Thursday, October 6, 2011

Homemade Alfredo Sauce

Homemade Fettuccini Alfredo



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Fear Conquered: Homemade Alfredo Sauce

The first time I fell in love, I was 12. And it was with Alfredo sauce.

Picture it: 1993, Pittsburgh, a young boy celebrating his much more worldly friend's birthday at Olive Garden. I was innocently looking at lasagna and spaghetti but he suggested the Fettuccine Alfredo.

I had never been to Olive Garden before as Eat 'n Park was fancy enough for my parents (a chain originating in Pittsburgh along the same lines as Bob Evans without the farm vibe). I had never even ordered "Italian" food - the closest to Italian I had eaten was homemade lentil spaghetti or microwave lasagna.

So when a big bowl of fragrant, steaming, flattened pasta smothered in creamy cheesy gloriousness arrived under my nose, I only had one thought: How had I managed to live 12 years without meeting Alfredo?

Adding Steaming Fettuccini Pasta to Sauce

Years passed and when I finally got into the kitchen after college, Alfredo was one of the first sauces I tried to make. In my head, it sounded easy enough: start with white sauce, add cheese and garlic, toss with pasta. I knew how to make b├ęchamel sauce so I just added a little ground-up parmesan (the kind in the green plastic bottle), garlic salt and some ground pepper (from a can). I didn't have fettuccine in the house, so I tossed my sauce with spaghetti.

The sauce was an abomination: heavy, pasty, lumpy and seized as soon as it touched the pasta.

So I gave up on Alfredo, deciding it beyond my fledgling cooking skills. In reality, I simply overcomplicated the sauce. Phenomenal Alfredo depends on just one key ingredient.

Say hello to mascarpone.

8 oz Mascarpone Cheese

A lot of people compare mascarpone to cream cheese, but they're really nothing alike. Mascarpone is creamier and less greasy than cream cheese. It's slightly tangy, yet still somehow sweet. For a dense creamy cheese, it somehow manages to remain light and fresh. And it's the perfect ingredient for amazing Alfredo sauce.

Some recipes involve making bechamel, adding egg yolks, pint after pint of heavy cream and 5 types of cheeses. Forget all that. This recipe is suspiciously simple, but the results are delightful - all thanks to mascarpone.



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Photo Tutorial

Cubed Parmesan Cheese in Food Processor
Grate 7 oz of fresh parmesan cheese (I use a food processor fitted with the steel blade)

Ground Parmesan Cheese
If using a food processor, run the steel blade until the cheese is pulverized. You can also use a box grater or microplane.

1 Cup Ground Parmesan Cheese
You should end up with approximately 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese, lightly packed

2 Cups Whole Milk
Heat 2 cups of whole milk. I heat the milk in the microwave, but you can also heat in a pot on the cook-top.

8 oz Mascarpone Cheese
You will need 8 oz of mascarpone cheese...

4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
...and 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter

Mascarpone and Butter Added to Sauce Pan
Combine mascarpone and butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and melt together, whisking occasionally.

5 Cloves Garlic to be Minced
While mascarpone and butter melt, peel and mince 5 cloves of garlic. I use a garlic press.

Pressed Garlic and Salt Added to Mortar
Add minced garlic plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt to a mortar

Mashing Garlic and Salt
Mash garlic and salt into a paste

Mascarpone and Butter Melted Together
Mascarpone and butter should be melted - whisk until smooth and combined.

Garlic Paste Added to Cheese and Butter
Add garlic paste to sauce and whisk together.

Cracked Pepper and Nutmeg Added to Sauce
Add cracked black pepper and ground nutmeg; whisk to combine.

Adding Milk to Cheese Sauce
Add hot milk to sauce, 1/2 cup at a time; allow sauce to cook and thicken for 5 minutes between each addition of milk.

Adding Parmesan Cheese to Sauce
Once all milk has been whisked into sauce, add grated parmesan cheese in 4 parts, allowing each addition of parmesan to fully melt into the sauce before adding more.

Smooth and Creamy Alfredo Sauce
Allow sauce to cook over low heat for 10 minutes, whisking frequently. Sauce will thicken somewhat.

Fettuccini Added to Alfredo Sauce
Add 3/4 pound of cooked fettuccine or other pasta to sauce

Homemade Fettuccini Alfredo
Toss to combine. Optionally, add cooked chicken, broccoli or other add-ins to sauce

Fettuccini Alfredo with Broccoli Overhead
Serve immediately for best texture and flavor



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Homemade Alfredo Sauce

    by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 10 min
     Cook Time: 40 min
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Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 7 ounces fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Grate the parmesan cheese (I use a food processor but you can also manually grate the cheese); set aside
  2. Heat the whole milk in a small soup pot over medium heat to warm through (or heat the milk in the microwave for 2-3 minutes on HIGH using a microwave-safe measure); do not allow the milk to boil
  3. Combine the butter and mascarpone cheese in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat until the cheese has melted into the butter, whisking occasionally
  4. While the mascarpone and butter melt, use a mortar and pestle to mash the minced garlic and kosher salt into a grainy paste
  5. Whisk the garlic paste into the melted cheese and butter mixture; cook for approximately 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant; whisk-in the pepper and nutmeg
  6. Gradually whisk in the warm milk, adding 1/2 cup at a time; allow the sauce to thicken and heat for 5 minutes between each addition of the milk, whisking frequently
  7. Over low heat, gradually whisk in the grated parmesan cheese, allowing each addition of cheese to fully incorporate and melt into the sauce before adding more cheese
  8. Allow the sauce to thicken over low heat for approximately 10 minutes, whisking frequently
  9. Remove the sauce from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing; OR add cooked pasta (al dente) and pre-cooked protein or vegetables, toss together with the sauce and cook together for 2-3 minutes before serving
An original recipe by Javelin Warrior. © 2010 Javelin Warrior. All rights reserved.
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Hungry for Tips?
  • My favorite (and somewhat healthful) way to scarf down Alfredo is with pasta and broccoli. I roast the broccoli in the oven at 425F for 8 minutes, then toss in the sauce with pasta.



  • If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can mash the garlic and salt in a bowl with a fork; you can use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic (1 3/4 teaspoons is about right), but the flavor is less fresh and more harsh on the tongue.

    Mashing Garlic and Salt

  • Heating the milk before adding to the sauce is very important as it ensures butter and cheese fats don't seize or separate.

  • Don't use grated parmesan cheese in the plastic green bottles - buy a small block of parmesan and grate it by hand or using a food processor as I do. The fresh cheese thickens the sauce beautifully while keeping it silky smooth.

    Cubed Parmesan Cheese in Food Processor

  • Alfredo sauce is perfect for a whole variety of recipes: add it to marinara sauce for an creamy blush sauce (as show below from this recipe), spread it over pizza instead of marinara, serve with crusty bread as a dipping sauce, etc.

    Eggplant Blush Pasta with Shrimp



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17 comments:

  1. Your food upbringing seems to have been as hilariously dreadful as mine - I remember going to Red Lobster on my birthday once a year like it was mother fucking SPECIAL.

    Anyhoo, I'm totes going to make this, because 1) ALFREDO SAUCE, and 2) MASCARPONE CHEESE. Ted professes not to like alfredo sauce, but he is obviously crazy or delusional. And if he really doesn't like it, I'll just put shrimp in it (he also professes not to like shrimp) and eat it myself. Nom nom nom.

    Aside: mascarpone cheese plus speck or prosciutto - combine this in some form immediately and then come back and thank me.

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  2. Yay, I'm glad you're making it! :) If you discover any improvements, well you know who to share them with.

    I'm going to seek out prosciutto and combine with mascarpone. I have a delightful breakfast pie that's pasty shell, mascarpone/maple cream, fruit and bacon. I think crispy prosciutto would be the perfect improvement. Now, where can I find good prosciutto and don't say Whole Foods because (gasp!) Virginia Beach doesn't rate one >(

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  3. Thanks to followed my blog! This pasta looks so good!!!
    B.

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  4. @Benedetta, no problem the food in your blog looks amazing. I just wish I had learned Italian growing up so I could read more!

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  5. Mascarpone is brilliant!!! It must make it sooo creamy! I am eating cheese now while I am pregnant, but once I give birth it's back to vegan for me :)

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  6. I honestly don't think I could be vegan - I love cheese too much :( But I am making a genuine effort to seek out vegan "comfort food" options to try and make.

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  7. This looks quite tasty and I'll have to try it soon. Maybe this time I'll have better luck with the Mascarpone than when I tried using it in a Lasagna! ;D That said, I've found another simple way a few years ago. With the usual care and some good timing, you can manage a decent alfredo with the following.

    1/4 - 1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
    1/8 - 1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter
    A Pinch of Salt
    (Opt.) A Splash of Milk
    *I generally use 2% for availability and personal taste preference*
    Parmesan to Taste And Consistency, Starting at 1/4 Cup
    *Home-grated is preferable, although store-bought shredded will do. Finely grated will work but requires more observation and liquid content*
    (Opt.) Chicken Stock to Consistency
    Chosen Spices to Taste

    This is a fairly basic version of the recipe I most often use. If you decide to try it, please keep in mind that the measurements are inexact - it was born from a combination of several recipes I read and my own experimentation, and is tailored differently each time I make it (such as with the spices I choose).

    Place Butter in Pan on Low Heat. Just as it begins to melt, add Cream. Gently stir as Butter melts into Cream, adding Salt. Add Milk if Desired, or if Consistency becomes too thick. Once Butter is melted or nearly so, slowly sprinkle in Parmesan in small amounts and spices, stirring continuously. Carefully and gradually add Chicken Stock if consistency becomes too thick. Allow to thicken 5-10 minutes after last of Parmesan has melted, or until desired consistency is reached. Remove from heat and serve as preferred.

    Again, fairly simple, but as easy to curdle as any other dairy recipe, and likely not nearly as tasty as what you've shared with us. As an aside, I generally use minced garlic as one of my spices, since it provides more texture and contrast in taste when compared to properly dissolved garlic powder, with slightly less risk of overwhelming the flavor. You may also wish to try adding small quantities of vanilla extract, white pepper and (surprisingly) soy sauce as you experiment to find your own personal flavor. It's fairly similar to your own recipe above, but still there for you to try experimenting with alongside your own, if you wish.

    May Your Knives Stay Ever Sharp and your Pots and Bowls Clean;
    Mister Claws Canidae

    P.S. If I've come across as overbearing or you prefer that readers not share their own recipes in kind, I apologize.

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  8. Thanks for taking the time to share and it's always fascinating to learn how others approach a classic like Alfredo sauce. I've never tried making lasagna with mascarpone, but I would imagine it could get quite soupy as mascarpone melts as it heats into more of a liquid state... I've never used vanilla or chicken stock in Alfredo, but I always use garlic (although I mash into a paste because I prefer a smooth sauce).


    If you do give my version of the sauce a try, let me know how it goes for you and thanks again for sharing...

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  9. brown the butter and roast the garlic! yum.

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  10. You're over-complicating this recipe, just like all americans do with EVERYTHING. Keep it simple and cut half that crap you're putting in the sauce. For an amazing alfredo sauce you need 3 things, cracked black pepper, mascarpone and white wine, preferably a pinot grigio as the light non-dry wine mixes well with the cheese. For an extra wonderful kick to the sauce you could add some chestnut (UK)/Baby Bella (US) mushrooms, the slightly nutty flavour builds up a nice mushroom oil which stops the cheese from curdling while being cooked with the wine. The addition of cream and cheese and butter is just making this recipe incredibly fatty. Honestly, you didn't really improve the original fatty Alfredo sauce recipe, you just removed a small portion of transfats, but this is still a stroke-on-a-plate. I was taught how to do amazing Italian cooking in the UK from an Italian architect from Naples, don't look to make american recipes healthier, they're already way off the deep end and have little to do with the original dish they're trying to emulate, instead you should be looking into real italian cooking, FROM ITALY. Lastly, the mark of a great cook is to use as little ingredients as possible, you have 9 ingredients for a simple base sauce, there should be no more than 5ingredients for ANY base sauce, these are some of the basic rules of the culinary arts. I'm by no means a chef, but if i'm going to do something, I find out how to do it properly

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  11. oh for the love of......you don't use mascarpone in a lasagne, it's melting point is too low and it doesn't solidify to give the lasagne a sturdy body so it keeps its shape, mascarpone will have it melting into a pile of slop on your plate. Ricotta, mix in one beaten egg, top this on your layers of meat as you build your lasagne, addition of parmesan and mozzarella are welcomed for a boost in flavour, but can be skipped if you're trying to keep the fat content down. I like that everyone's making the attempt, but seriously, 10mins on google and you can find all this information on real italian recipes.

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  12. Recommend ordering it over the internet and having it shipped to your house. If there's no Whole Foods nearby, I wouldn't run on the word of any local stockists that it is genuine proscuitto. If you're worried about health benefits, domestic proscuitto manufactured in america has a much higher salt content and overdone flavour. Real proscuitto and parma ham imported from Italy have a much more delicate taste, more appealing smell and lower salt content. Using one or the other can have a positive or negative effect on the taste of your whole dish. When in doubt, go authentic.

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  13. I had to smile reading your comment - I love the passion you exude for authentic Italian cuisine and you've definitely got a leg up on me as the closest I've come to interacting or learning from true Italian chefs/cooks is a few Italian blogger friends. And I'm sure this won't be the first or only "Italian" themed recipe I post that radically departs from true Italian techniques or ingredients. I'm not an Italian cook and I make no claims to be an expert on Italian cuisine - I'm interested in tasty, repeatable, reliable results with comforting textures and flavors I crave. Besides eliminating transfats, HFCS, food dyes, preservatives and other nasties, I also make no claims on the healthfulness of my recipes. In fact, as with this recipe, I encourage my readers to exercise restraint when consuming fat/carb laden food (such as this Alfredo sauce).


    I appreciate the feedback and suggestions for a simpler Alfredo sauce - I've never tried it with white wine or mushrooms and I'd certainly be curious about the final result. My goal was a smooth, creamy, rich sauce that clings to pasta and reheats well - without curdling during the cooking stage or after being combined with the pasta. I'll have to give the white wine / mascarpone combo a try for comparison.


    Finally, you don't have to agree with me, my techniques, my recipes, or anything else on my blog. But I insist you remain courteous and considerate of others if you choose to leave comments or otherwise participate on my blog. There are infinite ways to communicate your perspective without resorting to outright or veiled insults, bullying, or arrogant language. I welcome feedback and different points of view, but I will not tolerate abusive behaviors...


    Thanks again for your feedback and I hope to hear from you again...

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  14. Actually, while I have never tried using alfredo or mascarpone in my lasagna, a couple of my friends have used both and really enjoyed the results. And while it may not be true to traditional or authentic lasagna, I see absolutely nothing wrong with thinking outside the box and experimenting with different ingredients and combinations. I admire fearlessness in the kitchen...

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  15. Thanks - now that I've moved to a new city, I finally have access to Whole Foods and a bunch of other food options, so I'll be exploring again for options...

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  16. Grow a thicker skin, learn to take constructive criticism or you won't do well studying any kind of cooking in Europe. We're strict on ignorance not being an excuse. If you've never heard of my version of the recipe or even looked into italian or european cooking...............i shouldn't even need to point out where your mistakes lie there. I was passing on reliable knowledge to make your recipe better, instead you've taken umbridge because, like most american, you can't take criticism well. Your loss.

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  17. And that's exactly how America ended up with its awful version of Alfredo sauce, there's thinking outside the box, then there's just plain ruining an entire recipe.

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