Alfredo Sauce (roux-based)

This more or less an imitation of the obscenely rich sauce you get at places like the Olive Garden restaurant.


Alfredo is little more than a beschamel or white sauce fortified with cream, butter and cheese.

This is my own recipe composed from research I have done in sauce making. In particular, this is a roux-based sauce.

Most alfredo sauce recipes you find aren’t roux-based and I’m guessing that this is because real sauce making with bases like roux and stock are considered too advanced for recipes whose authors hope they will actually get used. My attitude is that a roux is a lot easier to make and will safely and calculatedly thicken gravies and other sauces with far less risk than the methods most home cooks employ and is not really any more work. The first time I tried this recipe (and a formal roux as its base), I succeeded.

Italians don’t eat anything called alfredo, but reserve it for tourists I am told. Alfredo sauce was invented nearly 100 years ago by a restaurateur in Rome for American tourists; his name was Alfredo. Douglas Fairbanks reportedly imported the idea into the United States in the late 1920s.

In Italy, a double-butter sauce, sometimes with cream and with finely grated parmiggiano reggiano cheese, is made directly in a pan with the cooked pasta. In the United States, this sauce can involve a great deal of butter, cream and cheese, but is often bolstered with corn starch. Here, we’re using a roux with easier and more predictable results.

This recipe makes enough alfredo sauce for one standard 12-ounce package of pasta unless you want to float the pasta in it. Doubling the recipe makes too much. Make it once, then figure out whether you want it stronger or weaker.

1 tbsp butter
1 heaping tbsp all-purpose flour
¼ cup whipping cream*
¾ cup milk
1 clove garlic crushed or minced
1 tbsp parsley flakes
ground pepper to taste
pinch ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Parmigiano regiano cheese (or mix with Romano, etc.)

* The proportion of cream to milk can be varied to taste and perception of healthfulness. Also, cream makes a thicker alfredo which is not always what you want. Vary all dairy ingredients depending on whether you’re imitating Olive Garden’s gut-busting fettucine alfredo or making a subtle garlic-cream sauce.

Making the roux

1. Use a saucier (sauce pan) or a frying pan with very rounded corners so that the wire wisk can reach into them and leave nothing there.

2. Melt the butter over medium heat just barely to frothy. Douse with the flour and work the whole vigorously until homogenous. Keep working it, chasing it around the pan, breaking it up with the wisk and collecting it back together for at least 3 minutes, but no more than 5. Remove from fire and set the fying pan into a bit of cold water to halt the cooking or the roux really will get roux colored (a word meaning reddish brown in French) which is not the color of alfredo sauce.

3. Meanwhile, in another pan, heat the cream and milk up slowly (while cooking the roux). If you don’t have a saucier, dump the roux from the frying pan into the heated liquid, otherwise, pour the liquid into the saucier with the roux. Continue cooking over a medium to low fire and add the crushed garlic, nutmeg, parsley flakes and cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon (using the wisk once the cheese is added makes a mess) to ensure smoothness of texture and serve.

4. Since most pasta require 8 minutes to al dente from a rolling boil, you should already have your fettucine going on the stove while you prepare your alfredo sauce. Except for getting the hot water up to boil, from start to finish your fettucine alfredo should take only 10 minutes before it reaches the stomach!