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What is Alfredo Sauce?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Alfredo sauce is a white sauce which is often used to accompany pasta dishes. Traditionally, it was made with butter and Parmesan cheese, but more modernly, and especially in the United States, this sauce also includes heavy cream. In many parts of the world, it is prepared separately from the pasta, and it is sometimes also available for sale in jars at stores.

In Italy, the country where the inspiration for the sauce can be found, Alfredo sauce is not made separately from the pasta. Instead, the ingredients are added to the pasta individually and the whole mixture is tossed to coat the pasta. Both methods are perfectly acceptable, and you can find directions below detailing each technique. Fresh Alfredo sauce made with fresh ingredients is preferable, and very easy to make, so cooks should resist purchasing it in a jar.

The core ingredients of Alfredo sauce are high quality salted butter, heavy cream, and freshly grated Parmesan. Variants include additions like pepper, nutmeg, and parsley. Outside of Italy, this sauce is often combined with proteins such as chicken, or vegetables. The quintessential dish with this sauce is fettuccine Alfredo, made with extra-thick fettuccine noodles drenched in the rich, creamy sauce. This dish is a stock offering at many Italian restaurants.

To make Alfredo in the traditional Italian way, cook noodles as you would normally while grating a copious amount of fresh Parmesan. Drain the noodles, and toss butter into the warm pan. Once the noodles have thoroughly drained, put them back into the pan and toss with the butter to coat. Next, add heavy cream, the grated Parmesan, and more butter. Toss again before serving, cracking generous amounts of salt and pepper on top.

To make Alfredo sauce in a pan, cook pasta while you heat cream, butter, and Parmesan cheese on low. You can also add ingredients such as parsley or nutmeg. For a more complex layer of flavor, caramelize onions and or garlic in the pan before adding the dairy ingredients. Once the pasta has cooked, toss the pasta with the sauce to coat, or pour the sauce on top. If you wish to add ingredients like vegetables and protein, layer them on top of the pasta before pouring the sauce on. You can also thicken this Alfredo sauce with a roux, if a thicker cream sauce is desired.

To make a roux, measure out equal amounts of butter and flour. Heat a pan on medium, and add the butter, allowing it to melt before adding the flour. Whisk the flour in the pan until it combines with the butter and starts to brown. Next, pour in heavy cream, or milk for a lighter sauce, whisking as the sauce thickens. A roux is a useful thing to know how to make, since it can be used to thicken sauces and gravies, and in a variety of dishes such as lasagna.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1006103 — On Jan 28, 2022

With reference to your article, I have the pleasure to tell you the history of my grandfather Alfredo Di Lelio, who is the creator of “Fettuccine all’Alfredo” (“Fettuccine Alfredo”) in 1908 in the trattoria run by his mother Angelina in Rome, Piazza Rosa (Piazza disappeared in 1910 following the construction of the Galleria Colonna / Sordi). This trattoria of Piazza Rosa has become the “birthplace of fettuccine all’Alfredo”.

More specifically, as is well known to many people who love the “fettuccine all’Alfredo", this famous dish in the world was invented by Alfredo Di Lelio concerned about the lack of appetite of his wife Ines, who was pregnant with my father Armando (born February 26, 1908).

Alfredo di Lelio opened his restaurant “Alfredo” in 1914 in Rome and in 1943, during the war, he sold the restaurant to others outside his family.

In 1948, Alfredo Di Lelio decided to reopen with his son Armando his restaurant in Piazza Augusto Imperatore n.30 "Il Vero Alfredo" (“Alfredo di Roma”), whose fame in the world has been strengthened by his nephew Alfredo and that now managed by me, with the famous “gold cutlery” (fork and spoon gold) donated in 1927 by two well-known American actors Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks (in gratitude for the hospitality).

I must clarify that other restaurants "Alfredo" in Rome do not belong and are out of my brand "Il Vero Alfredo – Alfredo di Roma".

The brand "Il Vero Alfredo - Alfredo di Roma" is present in Mexico with a restaurant in Mexico City and a trattoria in Cozumel) on the basis of franchising relationships with the Group Hotel Presidente Intercontinental Mexico.

The restaurant “Il Vero Alfredo” is in the Registry of “Historic Shops of Excellence, in the section on Historical Activities of Excellence” of the Municipality of Roma Capitale.

Best regards, Ines Di Lelio

By anon310446 — On Dec 22, 2012

Who cooks a pasta dish with noodles? Pasta dishes are made using pasta. Noodles are Asian, used in stir-fries and similar meals. Get it right.

And, as all the Italians posting here have said, 'Alfredo' is not a traditional Italian sauce at all. It's an American invention. Yes, there was an Italian chef called Alfredo who tossed pasta in butter and parmesan - which is a perfectly ordinary way to serve pasta. It's not a sauce, and it wasn't called 'Alfredo'. This is an insult to Italians everywhere.

By anon298256 — On Oct 19, 2012

Alfredo sauce is something totally not Italian and fake, just like spaghetti bolognese and other billions of American industrial bad imitations.

By anon170466 — On Apr 26, 2011

The so-called alfredo sauce is just an american product that has nothing to do with italian cuisine. It is one of the many inventions that have found a better response than many real italian dishes (good pr). I bear the same name as the sauce but that is far from being appealing to be compared to such a degrading product. You do not need to be the brightest of the bunch to cook a decent sauce. get cooking!

By anon154344 — On Feb 20, 2011

Alfredo sauce is an American invention, not Italian. Good luck trying to find Pasta Alfredo in any restaurant in Italy.

By anon63676 — On Feb 03, 2010

I would caramelize the onions and garlic, make the roux in another pan, then stir the roux into the caramelized onion mixture. Make sure to have an appropriate liquid on hand to loosen it up if it starts to get too thick. Good idea! I am making red and white lasagna in a couple weeks, and will use this method.

By anon56580 — On Dec 15, 2009

My name is Francesco and i live in Rome. This sauce doesn't exist in Italy and is not Italian. is just a fake. Ciao!

By anon46166 — On Sep 23, 2009

actually after is "dopo" in italian, notice only 1 p, while the word "doppo" does not exist. but "doppio" meaning double is indeed correct.

By anon34225 — On Jun 19, 2009

Doppo means after in Italian. Doppio means double, therefore doppio burro is correct.

By cuocoitalian — On Oct 24, 2008

When Roman restauranteur Alfredo di Lelio created the dish that now bears his name, he called it "doppo burro" or "double butter" because of the copious amounts of butter he blended with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and served over egg noodles.

Heavy cream is an American addition and the dish is commonly served this way in Italian-American establishments. It's a fine, versatile sauce, but should never be confused with a classic Alfredo.

By anon4249 — On Oct 09, 2007

Is it possible to make a roux and also carmelize onions and garlic? It seems like it's either one way or the other.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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