Is there anything better than a thick, creamy, flavorful Alfredo sauce? It's yummy, decadent and oh-so-easy to make, requiring just a handful of simple ingredients that you probably already have in your cupboards. However, it's crucial to get the texture just right when you're preparing Alfredo sauce; otherwise, it won't be nearly as tasty.
What Is an Alfredo Sauce?
Even the best jar of Alfredo sauce can't compare to the homemade stuff. In its simplest incarnation, Alfredo sauce comprises just three ingredients: butter, cream and Parmesan cheese, plus salt and pepper to taste. Many people use garlic as well, though it wasn't part of the original recipe.
Said to have originated in Italy in the early 1900s, Alfredo sauce was first prepared tableside at a restaurant called (you guessed it) Alfredo's, a Roman restaurant near the Tiber River. Fettuccine Alfredo quickly became a famous dish in Rome, though it remained unknown outside of Italy until 1927, when an American writer named George Rector wrote about it in his Saturday Evening Post column. Who knew that pasta tossed with butter and Parmesan could become such a culinary sensation?
Today, Alfredo sauce is beloved by home cooks and top chefs around the world for its simplicity, rich flavor and perfect texture. That last part is important, though: The texture of an Alfredo sauce should be creamy and thick, not lumpy and grainy, or worse, watery.
How to Thicken Alfredo Sauce
Alfredo sauce shouldn't be thin or watery; it should be luscious, with a velvety texture. It's a cream-based sauce, after all, which means that thickness is key when you're preparing it. Remember, too, that it's important to use the pasta itself as a thickening agent, so make sure you drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce while both the sauce and pasta are still piping-hot, not cold and gloppy.
Still have watery sauce even after you've combined it with the pasta? If you need to thicken your Alfredo sauce (without messing up the flavor), you can try one of a few different methods:
- Flour is an excellent ingredient for thickening sauces; simply dilute a couple tablespoons of sifted flour in a half-cup of water and add it the mixture to successfully thicken the Alfredo sauce.
- Egg yolk can also help you achieve the desired consistency of a true Alfredo sauce, as well: Separate the yolk from the white and whisk it with a little bit of leftover pasta cooking water, then slowly add it to the sauce, stirring constantly until it's smooth and creamy. This usually does the trick, though you'll want to taste to see if it needs more salt and pepper afterward.
- Finally, corn starch can be a real hero if you need to thicken a sauce. Dilute a tablespoon (or a little less) of corn starch in a half-cup of water; then add this mixture to the sauce and stir until it's reached the proper consistency.
One of these methods is bound to work without ruining your sauce.
How to Serve the Sauce
Fettuccine Alfredo is such a standout classic dish that it can be hard to imagine using Alfredo sauce any other way. However, thanks to the sauce's velvety, creamy texture and rich, cheesy flavor, it pairs well with an array of other dishes, from meat and veggies to crudites and casseroles.
If you're preparing Alfredo sauce for a crowd or party, use it as a dip for fresh vegetables, pretzels or crackers, or slather it on grilled chicken or fish as a marinade. It's also tasty on pizza, in casseroles, or simply drizzled over roasted veggies. The sky's the limit when it comes to this delectable sauce; just make sure it's thick and creamy, not watery and thin. Bon appetit!
Justine Harrington is a writer based in Austin, Texas. Her work has been published in Forbes, USA Today, Fodor's, American Way, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, Texas Highways, Austin Monthly, and dozens of other print and online publications.