I’ve never met a person who didn’t like pasta.
Whether it’s the authentic Italian stuff, locally derived versions, quick-and-frozen ravioli or fancy fusion pasta, this category of cuisine is impossible not to love. And if I did encounter the rare pasta-hater, I’d be super suspicious.
Fettuccine alfredo is one of the most popular pasta dishes, mostly because everyone is familiar with it. The rich and decadent alfredo sauce is also a favorite, giving rise to dishes like chicken alfredo, and even ramen alfredo for the broke college students.
However, this sauce has one downside (especially for novice cooks). It is notoriously temperamental and can be difficult to make properly. Cook it at a high temperature, and your sauce ends up grainy. Simmer the sauce for too long and you end up with a congealed mess.
And sometimes your sauce is liquid and runny, instead of luscious and creamy. Instead of a rich sauce, you have something closer to a soup on your hands. But this doesn’t mean your dinner is ruined.
This article will look at all the ways how to thicken alfredo sauce. The ingredients and techniques mentioned will slowly thicken your alfredo sauce to the indulgent creamy good that elevates your humble Fettuccine pasta to something glorious!
What is Alfredo Sauce?
Alfredo sauce is a simple white sauce that pairs well with pasta, especially Fettuccine pasta noodles. Fettuccine alfredo was invented in Rome in the late 19th century and remains a staple in many Italian restaurants today.
However, the alfredo pasta served in Olive garden or your favorite Italian restaurant isn’t the authentic version served in Italy. Instead, it is an American variant that is essentially a rich and heavy cream sauce made with lots of butter, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, and garlic.
On the other hand, authentic alfredo sauce is just as delicious but much lighter. In fact, Italian Fettuccine alfredo doesn’t have any cream at all.
Instead, this sauce just has three ingredients, butter salt, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, along with a little pasta water which brings everything together, emulsifying the butter and cheese to a beautiful sauce.
Alfredo sauce is pretty versatile and you can include the seasonings and herbs of your choice. You can even make a big batch in advance for weekday meals. Can you freeze alfredo sauce? Yes, and it keeps well for almost 8 months!
Whether you are making the American version, or the original Italian dish, these tips will show you how to make alfredo sauce thicker. So, without any more delay, let’s get started!
10 Ways to Thicken Alfredo Sauce
The idea of thickening any sauce, whether it’s a runny pasta sauce, or even fixing a thin chili, is to add thickening agents like starch and egg yolks. Roux is also often used to thicken the cream sauce and even soups, but we’ll also look at rarer thickeners.
01. Reducing the Sauce:
If you’ve added too much heavy cream or pasta water to your sauce, simply cooking off the extra liquid may be the simplest way on how to thicken the sauce without flour. It is also a good way to thicken refrigerated alfredo sauce as it won’t alter its flavor.
Simply bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened. Keep stirring to prevent the sauce from scorching and sticking to your pan. It is also important to remember that the alfredo sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
Thickening sauce with flour is a pretty common thing among cooks. All you need to do is whisk is a little water into a spoon or two of flour until it forms a slurry. Slowly add this mixture into your alfredo sauce, stirring constantly.
Simmer the sauce until it has thickened and you are sure that the flour is cooked through. If you’ve made alfredo sauce with cream cheese and heavy cream and don’t want to thicken it with even more cheese, this is a good method as it won’t make it unbearably heavy.
This ingredient makes sense as white sauces like bechamel use a roux base. If you are making a ‘skinny’ alfredo dish without heavy cream (or trying to make the authentic Italian Fettuccine alfredo), this is a good alternative over adding egg yolks or cream cheese.
Roux is made by melting butter in a pan and adding an equal amount of flour to it. The flour is then cooked in the butter for a few minutes until it gives off a mildly nutty smell and is cooked through. This alfredo sauce roux is then whisked into the sauce and simmer until thick and creamy.
04. Egg Yolks:
When done right, this results in a beautifully thickened sauce reminiscent of carbonara. As a result, it works very well with the simple Italian alfredo sauce, as adding egg yolks to heavy cream can make the sauce too thick and custard-like.
If your alfredo sauce without cream seems too thin, thicken it by first tempering some egg yolks. To do this, beat some yolks until smooth and runny.
Then, slowly add a ladle full of your alfredo sauce to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Make sure to add the sauce slowly, making sure it isn’t scalding hot, as this can scramble the eggs.
Keep adding more sauce, whisking the whole time until the eggs have been totally incorporated into the sauce. Next, add this mixture to the remaining alfredo sauce, stirring constantly.
Simmer the sauce on medium-low heat for a minute or two until it thickens up. If you’re gluten-sensitive, thickening alfredo sauce with egg is a great alternative.
05. Cream Cheese:
When making American alfredo sauce, cream cheese is a good thickener, as long as you are okay with your pasta having a slightly tangy flavor. It is also a good option if you are making a modified alfredo sauce without the parmesan.
Simply cut your cream cheese into cubes and let it soften for a bit. Room temperature is best, but even leaving your cheese out for 15 minutes will do. Then whisk the cheese into a pot of alfredo sauce over heat.
It is a good idea to do this slowly, adding a little cheese at a time. The cheese will also take some time to thicken and emulsify, so be patient. Also, the heat should be set to low, as high temperatures can ‘split’ dairy, making the sauce grainy and unappetizing.
Don’t have cream cheese in your fridge? Many of these handy cream cheese substitutes will get the job done.
Like flour, cornstarch is a good thickener for most sauces, including cream-based ones. Here’s how to thicken a sauce with cornstarch: Whisk a spoon or two of cornstarch with some water until smooth and lump-free.
Then, slowly add this slurry to your alfredo sauce, stirring throughout to avoid the slurry from congealing.
Next, gradually whisk the slurry into the simmering alfredo sauce over medium to medium-high heat. Keep whisking until the sauce reaches the desired thickness and consistency. You can even use arrowroot powder, as it works just like cornstarch.
Potato flakes are also a good thickener. However, do not use cornmeal, as it won’t mix into the sauce completely and will make it ‘gritty’ instead.
07. Shredded Cheese:
If you want to alfredo sauce without cream cheese, using any other kind of shredded cheese will also work. Mozzarella alfredo sauce is definitely a thing, especially when using the high-moisture kind that is freshly shredded.
When using shredded cheese, make sure it isn’t the pre-shredded sort as they don’t tend to melt easily. Instead, shred some high-quality cheese yourself and slowly add handfuls of it to the sauce, whisking until it melts into the alfredo.
The sauce will slowly thicken up and emulsify as the cheese melts. For the best results, use Monterey jack, provolone, or white cheddar.
08. Mashed Vegetables:
If you want a creamy, but healthy Fettuccine alfredo, adding mashed starchy vegetables is a good way to thicken your sauce. Use a blender or potato masher to make a sort of puree with boiled cauliflower, leeks, or potatoes. You can thin out the puree with a little milk if needed.
Then, just add the mashed veggies to the alfredo sauce in a saucepan over heat, stirring constantly to mix it into the sauce very well. The starch released from the mashed vegetables will thicken the sauce, making it much creamier.
However, bear in mind that you will be able to taste the vegetables in the finished product. While many people like the added flavors, others prefer adding more cheese and Italian seasoning to mask the taste of the cauliflower.
09. Parmesan Cheese:
This method works well regardless of the kind of alfredo you are making. Just grate a block of parmesan cheese and add it into the sauce over medium heat, stirring to combine and melt. Using full-fat cheese is the best way to emulsify the sauce, making it creamy and glossy.
Parmesan is already in the sauce, so an extra addition won’t change the taste of your alfredo sauce. If you’ve added too much cheese and the sauce is thicker than you want, thin it out with a little milk or a splash of pasta water.
10. Crushed or Powdered Nuts:
Making vegan alfredo? You can use crushed nuts as a thickener instead of cheese or eggs.
This is also a great option if you are trying to keep things gluten-free. It is also versatile as you can use almost any kind of nut on hand, especially something like cashew or almonds.
Toast the nuts on a low flame until aromatic, and use a spice grinder to crush them into a fine powder. Then add this powder to the alfredo sauce on low heat and simmer until thickened.
You can also soak the nuts in some hot water and blend to make a paste which will thicken your sauce even faster.
Fun Twists on Basic Alfredo Sauce Recipes
Tired of the same old alfredo sauce? Want to jazz things up a bit? We have just the thing for you. These little changes will transform your sauce and come together in just a few extra minutes:
When melting your butter in a saucepan, add some bacon, summer sausage, or even fancier add-ons like prosecco, pancetta and other Italian smoked meats.
Instead of adding the sauce to pasta, use it as a base for your pizza. Then, load on toppings like olives, pepperoni, bell peppers, and chilli flakes. This is a much more interesting take on the basic bechamel pizza.
Alfredo Shrimp Bake:
This fun casserole is a hearty and indulgent dish. Season the shrimp with salt, pepper, and paprika before sauteing in butter. Then, place them in a casserole dish with some parboiled rice, before topping with alfredo sauce and bake until the top is lightly browned and bubbling.
Instead of a basic cheese sauce, use a traditional alfredo sauce for a lighter and somewhat healthier lasagna. Trust me on this, you’ll never go back to the regular lasagna again.
Any More Questions?
Here you’ll find answers to some common issues people face when trying to thicken alfredo sauce.
01. How Can I Thicken Alfredo Sauce without Parmesan Cheese?
If you don’t want to thicken your sauce without using parmesan cheese, you can use cream cheese or shredded provolone instead. Adding flour or cornstarch slurries, as well as roux, are also effective thickeners.
02. How Long Does Alfredo Sauce Last in the Fridge or Freezer?
When kept in the fridge, alfredo sauce can be safely stored for 3-5 days. On the other hand, this sauce can also be stored in the freezer for up to eight months.
03. What to Add to Alfredo Sauce for Better Flavor?
Adding things like fresh garlic, thyme, oregano, parsley, and basil can give your alfredo sauce a massive flavor boost. Seasoning it with salt, pepper, and other spices is also a good option.
04. Can I Use Whipping Cream Instead of Heavy Cream for Alfredo Sauce?
Yes, you can use heavy whipping cream instead; however, use a slightly smaller amount as it contains a much higher percentage of fat.
05. How Do I Make Alfredo Sauce without Heavy Cream?
Instead of using heavy cream, you can use Parmigiano Reggiano and butter to make a thick sauce. Add the grated cheese to the melted butter, then whisk in some pasta water and stir to emulsify into a creamy, smooth sauce.
So the Point Is…
There are lots of ingredients in your kitchen that you can use to thicken alfredo sauce.
Thickening pasta sauces is pretty easy as you just have to add the ingredient to the sauce and simmer until thickened. Knowing how to thicken alfredo sauce means that you never have to resign yourself to a dinner of soggy pasta and a thin sauce.
Whether you want to fix your sauce with lots of cheese, a simple roux, or healthy veggie puree, the end result is the same: a thick and creamy pasta sauce. So go forth with your choice thickener and rescue your alfredo sauce!