To this Italian girl, there is nothing quite as comforting as a bowl of piping hot fettuccine alfredo. This dish is heaven even in its simplest vegetarian form, but has endless possibilities of customization.
It’s a favorite recipe at many italian restaurants, but making a homemade fettuccine alfredo recipe at home us easier than you think! Just grab some basic ingredients from the grocery store and you’re well on your way to making this classic comfort food with cream sauce.
Sometimes I even create an alfredo bar so my family and guests can make their own creation. All you need is a basic fettuccine alfredo recipe, like this one, and you are good to go!
Something else that could take this recipe to the next level is fresh pasta. There is nothing better than fresh fettuccine noodles coated in a rich sauce and then topped with a little parmigiano reggiano. Simple enough to make on busy weeknights, but elegant enough for a special main course.
What is Alfredo Sauce?
Fettuccini alfredo is a classic Italian recipe used in many different dishes throughout the United States, most commonly just with pasta. However, the name is virtually unknown in Italy.
Instead, this creamy sauce is simply referred to as “bianco” or “white” sauce. It is a quick cooking sauce, making dinner fast and easy, which is another added bonus. It is made from cream and cheese (not cream cheese, although that version is also very good!).
Although it is most commonly served with fettuccine or linguine, alfredo sauce is actually better paired with some sort of shell or elbow because there are lots of nooks and crannies for the sauce to hide in. I also enjoy it over tortellini.
Ingredients for Fettuccine Alfredo
Use these simple ingredients to create magic in a pasta bowl. Feel free to use any other add-ins you desire, or need to use up in the vegetable crisper. We have a whole list of ideas below!
- Unsalted Butter – Unsalted allows you to control the salt levels. If using salted butter, omit the additional salt.
- Fresh Garlic Cloves – This is not the time to use bottled minced garlic, which may taste sweet instead of garlicky. I am also a huge fan of garlic, so reduce to just 2 cloves cloves if you your palette is not the same.
- Heavy Cream – Or heavy whipping cream (the difference is minor with fat percentages). If you are trying to cut a few calories, you can do 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of milk, but the sauce might be a little thinner than traditionally made. Half & half will have the same effect.
- Parmesan cheese – Grab freshly shredded cheese or shred your own, do not use the shaker cheese (it won’t melt, but will stay grainy)! Parmesan reggiano or romano can be substituted or supplemented. A finer shred will help the cheese seamlessly melt into the sauce. Some folks even like using asiago cheese.
- Coarse kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper – If using fine sea salt, just add a pinch. Freshly cracked black pepper gives the best flavor, but if you desire a stark white sauce, omit this or use white pepper.
- Pasta – The most traditional is fettuccine pasta, but use whatever pasta makes your heart happy. No one will judge you. Cook it according to package directions for al dente. Flat long pasta and tubular pastas do best with this type of sauce.
- Toppings – We like a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, crushed red pepper flakes or aleppo pepper, fresh parsley or more parmesan cheese or pecorino romano.
How to Make Fettuccine Alfredo
Making this sauce is super easy and quick, but please do not crank the heat past medium. This sauce will separate and won’t come back together if it gets too hot. The trick is infusing the liquids with garlic, then making them hot enough to melt the cheese, making it smooth, without overheating.
- Cook the pasta according to box instructions for al dente, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Drain and set aside.
- Melt the butter over medium heat and then saute the garlic until fragrant.
- Add the cream and let it warm so it will be hot enough to melt the cheese. Whisk while adding the parmesan cheese so it smooths. A finer shred will result in the best meltability. If you just throw it in without stirring, it has the tendency to sink and scald to the bottom of the pan. If desired, season it with salt and pepper.
- If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit of pasta water. You might not need any pasta water at all!
- Toss the alfredo sauce with your cooked pasta and serve with desired toppings. If you cook your pasta ahead of time or it sits for more than 10 minutes in the colander, consider tossing it with a little bit of olive oil to prevent sticking and clumping.
Fettuccine Alfredo Variations
The options for what to add to your creamy homemade alfredo sauce are virtually endless. I like mine with seafood, mostly shrimp, scallops, calamari and salmon are also good choices. Many prefer chicken, but you can even use beef or sausage. Add as many cooked vegetables as you want.
Even add a little salty bacon, pancetta or prosciutto, making it more similar to a carbonara (minus the egg). These are our other favorite additions.
- Halved grape tomatoes
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Sliced mushrooms
- Dry Italian seasoning
- Sliced olives
- Cajun seasoning
You can also use any of our 40+ ways to make jarred alfredo sauce better in this homemade version.
Why Add Pasta Water to Sauces?
This is a great question that I get all the time. I always encourage home cooks to reserve a little water when making pasta. Pasta water serves several purposes when making Italian dishes. The first is that it is a slightly starchy liquid which can help to bind or thicken, without being too thick like a slurry.
The second is that is has just a tiny bit of flavor. The third, and perhaps most important, is that the Italians believe that adding pasta water to the sauce will bond the two elements together. Yes, it sounds hokey, but it’s tradition!
At the end of cooking when the water is the most starched and flavored, simply ladle out 1-2 cups into a glass or heat-proof measuring cup and set it aside. Many times, you won’t even need it, but you’ll be glad you saved it when you do. But what if you forget… and you DO need it?
- Hot water with a pinch of cornstarch or arrowroot. Use 1/4 teaspoon of starch for every 1 cup of hot water.
- Splash of cooking liquid in the sauce– use whatever the sauce calls for which could be wine, cream, milk or broth.
What to Serve with Alfredo
Leftovers, Reheating & Freezing
Leftovers: Store leftover alfredo in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop on medium heat until fully heated. The sauce will separate if it gets too hot, which commonly happens in the microwave.
The cold pasta will also suck up the sauce, making it seems dry. The best way to reheat alfredo sauce is to add a splash of milk or cream, toss, heat for 30 seconds, toss again, and continue until the desired hotness.
Freezing: I do not suggest freezing any type of alfredo sauce.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
Easy Fettuccine Alfredo Recipe
- Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, saute for 2-3 minutes, until it becomes fragrant.
- Pour in the cream and heat for 2-3 minutes until it is lightly simmering. Add the shredded Parmesan cheese. Whisk until blended and smooth, approximately 4 minutes.
- Add the salt and pepper to taste, continue to whisk. Sauce will lightly coat the back of a spoon, but not be globby or heavy. The sauce will separate if overheated, so do not raise heat above medium.
- Toss with cooked pasta and serve, topping with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.