I’m not much of a red sauce person. If I’m at a restaurant and in the mood for pasta, and if there’s Alfredo on the menu, chances are I’m going to order that dish. If I buy frozen pasta meals to eat at home or take to work as a lunch, I’ll buy something that has Alfredo in it. Alfredo, Alfredo, Alfredo. In my book, it’s the king of cream sauces.
On occasion I’ve tried buying Alfredo sauce in a jar, or as a powder packet (just add milk!), as a slightly more economical choice as compared to premade frozen dinners. The problem I’ve had with the premade stuff is that while I like the sauce, the premade sauce doesn’t like me back. I end up being punished with food-induced issues for days after enjoying my one night of pasta bliss, which of course wrecks the whole thing. For whatever reason, I don’t tend to have those same issues when eating out or buying certain brands of frozen dinners—I’m not sure why (maybe the preservatives?). It’s always been disappointing though, because the frozen dinners never have quite enough pasta in them to satisfy me, and having all that extra waxy cardboard left over afterward doesn’t feel terribly environmentally friendly. Eating out all the time isn’t good either.
But I also hate cooking. The idea of making my own Alfredo sauce has always been intimidating, and as a matter of course I tend not to like to keep fresh milk or cream in the house because it will usually spoil before I can use it all. Additionally, I’ve sort of had it in my head that Alfredo sauce must surely be this magical, super complicated substance that only the most masterful of cooks can make. Master cook? Definitely not me!
Recently I had a craving for Alfredo, a strong one, so decided to bite the bullet and try making it myself, from scratch.
The recipe I used is called Quick and Easy Alfredo Sauce from AllRecipes.com. I chose this one not only for its promise of being “quick and easy” but also because it calls for cream cheese as an ingredient—and I love cream cheese too!
The other ingredients are straightforward, though I only used a sprinkle of pepper due to my allergy to it. I didn’t have butter either so substituted margarine. Half a cup of butter seems like a lot and indeed it was, particularly when cooking for one. This recipe overall makes enough sauce to serve pasta to 4-6 people (maybe even more) depending on the final serving size.
I combined the margarine, garlic powder, and a splash of pepper in the saucepan first and gave that a good stir. It smelled fantastic, and if I had something like a hotplate to keep the mixture from solidifying I’d consider using this stage (with a bit of parsley added) as a hot dip with some really nice French bread.
Once the margarine had melted it was time to add the cream cheese. I had prepared ahead of time by allowing the brick to come to room temperature so it was softer. I think this was helpful, as even with the warm saucepan it would have taken longer for the brick to get to a point where it was easy to mix in.
Honestly, at this stage it didn’t look all that appetizing. Sort of like a mass of scrambled, greasy eggs, kinda? I’m not sure if the appearance would have been better if I’d used butter (would butter blend better with cream cheese?). I stirred until it seemed like one big smooth congealed mess, and prepared to add the milk.
Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t like keeping fresh milk in the house. Instead I buy powdered milk and mix up what I need when I happen to be making something that calls for it. Easy enough, right?
Apparently, for me at least, milk (and cooking in general) is not easy at all. This mess slopped all over the floor, down the cupboards, over my feet, and had a splatter radius of about ten feet which means it hit the carpet outside my kitchen too. So while my margarine-cream cheese concoction continued to simmer in the saucepan and I started to worry about it burning (or something) I was stuck on the wrong side of the kitchen trying to mop all that up while swearing profusely under my breath about how much I hate cooking.
Once I had conquered the milk and regained entry to my kitchen, and then managed to get the milk into the saucepan where it belonged, it was time to add the Parmesan cheese. The recipe calls for six ounces of cheese which wasn’t a helpful measurement for me as my Parmesan came in a jar measured in grams. Since my sauce was already in-progress and I didn’t want to dick around trying to convert it to something that did make sense, I decided to wing this part. In the end I added roughly one cup. Overall I think the cheese can be left up to individual taste: more might be more appealing for some people but overwhelming for others. “To taste” would come with making this recipe a few times.
While the sauce thickened I boiled up my vermicelli, strained it, and then poured in the amount of Alfredo I wanted. I made enough pasta for two meals for me, and I have enough sauce left over for almost another two batches of the same size.
I ate, and it was good! I actually enjoyed this very much. It didn’t taste too cream cheese-y at all which I probably wouldn’t have minded but it was good to have more of the regular Alfredo taste that I was looking for. I’m writing this the day after and so far haven’t suffered any ill effects either, so I’d call this one a win. Makes me happy, even if my kitchen had to suffer a milk bath in the process!