Alfredo sauce in a jar doesn't compare to the homemade version, but you can add seasonings and other ingredients to flavor it. That's essentially what Alfred Di Lelio did in his restaurant in Rome when he introduced fettuccine with Alfredo sauce in 1914, adding triple-fat butter, heavy cream and the best parmigiano cheese he could find to a pasta-and-cheese dish that had existed in one form or another since ancient times.
Basic Flavor Principles
Your store-bought Alfredo sauce may need only a little seasoning to bring out its flavor. Since it's a commercial product, the sauce probably has plenty of salt, but oddly enough, adding a different type of salt deepens the flavor of the dish; for example, a few chopped capers or olives or the slightest amount of anchovy paste or soy sauce enhances its flavor. To balance the salt with acidity, add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar and a grating of lemon zest.
Add It On
One more tablespoon of butter, a few tablespoons of heavy cream or a quarter-cup of additional, but good-quality, Parmigiano-Reggiano or sheep's milk pecorino cheese may make a big impact on the sauce. Or try adding a bit of an even more flavorful cheese, such as a blue cheese like Gorgonzola or a flavorful Swiss cheese like Gruyere. Heat the sauce and stir in additional ingredients until the cheese or butter melts into the sauce.
Spice It Up
Traditionally, nutmeg and paprika give cream sauces like Alfredo more flavor, but instead of regular paprika, add the smoked variety. Or, add cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes for some heat and flavor. For earthiness, add a cup of chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon, mint and basil. For zesty flavor, add citrus zest; sumac, a Middle Eastern spice; or Japanese yuzu kosho paste with chiles and citrus.
Add flavorful ingredients to your commercial Alfredo. Try a can of drained minced clams, crispy cooked bacon or a combination of clams and bacon. Or, try minced garlic with or without cooked spinach seasoned with salt and pepper, and a minced chile pepper. For an easy flavor addition, buy prepared cream cheese in any of the assorted flavors available, and stir in 2 tablespoons or more to the heated jarred sauce, tasting as you go. Blend if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency.
- Food Timeline: FAQs: Mozzarella Cheese to Yogurt
- The Flavor Bible; Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
- Food and Wine: Train Yourself to Be a Better Cook
- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- Food and Wine: Spaghetti With Lemon, Chile and Creamy Spinach
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images