Alfredo sauce is a beloved classic that many people add to fettuccine and linguine. This creamy, white cheese sauce is dependent on both technique and the right ingredients. If your Alfredo sauce is grainy or you're struggling with cheese that won't melt, consider these expert tips and techniques.
Using the proper techniques and fresh ingredients can help keep Alfredo sauce from becoming grainy.
Avoid Grainy Alfredo Sauce
There are two hacks for a rich, creamy-textured Alfredo sauce, says chef, Andrea Anthony of Eat, Drink and Bake with Andrea. The first is choosing freshly shredded parmesan cheese off the block. "Pre-shredded packaged parmesan cheese will result in a grainy sauce," says Anthony. Therefore, to avoid lumps in your sauce, always go with freshly shredded cheese.
Her second hack is the addition of other cheeses like mascarpone cheese and cream cheese, which both work well, she says. "The thick creamy texture of these soft cheeses enhances the sauce and adds another level of texture," she adds. Additionally, Anthony also says it is very important not to overheat or allow the sauce to boil since excessive heat will break the sauce, causing it to separate.
Frank Proto, Director of Culinary Operations at the Institute of Culinary Education, recommends using a Microplane shredder for the cheese to keep Alfredo sauce from becoming grainy. "A Microplane is great for this sauce because the cheese is grated fine and will melt on contact with the hot pasta and butter, keeping the sauce from being grainy," he says.
If you have cheese that won't melt, this tool is a necessity. Using a Microplane and freshly shredded cheese is also an easy way to see the parmesan cheese melting point since the finely-grated cheese melts on contact.
He also points out that many people think Alfredo sauce always has cream, but classically, it does not. "Alfredo sauce is a simple butter and cheese sauce," says Proto. He uses unsalted butter, grated parmesan and grated pecorino cheese.
Steps for Smooth Alfredo Sauce
To keep Alfredo sauce from becoming grainy, follow these steps from Proto.
- Grate your cheese with a Microplane shredder.
- Cook your pasta in salted water (sea-salty).
- While your pasta is cooking, heat the butter in a pan to melt.
- When the pasta is cooked ¾ of the way, add it along with a little pasta water to the melted butter.
- Swirl and toss the pasta over low heat until you get a creamy sauce. If the butter looks oily, add a little more pasta water.
- Turn the heat off and add the cheese.
- Swirl and toss the pasta again and you will get a creamy sauce. If it is too tight, add more pasta water.
When you're grating the cheese, don't be alarmed if it has a smell. This doesn't necessarily mean your cheese is not safe to eat. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says many kinds of cheese are strong-smelling and perfectly fine to eat. That said, if you have questions about the smell, they recommend talking to an expert on cheese.
Other Considerations with Alfredo Sauce
Getting your Alfredo sauce just right requires the right technique with the best ingredients. Once you have your method perfected, you'll want to determine how this rich dish fits into your overall eating plan.
The good news is, whether you're trying to lose a few pounds or you're just keeping tabs on your diet, cutting out comfort food altogether is not a requirement to stay healthy. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you can enjoy your favorite foods, as long as you consume them in moderation.
One way to do this is to eat smaller amounts of your favorite foods, says the American Heart Association. The next time you sit down to a plate of pasta, dish up your regular amount. Then, place half of it in a glass container and put it in the freezer. You now have lunch for another day.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "How to Determine if Cheese Is Safe"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight"
- Institute of Culinary Education: "Chef, Frank Proto, Personal Interview"
- Eat, Drink, and Bake With Andrea: "Chef, Andrea Anthony, Personal Interview"
- The American Heart Association: "Portion Size Versus Serving Size"