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.