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How to make boxed alfredo better?

What’s in the box?

Boxed alfredo sauces provide a quick and easy pasta dinner, but they often lack flavor compared to homemade alfredo. Most boxed alfredos contain minimal ingredients like milk, cheese powder, starch, and salt. While convenient, this pared down formula makes for a pretty bland sauce. Thankfully, there are many easy ways to dress up and enhance basic boxed alfredo to make it restaurant-worthy!

Add extra cheese

One of the biggest issues with boxed alfredo sauces is that they are seriously lacking in cheesy flavor. An easy fix is to stir in some extra shredded, grated or crumbled cheese. Parmesan, romano, asiago, fontina, mozzarella and Gruyère all make excellent melty, creamy additions. Try mixing in 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup of your favorite cheese to really punch up that cheesy, decadent flavor. The starch in the packaged sauce will help the cheese melt smoothly into the sauce.

Sauté vegetables

Sautéing vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, or zucchini is an easy way to add lots of extra flavor to basic boxed alfredo. Try sautéing veggies in a bit of olive oil or butter before mixing them with the prepared sauce. The high heat helps caramelize natural sugars and adds tons of flavor. Consider adding sautéed garlic, shallots or onions as well.

Stir in herbs, spices and citrus

Fresh or dried herbs, spices, citrus zest and pepper are all easy additions that can transform boring boxed alfredo into something special. Consider stirrings in any combination of basil, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley, tarragon, dill, chives, red pepper flakes, lemon or lime zest, white wine, or capers. Start with 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herbs or 1 to 2 Tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs. Taste and adjust seasonings until flavorful.

Add protein

Chicken, shrimp, lobster, salmon, bacon, Italian sausage, or meatballs partner perfectly with creamy alfredo. Sauté proteins before mixing into the prepared sauce, or simply heat prepared meats like grilled chicken in the sauce. The natural juices and flavors will seep into the alfredo, enhancing the entire dish.

Mix with pesto

Stirring a spoonful or two of pesto into prepared alfredo sauce adds a flavor and nutrition boost. The basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan in pesto take basic alfredo from blah to brilliant in minutes. Make your own pesto or use your favorite jarred variety for convenience.

Finish with cream

Heavy cream, half and half or even whole milk can lend a silky richness and luxurious texture to packaged alfredo sauce. Start by preparing alfredo according to package directions. Then, remove sauce from heat and slowly stir in cream or milk until desired consistency is reached. The dairy helps mellow sharp flavors and makes the sauce smooth and velvety.

How to cook pasta for alfredo sauce?

Crafting restaurant-quality alfredo sauce is only half the battle – properly cooking the pasta is key to ensuring a perfect alfredo dish. Here are some tips for cooking pasta with plans to use an alfredo sauce:

Use a large pot

It’s crucial to use a pot that’s big enough to allow pasta room to move around as it cooks. If pasta is crowded, it will turn out gummy. For 1 pound of dried pasta, use at least a 6-quart pot filled with 4 to 6 quarts of water.

Salt the water generously

Pasta water should taste salty like the sea. This allows the pasta to absorb flavor as it cooks. Use at least 2 tablespoons salt for every 4 quarts of water. Stir to dissolve salt before adding pasta.

Stir frequently

Gently stir pasta for the first minute or two after adding it to the boiling water. This prevents sticking. Continue stirring occasionally as it cooks.

Cook until al dente

Boil pasta according to package directions until al dente, or slightly firm to the bite. Al dente pasta has the perfect toothsome texture for absorbing sauces. Overcooked, mushy pasta is a soggy disaster in cream sauces.

Reserve pasta water

Before draining cooked pasta, reserve about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. This can be stirred into the finished sauce to help it cling to the pasta. The starch creates a silky emulsion.

Rinse briefly with cold water

Drain cooked pasta well, then rinse for just 5 to 10 seconds under cold running water. This stops the cooking process for perfectly al dente results. The water also washes off excess starch for a sleek, glossy sauce coating.

Add pasta to sauce, not vice versa

For the best texture, add drained pasta directly to the prepared alfredo sauce. Toss to coat pasta with sauce. The pasta finishes cooking and absorbs maximum flavor this way. Avoid dumping sauce over pasta or the result will be a gloopy, overcooked mess.

What ingredients make alfredo sauce creamy?

Boxed alfredo sauces use gums, starches and dairy products to create a smooth, creamy consistency. But what makes homemade alfredo sauce so luscious and decadent? Here are the key ingredients:


Butter is the base of classic alfredo sauce. Melted butter cooked into a roux with flour gives alfredo its rich, silky texture. Use high quality butter with at least 80% milk fat for best flavor. Clarified butter or ghee prevent burning or separation.

Heavy cream

The addition of heavy whipping cream takes basic butter sauce to ultra creamy levels. The high-fat content makes heavy cream the ideal choice, though half-and-half also works. Stir cream into finished alfredo sauce just before tossing with pasta.


Finely grated hard Italian cheeses like Parmesan, romano and asiago give alfredo sauce a smooth, creamy consistency. Their natural emulsifying properties from casein proteins helps create a stable emulsion. Always add cheese at the end off heat.

Egg yolks

Some alfredo sauce recipes call for egg yolk whisked into the finished sauce. The lecithin in yolks acts as a natural emulsifier and gives the sauce extra richness. Use caution when adding raw eggs.


A dusting of flour or cornstarch mixed into the melted butter helps thicken basic alfredo sauce. Start with 1 to 2 teaspoons and adjust as needed for desired consistency. Starch stabilizes the delicate emulsion.

Nutritional yeast

For a dairy-free version, nutritional yeast adds creamy texture and cheesy umami flavor. Whisk 1 to 2 Tablespoons into your alfredo along with non-dairy milk and plant-based butter or oil.

How can you avoid clumping with alfredo sauce?

Nothing’s worse than a clumpy, gloopy alfredo sauce coating your pasta. Here are some tips to keep homemade or store-bought alfredo smooth and lump-free:

Cook over low heat

High heat can cause milk proteins in alfredo to coagulate and clump. Gently heat the sauce over low, maintaining a simmer rather than a rapid boil. Stir frequently as well.

Use a double boiler

A double boiler setup further prevents scorching or coagulation of alfredo sauce. The hot water bath regulates the temperature for smooth results.

Add cheese off heat

Always add shredded cheese once alfredo is removed from heat. Residual heat will melt it smoothly into the sauce. Cheese over direct heat risks clumping.

Use an emulsifier

Ingredients like egg yolk or mustard contain lecithin which acts as an emulsifier, keeping fats and liquids blended smoothly.

Strain if needed

For a silky smooth alfredo, press the finished sauce through a fine mesh strainer to catch any bits of clumped cheese or coagulated milk solids.

Rinse pasta

A quick rinse under cold water stops the cooking process and washes off excess starch from cooked pasta. This prevents gummy pasta from glopping up the sauce.

Loosen with pasta water

If alfredo does start to clump, stir in 1 to 2 Tablespoons of starchy pasta cooking water to smooth things out and loosen up the sauce.

Check for bad cheese

On rare occasions, cheeses themselves can contain clumps. Inspect shredded cheese for clumps before adding to sauce. Grate your own versus pre-shredded.

Use quality ingredients

Subpar milk, cheese or butter are more prone to breaking or clumping when heated. Splurge on the good stuff for flawlessly smooth alfredo.

What are some quick tips to improve boxed alfredo sauce?

Add extra cheese Stir in 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup shredded Parmesan, Asiago or Romano for flavor.
Sauté vegetables Cook mushrooms, spinach, broccoli etc. in olive oil before mixing in.
Introduce herbs & spices Boost flavor with basil, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes.
Mix in protein Chicken, shrimp, sausage add richness when sautéed then added.
Splash of cream Half and half or heavy cream makes sauce silkier.
Stir in pesto A spoonful of pesto adds big flavor.
Finish with citrus A squirt of lemon or lime juice brightens the sauce.
Grate hard cheese Finely grate Parmesan, Romano or Asiago for smooth melty texture.

Boxed alfredo is convenient, but Falls Flat on flavor. With a few easy add-ins and techniques, you can transform basic packaged Alfredo into a luxurious, restaurant-worthy sauce. Try mixing in extra cheese, sautéed veggies, herbs, spices, proteins or cream. Grate hard cheeses instead of using pre-shredded. Finish with a squirt of citrus juice. Use low gentle heat prevent scorching or clumping. With these tips, your next Alfredo night will be magnifico!

What are some alfredo sauce recipe ideas?

Take boxed alfredo from boring to brilliant with these easy add-in recipe ideas:

1. Chicken, Bacon and Spinach Alfredo

Sauté diced chicken and bacon. Add spinach at the end to wilt. Stir meat and spinach into prepared alfredo along with 1⁄4 cup Parmesan and juice of 1 lemon. Toss with pasta.

2. Shrimp Scampi Zoodle Alfredo

Sauté shrimp in olive oil with garlic, lemon, pepper flakes, white wine and parsley. Toss with prepared alfredo, zucchini noodles and Parmesan cheese.

3. Veggie Alfredo Lasagna

Layer lasagna noodles, prepared alfredo, sautéed mushrooms, spinach, bell peppers, onions, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake at 375 until hot and melty.

4. Ravioli with Smoky Tomato Cream Sauce

Simmer canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes. Stir in prepared alfredo. Toss with cheese ravioli and basil.

5. Seafood Fettuccine Alfredo

Sauté shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams in butter and olive oil. Add garlic, white wine and lemon. Toss seafood with prepared alfredo. Serve over fettuccine.

6. Chicken Bacon Alfredo Pizza

Top prepared pizza crust with alfredo, diced chicken, crumbled bacon, onions, mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Bake at 450 degrees 5 to 8 minutes until crust is crisp and cheese melty.

7. Mediterranean Chicken Pasta

Sauté chicken in olive oil with sundried tomatoes, spinach, artichoke hearts, basil, and feta cheese. Toss with prepared alfredo and penne pasta.

The possibilities are endless for dressing up basic boxed alfredo! Add your favorite veggies, proteins and spices for a customized creamy pasta creation.

How can you make alfredo healthier?

Alfredo sauce is undeniably delicious, but laden with butter, cream and cheese, it can also be heavy and rich. Here are some easy ways to lighten up traditional alfredo:

Use reduced-fat dairy

Substitute whole milk or cream with lower fat versions like 2%, 1% or skim milk. Low-fat or part-skim ricotta, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream also work.

Cut some of the cheese

Cut back on full-fat cheese by using reduced-fat or part-skim varieties. A flavorful hard cheese like Parmesan will still impart lots of flavor even in smaller quantities.

Add veggies

Bulk up alfredo sauce by blending in cooked veggies like cauliflower, pumpkin, butternut squash or zucchini. This adds nutrients and fiber while cutting calories.

Boost nutrition with greens

Mix in handfuls of spinach, kale or arugula to your alfredo recipe. These greens pack a nutritional punch and reduce the overall calories per serving.

Substitute whole wheat pasta

Swap regular pasta for protein-packed whole grain or lentil based pasta varieties. This makes for a more well-rounded nutritious meal.

Go easy on fat

Use cooking sprays or broths to sauté instead of oil or butter. Measure oil and butter carefully and reduce wherever possible. Every bit cut makes a difference.

Finish with lemon

A squeeze of fresh lemon at the end brightens up the alfredo and cuts the richness. Lemon’s acidity balances the fat and heaviness.

While alfredo will never be a diet food, these simple substitutions help make this classic comfort dish a little more waistline and nutrition conscious!


Boxed alfredo sauce provides a shortcut to creamy pasta in minutes. However, the convenience comes at the cost of flavor and texture. Thankfully, with a few easy tricks, basic packaged alfredo can be transformed into a sauce fit for an Italian restaurant! Stirring in extra cheese, herbs, veggies, proteins and cream punches up flavor. Taking care not to overcook the pasta or sauce prevents gloppiness. Finishing with a spritz of lemon juice brightens the entire dish. And choosing healthier substitutions where possible cuts calories without sacrificing taste. So go ahead and keep a box of alfredo on hand for busy weeknights. With these tips, you can still achieve a decadent dish that looks and tastes homemade. Mangia!