Does it always turn out perfect?
Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share this one with a friend who’s struggling to get that perfect Alfredo sauce.
We wish you many successful dishes with this amazing sauce and numerous splendid meals.