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Homemade Garlic Alfredo Sauce

This quick and easy Homemade Garlic Alfredo Sauce is rich, creamy and filled with cheesy parmesan-garlic flavor. Ready in minutes, it’s perfect paired with your favorite pasta!

Made with just a few fresh ingredients, it’s the ultimate in indulgent comfort food that you could also use on pizza, meat, chicken, seafood, vegetables, as a dip, and more!

My previous post was a yummy tomato-alfredo pasta bake that was made super easy by using store-bought marinara and alfredo sauce…because we all need a good shortcut now and again.

And when it comes to alfredo, sure, you can get a pretty decent jar of sauce. But the truth is: nothing in a jar will ever compare to homemade alfredo sauce. So, I thought it was time to share my recipe with you!

The best part? It’s simple, speedy and sooo good. Once you know how to make alfredo sauce, it’s very possible that you may never want to buy it again!

What is Alfredo Sauce?

Invented in the early 1900’s by Italian restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio for his wife, alfredo sauce was originally made with butter, parmesan cheese, and some pasta water to help thicken the sauce. And, of course, he served it tossed with fettuccine.

His Fettuccine Alfredo became so popular that it eventually made its way to the United States where the sauce evolved to include heavy cream. This American-Italian version of alfredo sauce is the one that most of us know and love.

That’s the recipe I’m sharing with you today, with the exception that I also add some garlic because…garlic (yum!).

This is the real deal, made with just butter, garlic, heavy cream, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. There’s no flour and no cream cheese in this recipe (you really don’t need them). It’s so simple yet so incredibly delicious!

the ingredients needed to make homemade garlic alfredo sauce: parmesan cheese, heavy cream, butter, garlic, salt and pepper

Ingredients You Need

  • Butter (I use salted butter, but you can use unsalted butter)
  • Garlic
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

Use the Right Parmesan Cheese

In addition to the garlic, parmesan cheese is the prominent flavor of this alfredo sauce, and it’s also what thickens the sauce. For the best texture and flavor, you’ll need to get a wedge and grate or shred it fresh. No pre-grated parmesan, please!

Freshly-grated parmesan will melt into the butter and cream so much better, giving you a smooth and silky sauce. Pre-grated parmesan does not melt nearly as well and will leave you with a disappointingly grainy sauce.

And be sure you finely grate it. The smaller and thinner the pieces, the quicker and easier they will melt. You can use a food processor (cut the parmesan into small chunks and process with the metal blade), the smallest holes on a box grater, or a Microplane grater/zester (this is my favorite and what I always use).

a pile of finely shredded parmesan cheese on a wooden cutting board with a Microplane grater and a wedge of parmesan

Besides texture, the flavor of freshly-grated parmesan is far superior to the pre-grated stuff (especially the ones in the shaker containers, which may or may not have fillers in them).

You don’t have to break the bank on a wedge of parmesan. There are usually some good quality brands in the specialty cheese section of the grocery store. But if you want to get the really good stuff, Parmigiano Reggiano is the way to go (it’s a splurge but so worth it)!

How to Make Homemade Garlic Alfredo Sauce

1: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat.

2: Add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes.

2 numbered images, number 1 is of butter melting in a skillet, number 2 is of garlic added to the skillet and being stirred with a spoon

3: Add the heavy whipping cream and black pepper; whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4: Turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese.

2 numbered images, number 3 is of cream and pepper added to the skillet and being stirred with a whisk, and number 4 is of grated parmesan cheese added to the skillet and being stirred with a whisk

5: Whisk until the cheese has completely melted and the sauce is smooth. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, if needed.

6: Toss with your favorite cooked pasta (such as fettuccine for fettuccine alfredo) and enjoy. You can also use the sauce in any recipe that calls for alfredo sauce.

2 numbered images, number 5 is of the sauce being stirred with a whisk and salt and pepper shakers in the background, and number 6 is of pasta being tossed with the sauce in the skillet

Note: This is just a brief overview of the steps. For the full printable recipe with ingredient amounts and detailed instructions, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

Recipe Tips & Tidbits

  • You can use more or less garlic to suit your own tastes (or leave it out if you don’t want to use any).
  • The amount of parmesan cheese is given by weight in ounces because different methods of grating/shredding can give you very different measurements in volume.
  • A whisk combines the sauce better than a spoon or spatula.
  • I recommend holding off on adding any salt until the very end after you add the cheese. The butter has salt, the sauce will reduce a bit, and the parmesan has some saltiness to it as well. Taste it before serving and add more if needed.
  • The sauce will thicken more as it cools, so I don’t aim for a super thick sauce in the pan. Plus, any pasta that you add will soak up some of the sauce, and you want it to be creamy rather than too thick and gloopy.
    • If the sauce is thinner than you’d like it to be, let it cool for a few minutes and it should thicken a bit.
  • If the sauce is too thick once you add the pasta, you can always add some of the pasta cooking water to thin it out a bit and bring everything together. It’s always a good idea to save a cupful of the pasta water before draining just in case you need it.
fettuccine being tossed with homemade garlic alfredo sauce in a pan

Substitutions & Variations

  • Unsalted butter can be used instead of salted butter (you may just need to add more salt). I use salted butter simply because that’s what I always have on hand, and I’ve never found the sauce to be too salty.
  • Don’t try to substitute whole, low-fat, skim, or plant-based milk for the heavy cream. Besides making the sauce rich and creamy, it reduces down and thickens the sauce as well. Lower-fat milks won’t thicken.
  • Use roasted garlic instead of fresh garlic for a sweeter and slightly different garlicky flavor. Since it’s already cooked, there’s no need to sauté it in the butter. Just let it simmer with the cream.
  • Try adding some fresh or dried herbs, such as basil, oregano, parsley or Italian seasoning, or add some freshly-grated nutmeg.
  • Make it a little spicy by adding crushed red pepper flakes.
  • You could even add some cooked veggies, such as spinach or mushrooms.

Storage, Reheating & Freezing

Alfredo sauce is at its absolute best when made fresh and served immediately, so that’s what I recommend (and it’s so quick and easy to make, there’s really no reason not to!).

That being said, if you happen to have some leftover sauce, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. The sauce with thicken up substantially and may separate while in the fridge.

Reheat the sauce in a small saucepan on the stove over low heat, whisking frequently (this should bring the sauce back to a thinner consistency and back together if it has separated). If too thick once heated through, whisk in a little heavy cream to thin it out.

Although some will say that you can freeze alfredo sauce, I don’t recommend it. During the thawing process, the sauce can separate, making it grainy and unappealing (ice crystals could cause this as well). It’s just as easy to make up a fresh batch!

fettuccine alfredo garnished with black pepper and parsley in a pan with a wooden spoon

How to Serve Homemade Garlic Alfredo Sauce

The obvious choice here is…toss it with freshly-cooked pasta! Fettuccine is probably the most popular, but you can really use any pasta you’d like. Serve it as either a side dish or main dish (add a protein by topping it with some cooked chicken, shrimp, fish and/or veggies).

You could also use it as a pizza sauce or as a dipping sauce for bread, breadsticks or garlic bread.

Or use it in any recipe that calls for alfredo sauce, such as in my Tomato Alfredo Pasta Bake.

This recipe makes about 2 cups, which is a little bit more than what you’d get in a 15-ounce jar (about 1¾ cups). This is enough for one pound of pasta. You can easily scale it up or down depending on how much you need.

I’ve got a fabulous Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake With Broccoli coming up next that uses this sauce, so stay tuned for that!

I hope you try this Homemade Garlic Alfredo Sauce recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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More Recipes to Try

If you try this recipe, I’d love to know how it went. Please leave a star rating and comment below. Thanks!

close up of a bowl of homemade garlic alfredo sauce with a spoonful being lifted out

Homemade Garlic Alfredo Sauce

This quick and easy Homemade Garlic Alfredo Sauce is rich, creamy and filled with cheesy parmesan-garlic flavor. Ready in minutes, it's perfect paired with your favorite pasta!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 8 (about ¼ cup each; recipe makes about 2 cups total)
Estimated Calories: 270

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, (I use salted butter)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • cups heavy whipping cream
  • 5 ounces parmesan cheese, freshly and finely grated
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste (freshly cracked is best)
  • salt, to taste (if needed)

Instructions

  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat (I use a 10-inch skillet).
  • Add the garlic; cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 to 2 minutes (don't let the garlic brown, as it can become bitter).
  • Add the heavy whipping cream and black pepper; whisk to combine. Bring to a gentle simmer (increase the heat a little, if needed) and simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally (do not boil). The mixture should reduce and thicken slightly during this time.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the finely grated or shredded parmesan cheese until it has completely melted and the sauce is smooth (note that there will be pieces of minced garlic in there). The cheese will thicken the sauce.
    The sauce will thicken more as it cools, so I don't aim for a super thick sauce in the pan. Plus, any pasta that you add will soak up some of the sauce, and you want it to be creamy rather than too thick and gloopy. If it's thinner than you'd like it to be, let it cool for a few minutes and it should thicken up a bit.
  • Taste and add salt and/or pepper, if needed. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • The most popular way to serve alfredo sauce is to toss it with freshly cooked pasta, such as fettuccine. This recipe will give you enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta. Make the sauce while you cook the pasta. Toss the drained hot pasta with the sauce right in the pan until evenly coated.
  • If the sauce is too thick once you add the pasta, you can always add some of the pasta cooking water to thin it out a bit and bring everything together. It’s always a good idea to save a cupful of the pasta water before draining just in case you need it.
  • You can also use the sauce in any recipe that calls for alfredo sauce (one recipe is the equivalent of one 15-ounce jar of sauce).
  • Use more or less garlic to suit your own tastes (or leave it out if you don’t want to use any).
  • A whisk combines the sauce better than a spoon or spatula.
  • I recommend holding off on adding any salt until the very end after you add the cheese. The butter has salt, the sauce will reduce a bit, and the parmesan has some saltiness to it as well. Taste it before serving and add more if needed.
    • You can use unsalted butter if you’d like.
  • Please refer to the post for additional recipe tips, variations, serving suggestions, and information on storing, reheating and freezing.
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