What Makes a Great Alfredo Sauce?

A rich and creamy treat, fettuccine Alfredo is one of the most popular pasta dishes. Easily prepared with store-bought pasta and sauce, it is also a meal that’s a snap to make at home. Alfredo sauce gets its richness from generous portions of Parmesan cheese and either butter or cream. Many think pairing it with pasta, chicken or vegetables is the perfect way to satisfy a hearty appetite.

A high quality jarred Alfredo sauce may have some visible flecks. Parmesan should be the lead intensity in both the aroma and flavor profiles, followed by garlic and dairy notes. There may also be warm spice, black pepper, onion and white wine notes present. “Meaty” bouillon notes, if present, should not overwhelm the expected Alfredo notes. There should not be musty notes. Salt should be the leading taste intensity, supported by sweet and sour. Bitter should not be present. The texture of the Alfredo sauce should be rich and smooth, not pasty like a slurry. In application with macaroni, the sauce should coat the pasta. The Alfredo intensity (parmesan, garlic and dairy) should remain and not be overwhelmed by the pasta flavor.

Tasting terms

  • snap

    When a food breaks apart cleanly. Example: Fresh corn, grapes, carrots and the casing of a hot dog will have a snap when bitten.

  • richness

    Associated with creamy and dense mouthfeel; often evident in products containing significant amounts of butter or cream. Example: Alfredo sauce, coffee and super premium ice cream can be described as rich.

  • aroma

    The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.

  • salt

    One of the basic tastes; tasting of or containing salt. Example: Potato chips, sea water and cured meats all have a strong salt component.

  • sweet

    One of the basic tastes; often considered pleasing while exhibiting characteristics of sugar. Example: Honey, ripe fruits and syrup all have a pronounced sweet component.

  • sour

    One of the basic tastes; often considered sharp, tart and acidic. Example: Lemon juice, vinegar and fermented foods often have a strong sour component.

  • texture

    A dimension used to organize attributes like mouthfeel, graininess and initial bite, it is one of the five dimensions used by ChefsBest Master Tasters to evaluate food. Example: Glazed popcorn will have a crunch texture. The texture of milk chocolate should be creamy and smooth.

  • bitter

    One of the basic tastes; often considered harsh and unpleasant in abundance, but a key basic taste for foods like coffee and dark chocolate. Example: Unripened fruit, aspirin and coffee all have bitter components.