I made a discovery the other day when I was buying ingredients for my weekly family dinner — alfredo sauce as we know it, typically available on grocery store shelves alongside the tomato sauces? Not really a thing here. When I asked around, I found out that Italian restaurants served it, but it wasn’t so much something that was done at home. Even when white sauce is made at home for pasta, it usually isn’t the sort with copious quantities of butter and cream that I’ve come to associate with the concept of white sauce. That is purely a North American thing, along with the name “fettucine alfredo“. Go figure.
On a side note, I once knew a guy who would only ever order chicken fettuccine alfredo or fried chicken tenders when going to a restaurant, because they were the two things he could always be sure were “safe bets”. Wasn’t so much of an adventurer when it came to food. He’d probably starve here.
Funny thing? I’ve only ever attempted alfredo sauce once before, back when I was younger and had a lot less experience cooking for myself. I don’t even remember what I did wrong, but the sauce simply would not emulsify despite using the right ingredients and stirring copiously. I finally had to dump it and use a jar of sauce for that night’s dinner. It was a rather traumatic experience. This recipe? Despite having more ingredients, steps and preparation than that older recipe, it worked so much better. A lot more flavor and personality, too. Tweaked from AR’s Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo.
Ingredients list, part 1. 3 cups of milk, 1 cup of half-and-half (the little purple cartons of 12% cooking cream there are pretty much the same thing), 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of salt, 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used a nondescript bag of “Italian flakes” that seemed quite parmesan-like, since the cheese situation here is still something I’m trying to get a handle on), and 8 ounces of shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese (I actually used shredded mozzarella pizza blend, because it was what was on hand. Probably gave the sauce a slightly different character, but it was tasty nonetheless).
Ingredients list, part 2. 3 cubed chicken breasts (boneless and skinless, obviously), 6 tablespoons of butter, 4 cloves of minced garlic (that’s 1 teaspoon of dried garlic, by the way), 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (I mix my own and sometimes vary the herbs, depending on what’s on hand. This time, I used a 2:2:2:1 of basil, oregano, marjoram and sage), 1 pound of fettuccine pasta (I used a bag of leftover pappardelle, so it’s a bit wider than your typical fettuccine), 1 diced onion (my onions were a bit on the tiny side, so I used 2), 3 diced tomatoes (romas are ideal, but whatever you’ve got), and 1/2 cup of sour cream. It also called for 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms, but both the boy and I are slightly mycophobic, so I don’t use them in our food.
I started browning the chicken over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of butter.
Toss in half of the garlic and all of the Italian seasoning, mixing well into the chicken bits.
Cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, then set aside.
Start your pasta cooking in another pot, according to instructions given for its preparation. I like to add a shake of salt and some olive oil to the water to help the process along. We also usually go a little past al dente, by personal preference.
Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and saute your onion with the rest of the garlic. You would add in mushrooms here if you were using them. Cook until the onions are transparent.
Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Little note — I actually found the amount of pepper a bit overwhelming, but it worked well once it was over pasta. The family rather enjoyed that level of seasoning, however, so it really is a subjective thing. And remember, I’m a bit of a spice wimp 🙂
The flour will absorb the butter and brown a bit.
Slowly add in the milk. Just dribble and stir, making sure to keep the temperature fairly stable. You don’t want to pour in the milk all at once and cause the mixture to cool down considerably. The butter should melt into it quite willingly.
Dribble and stir in the half-and-half as well. By this time, it should be getting pretty smooth and creamy.
Stir in the parmesan and let it start to melt.
Stir in your other shredded cheeses and keep stirring until you see it all getting gooey.
Stir in your cooked chicken and diced tomatoes.
Last of all, stir in the sour cream.
Finished sauce! Serve over pasta.
Also? Even though serious foodies would probably look down their noses at the practice, this sauce actually reheats rather well, if you do it gently over low heat with some attentive stirring. Now I’ll never need to go back to the jarred stuff again 🙂