Monday Meal Ideas: Pasta Alfredo–An Italian-American Classic

Believe it or not, Alfredo sauce as it’s prepared in the Midwest isn’t a traditional Italian recipe. The story goes that it has its origins in a traditional recipe for pasta with butter and parmesan, but the dish, made from heavy cream and parmesan that is so ubiquitous in America’s Italian restaurants is nearly impossible to find in Italy, much less Spain, be it freshly prepared in a restaurant, or in jarred form. Fluffy white bechamel is simple enough to find, as is three-cheese sauce, but what midwesterners like myself know and love as Alfredo sauce is unheard of. Pasta with butter and cheese is common enough in Italy, but rarely do   people request it in restaurants–it’s too easy to prepare.

In the end, Pasta Alfredo is only one of many less than “authentic” ethnic dishes made popular in America. Spaghetti with meatballs, crab rangoon, chili, fortune cookies….the list goes on. But authentic isn’t as important as delicious….at least not in my book.


So here’s my recipe for pasta alfredo for 2  (as a main dish).


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated romano
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 cups of pasta, cooked al dente.



  1. Put a pot of water  on to boil for your pasta.
  2. When the water reaches a boil, put in your pasta.
  3. Bring the water back to a boil, cover and turn off.
  4. Leave pasta for 5 minutes before draining.
  5. Put the butter in a skillet on low heat
  6. Add the minced garlic
  7. When the garlic starts to caramelize, add in the heavy cream.
  8. When the heavy cream starts to bubble around the edges, add in the cheese, gradually, stirring it in until it’s smooth before adding more cheese.
  9. Drain pasta and toss in the alfredo sauce.
  10. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper on top.
Extra Tips for Pasta Alfredo:
  • Make your sauce thicker by adding more cheese, or thinner by adding more heavy cream.
  • Make it a more complete meal by adding your favorite vegetables and proteins. I like chicken and broccoli, italian sausage with onion and peppers, shrimp and zucchini, or fresh artichoke hearts with pitted kalamata olives and chunks of tomato.
  • Switch up the flavor by adding fresh nutmeg, or red pepper flakes, or fresh Italian herbs.
  • Use a different mixture of cured Italian cheeses for a different flavor.
  • This recipe can be made gluten-free with rice noodles.
  • Half the recipe to serve as a side dish with a protein and vegetable course (steak and steamed vegetables, anyone?)
  • This sauce can be made lower fat by substituting half or more of the heavy cream with 2% or skim milk or by thickening your sauce with flour or starch and using less cheese.
  • Purists might not like it, but Alfredo sauce is great on whole grain pasta too, not just fresh fettucine. Two cheers for fiber!
  • Add a simple salad and fettucine makes an awesomely easy romantic meal for two– think of it as Mac n’ Cheese for grownups.



Want to know more about the origins and history of the original pasta alfredo? Check out the links below: Who is Alfredo Sauce and Why Do Americans Keep Asking About Him?

Italy from the Inside: Don’t Ask for Pasta Alfredo, Please

Wise Geek: What is Alfredo Sauce?

Italian Food, The American Way: History of Fettucine Alfredo

Alfredo sauce on whole grain pasta makes for a simple but elegant dinner. Add broccoli and chicken, or peppers and Italian sausage for a special treat.

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