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Real alfredo sauce with fresh homemade pasta

Real Alfredo Sauce (No Cream!)

  • Author: Emilie Raffa
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2
  • Category: Pasta Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Real alfredo sauce is made with 3 simple ingredients: butter, Parmesan cheese and fresh fettuccine pasta. There is absolutely no cream in this dish (cream is common in most American-style alfredo sauce recipes). Make this dish with my fresh homemade pasta, fresh sourdough pasta or store-bought fresh pasta. This recipe adapted with changes from Milk Street.


Notes & Tips:

    • Buy block cheese. You need real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Do not skimp! Buy block Parmesan and give it a whirl in the food processor until finely ground. Or, purchase pre-ground Parmesan cheese without anti-caking agents or preservatives. Pre-ground cheese is more expensive, but readily available in most grocery stores and Italian specialty markets.

    • Serve on warm plates. Alfredo sauce will eventually seize up and get clumpy when served on a cold plate. Warm the dishes in a low oven while you make the pasta.

    • Do Not Double. Pasta alfredo is best made in small batches. Do not scale up until you understand the art and craft of the Italian pan sauce.


  • Make fresh homemade pasta following the instructions here.
  • Preheat your oven to the lowest setting. Place 2 oven-safe bowls inside to warm up.
  • Cut the Parmesan cheese into small chunks. Process until finely ground in a food processor; transfer to a small bowl. and keep it handy.
  • Arrange the butter in a 10-inch skillet. Melt over medium-low heat.
  • Meanwhile, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, plus 1 heaping teaspoon of salt. Cook for 3-4 minutes (taste for doneness); do not drain. Note: while the pasta is cooking, add 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water to the melted butter and simmer until emulsified and slightly foamy.
  • When the pasta is cooked: transfer with tongs to the skillet. Increase the heat to medium, and toss several times to coat all of the pasta strands in the melted butter. Keep tossing until the sauce starts to thicken and becomes less “watery” about 30+ seconds.
  • Then add a small handful of the cheese, while continuing to toss. Once the cheese is absorbed and the sauce becomes creamier, add 1/4 cup more of pasta water. Keep tossing until the sauce thickens again. Add more cheese. Toss again. This is how you create the signature alfredo “cream” sauce. If at any point the consistency becomes too dry, or it thickens/absorbs too quickly, lower the heat and add more water, as needed, up to 3/4 – 1 full cup in total.
  • To finish, taste the pasta. Season with salt (if necessary). 
  • To serve: remove the warm bowls from the oven. Portion out the pasta, spooning some of the sauce on top. Garnish with extra Parmesan. Serve immediately!

Keywords: Italian, Alfredo, sauce, pasta, homemade, easy, authentic, recipe, fettuccine