This fettuccine alfredo is made in the traditional Italian style without heavy cream. Butter, garlic, and parmigiano reggiano mixed with starchy pasta water form a creamy, luscious sauce without extra dairy. This recipe comes together in just 15 minutes, and can easily be made gluten-free.
Fettuccine alfredo is a famous dish loved by Italian-Americans served at Italian restaurants like the Olive Garden. It is a rich sauce often with heavy cream, cheese, and sometimes chicken. It can be quite high in fat and calories so folks are often looking for a lighter alternative with the same flavour.
This Authentic Fettuccine Alfredo has all the key flavours of the creamy dish you love, minus the heavy cream, fat, and some of the calories. Authentic alfredo sauce actually dates back to Rome, like all delicious pastas. It was traditionally just a butter and parmigiano sauce, and I've added in garlic to get that classic alfredo taste that we know in North America.
How can there be no heavy cream? You ask. This sauce is made of simple, pantry staples, yet you will be shocked that it tastes just like the alfredo you know! The sauce starts with equal parts butter and olive oil. Minced garlic is added, then cooked fettuccine and some of its salty water, parmigiano reggiano cheese and parsley. That's it! The hot, starchy pasta water mixes with the cheese to form a luscious, creamy sauce.
This is an easy recipe that is made in just 15 minutes all while the pasta cooks. It can easily be made gluten-free by using your favourite pasta. This recipe is based off the authentic version with a few tweaks to get the flavour to the creamy, garlicky alfredo that we know and love. Try pairing it with some gluten-free garlic bread, gluten-free focaccia, or a panzanella salad.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- The sauce is made while the pasta cooks. The whole meal is done in 15 minutes.
- Simple ingredients made with pantry staples. Just pasta, oil & butter, garlic, and parmigiano reggiano.
- Easy to make for a crowd.
- The best part is: No heavy whipping cream, no cream cheese, no whole milk, no regular milk, no egg yolk, no garlic powder from the original recipe.
- A delicious midnight snack, as the Italians do.
- Allergy-friendly. This recipe is nut-free and easily gluten-free.
- Pairs well with salad, meat, potatoes, you name it. Italians typically enjoy pasta as a primi or first course, followed by meats, potatoes, salad, and dessert, but you can add chicken strips for a chicken fettuccine alfredo and I won't tell anyone.
Here is everything you'll need to make this easy alfredo sauce recipe:
- Olive oil & butter: Use unsalted butter ideally but salted will also work.
- Minced garlic: Fresh is best but honestly the jarred stuff works.
- Dried fettuccine: or any long pasta, plus sea salt for the cooking water.
- Parmigiano reggiano: NOT parmesan cheese from a plastic container. Buy a vacuum sealed wedge of parmigiano reggiano imported from Italy, not anything else.
- Italian parsley
- Grilled chicken strips: Optional to make chicken alfredo.
To change up this pasta, here are some substitution suggestions:
- Pasta: If you don't have fettuccine, I recommend using any other long pasta like spaghetti, spaghettoni, or spaghettini. Your favorite pasta will work, or fresh pasta.
- Protein: Italians actually don't often have chunks of protein in their pasta. They enjoy pasta as a first course, or primi, then enjoy meat, potatoes, and salad as secondi. One protein that would work in this dish are strips of grilled chicken for a chicken fettuccine alfredo. Otherwise enjoy with a side of chicken cutlets, veal, or meatballs.
- Seasoning: Add as much garlic as your heart desires. I love the freshness that parsley adds to this pasta. You could also add red pepper flakes for heat, or spicy Calabrian chili oil if you like. Black pepper and Italian seasoning are also traditional in the Italian American recipe.
Be sure to read the recipe card below for the full ingredient list and instructions to make this easy homemade alfredo sauce.
(1) Fill a large pot with water and set to boil. Once boiling, lightly salt the water and add the pasta. Cook according to package instructions, minus 1 minute.
Once the pasta is placed in the water, begin to warm a large skillet over medium heat.
(2) With 5 minutes left in the pasta cook time, add the butter and olive oil to the pan.
(3) Once hot, add the minced garlic. It should sizzle lightly for 2-3 minutes and turn a golden colour. Turn the heat down if it fries and browns too quickly.
(4) Once nearly cooked, use tongs to add the pasta directly from the pot. Add the parmigiano and parsley to the skillet and stir with tongs to emulsify the sauce, adding more pasta water as needed for it to glide.
(5) Serve in a large bowl and top with more parmigiano, chopped parsley, and sliced chicken breast if you like. Enjoy!
What to Serve with Fettuccine Alfredo
There are many dishes that pair wonderfully with this pasta. Traditionally, Italians will eat pasta as a primi or first course, followed by secondi of meat, vegetables, salad, bread, etc. This pasta would be traditionally eaten on its own with no additions in the dish. As a North American, my one recommendation would be to add grilled chicken strips for a Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo.
Here are some suggestions of what to serve with this creamy fettuccine alfredo recipe:
- Fried zucchini
- Gluten-free garlic bread
- Gluten-free focaccia
- Gluten-free panzanella salad
- Roasted potatoes and broccoli
- Crunchy kale salad
- Prosciutto wrapped asparagus
and for dessert, try some of these Italian-inspired recipes:
- Chocolate covered pistachios
- Gluten-free lemon cookies
- Chocolate amaretti cookies
- Gluten-free almond biscotti
- Gluten-free dairy-free tiramisu cups
It is recommended to make and eat this recipe while it's fresh and hot. Should you have leftovers, place them in an airtight container and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove with a little bit of oil until the pasta twirls again.
I do not recommend making fettuccine alfredo ahead of time. It is best served hot and fresh.
Here are some of my top tips and tricks for successful pasta:
- Once boiling, lightly salt the pasta water. The salty pasta water will be added to the oil & butter to make the sauce. A light saltiness will be welcome, however the parmigiano reggiano is also quite salty, so be careful not to over salt the pasta water.
- Cook the pasta to al dente with a slight chew. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce an absorb all the flavours. Overcooked pasta will fall apart, especially if using gluten-free pasta.
- Don't let the garlic burn. If the garlic turns dark brown or black, start over because it's burnt. You can't save burnt garlic. It only needs to toast for 2-3 minutes.
- You may need to add more pasta water than you think. It's the pasta water that releases starch and forms an emulsified sauce. Without it, you will just have oily pasta. Keep adding pasta water and stirring with the pasta and oil until it clings to the pasta in a light sauce consistency. There should barely be any sauce pooling in the pan. It takes practice!
Frequently Asked Questions
The alfredo sauce that Americans know with the heavy cream, garlic, and chicken does not exist in Italy. In Italy, their closest recipe is likely called fettuccine al burro which simply means pasta with butter. It is a sauce made from butter and parmigiano reggiano. This authentic recipe merges that with the American addition of garlic to create a simple sauce with the flavours of the original.
Oil should not be dripping off of the pasta. If so, this means that you likely used too much oil and/or butter and not enough pasta water in the sauce. The pasta water releases starch and forms an emulsified sauce. Without it, you will just have oily pasta. Keep adding pasta water and stirring with the pasta and oil until it clings to the pasta in a light sauce consistency.
I've made the mistake before of aggressively over-salting my pasta water in this recipe. You only want to lightly salt the pasta water because that will become incorporated in the sauce, which also contains the salty parmigiano reggiano cheese.
Classic Italian recipes like this one do not add protein directly to the pasta. Pasta is often eaten as a primi, or first course. The secondi, or second courses, often include meat, vegetables, and potatoes or bread. I recommend serving this pasta with a side of fish, chicken cutlets, veal, or meatballs.
In North America, Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo is a popular dish, with grilled chicken strips added. That would be traditional to this recipe. A more modern take is shrimp alfredo with grilled shrimps.
This 15 minute authentic style fettuccine alfredo recipe is the perfect lunch, weeknight dinner or midnight snack for the whole family. With just a handful of ingredients, this creamy alfredo sauce sure packs big flavour. You may say it's the best alfredo sauce you've had! You're sure to enjoy this lightened up Italian American dish. Buon appetito!
More Quick Dinners
- Spaghetti aglio e olio
- Greek chicken meatballs
- Turkey meatballs
- Air fryer trout
- Green veggie pasta sauce
- Gluten-free chicken nuggets
- Air fryer halibut
- Sausage & eggplant pasta
- Gluten-free pasta salad
- Tuscan chicken & orzo skillet
Have you made this traditional fettuccine alfredo? I'd very much appreciate it if you leave a 5-star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review below, and tag me on instagram @fromoliviaskitchen!
Authentic Fettuccine Alfredo (No Heavy Cream!)
- 200 g dried fettuccine
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 cloves minced garlic
- 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
- 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
- Sliced chicken breast optional for chicken fettuccine alfredo
- Fill a large pot with water and set to boil. Once boiling, lightly salt the water and add the pasta. Cook according to package instructions, minus 1 minute.
- Once the pasta is placed in the water, begin to warm a large skillet over medium heat.
- With 5 minutes left in the pasta cook time, add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once hot, add the minced garlic. It should sizzle lightly for 2-3 minutes and turn a golden colour. Turn the heat down if it fries and browns too quickly.
- Once nearly cooked, use tongs to add the pasta directly from the pot. Add the parmigiano and parsley to the skillet and stir with tongs to emulsify the sauce, adding more pasta water as needed for it to glide.
- Serve in a large bowl and top with more parmigiano, parsley, and grilled chicken strips if you like. Enjoy!
- Use gluten-free pasta if your diet requires. Be gentle as it can break if overcooked.
- Please use freshly grated Italian parmigiano reggiano, not parmesan from a plastic tub. It's not the same.
- The starchy pasta water is essential in emulsifying the sauce! You want all of the pasta to be lightly coated so it glides and twirls, without much dripping off.
- Note that traditionally, Italians enjoy pasta as a primo, or first course, and meat as a secondo. If you are used to eating chicken fettuccine alfredo, you may serve grilled chicken directly with the pasta.