You know how once you’ve had real nigiri sushi or a really good steakhouse steak, the stuff you grew up with suddely doesn’t compare? For me it was like that with Alfredo sauce. Once you’ve had the real thing, you’ll wonder why the jarred/fast food version even exists.

I recently had dinner with a buddy at a new Italian place and we ordered the cacio e pepe. It was so well executed that he was sure they added something special to the dish – it couldn’t just be cheese and cracked pepper (it was).

He and his wife are both great cooks who can make fresh pasta from scratch, so I was a little surprised and asked him if he’d ever had good Alfredo sauce. He’d never even tried it! I was shocked to my core – real Alfredo sauce is a work of art that everyone needs to try at least once.

alfredo sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

Roman-style Alfredo sauce

Alfredo sauce is like nigiri sushi: a master class in minimalism. It’s just butter and cheese, but just like cacio e pepe, Alfredo sauce’s two ingredients combine to produce a huge world of flavor you’d never believe.

In Italy it’s seen as basic home cooking, like how boxed mac and cheese is for us, but here, most people never consider making it from scratch, or if they do, they try to replicate the jarred stuff with dozens of ingredients and a lot of work to produce an inferior sauce. If you’ve never made the real deal 2 ingredient version, you owe it to yourself to try it today.

bucatini with alfredo sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

What is Alfredo sauce

Alfredo sauce is pasta with butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. It differentiates itself from being just buttered pasta by dramatically increasing the amount of butter you’d reasonably use in a classic Italian pasta dish – if you’re even using butter at all. It was invented by Alfredo di Lelio at a trattoria in Rome and made-to-order tableside, as was the style at the time.

Imagine having it somewhere here, in the before times:

rome | www.iamafoodblog.com

How to make Alfredo sauce

  • Cook your pasta 3 minutes shy of the time on the box in well salted boiling water.
  • Melt your butter on low heat in a small nonstick skillet while you wait for the pasta.
  • Transfer the pasta with tongs to the skillet along with 1 cup of pasta water. If you don’t have tongs, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain, then add to the skillet without rinsing (never rinse your pasta unless it’s for salad).
  • Toss the pasta in the pasta water and butter for 3 minutes on high heat, or until the sauce becomes glossy and saucy. Be sure to flip your pasta every so often so that it’s cooked evenly. Remove from the heat.
  • Add the cheese and toss until the cheese has melted evenly. Season with sea salt if needed. Enjoy immediately.

Almost authentic Alfredo sauce

The original Alfredo sauce was a mix of fresh pasta, young Parmigiano cheese, and butter. In this version, I’m using aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and dried pasta. As the Italians say, Alfredo sauce is just simple home cooking, and we happen to always have Parmigiano-Reggiano in the fridge and boxed pasta in the pantry.

bucatini alfredo sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

Cream vs no-cream Alfredo sauce

But maybe you feel that you prefer the super creamy version and wonder why you should try this recipe? Well, done right, this version is creamy too!

More importantly, most versions have a long laundry list of ingredients to differentiate themselves from the original. Why do the extra work and buy the extra ingredients? The richness and complexity of real deal Parmigiano-Reggiano + grass fed butter will blow your mind without any need for cream, cream cheese, garlic, or mixed dried herbs. It make look plain, but not only is this version easier with fewer ingredients and cheaper, it’s tastier too.

alfredo sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

Fresh pasta vs dried pasta

I’ve tried this with both fresh pasta and dried pasta, and prefer the dried pasta personally, both for ease and because I find it highlights the flavors better. Some of these photos were taken with fresh homemade tagliatelle, but if I’m honest I’m happier with boxed bucatini.

bucatini with alfredo sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

What kind of butter to use

There’s only two ingredients in this sauce, so I vote you go with the best butter you can get. For me that’s grass fed butter, either local or Irish. My actual best butter in the world is Icelandic, but you’re super lucky if you can get that where you live.

melting butter | www.iamafoodblog.com

What size skillet you need

You need as small of a skillet as fits your pasta. For 2 people’s just about an 8″ skillet. If all you have is a larger skillet, it will still work, but your pasta won’t cook as much, so you should cook it to 1-2 minutes before the box time before transferring to the skillet.

Grating cheese

If you’re melting cheese, you don’t need to use a labor intensive microplane or fine grater. I use the rough holes of a box grater (this one) and the cheese looks fantastic and melts evenly.

grated parmigiano reggiano | www.iamafoodblog.com

Variations

This sauce is the most perfect base for anything you could want to make with pasta:

The list is endless and always delicious. This is definitely one the great sauces of all time, I hope you give it a try.

-Mike

alfredo sauce recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Alfredo Sauce

Just two ingredients produce a huge world of flavor you’d never believe.
Serves 2
4.67 from 6 votes
Prep Time 3 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Total Time 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 7 oz dried pasta or 12oz fresh pasta (I used dried bucatini)
  • 4.5 tbsp butter about 65g, salted grass fed butter preferred
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated, about 65g

Instructions

  • Cook your pasta 3 minutes short of the package time in heavily salted water.
    cooking fresh pasta | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Meanwhile, melt your butter in an 8" nonstick skillet over very low heat.
    melting butter | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • When the pasta is ready, transfer it over with tongs along with 3/4 cup pasta water to the skillet. Alternately, reserve 3/4 cup of pasta water, then drain and transfer to skillet.
    making alfredo sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Turn the skillet to high and continue cooking your pasta, stirring and flipping with a soft silicone spatula, for another 3 minutes. Flip your pasta every minute or so to ensure that all strands are evenly cooked.
    alfredo sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • When the 3 minutes are up, remove from heat and dump in the cheese. Toss for another minute or two to ensure all the cheese is melted. Taste and season if needed, then serve immediately.
    alfredo sauce | www.iamafoodblog.com

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Alfredo Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 718 Calories from Fat 341
% Daily Value*
Fat 37.9g58%
Saturated Fat 23.2g145%
Cholesterol 96mg32%
Sodium 382mg17%
Potassium 8mg0%
Carbohydrates 74.5g25%
Fiber 3.6g15%
Sugar 1.8g2%
Protein 25.7g51%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Comments

  1. Laura James says:

    5 stars
    Just tried this tonight- really ingenious recipe when you don’t have/want cream in your pasta! Served it with sautéed chicken and spinach.

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