This makes enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta -- or 1/2 pound if you like it extra-cheesy!
Swap out the Parmesan for any favorite cheese to make your own version of this cheese sauce.
For a garlicky alfredo sauce, saute 1 to 2 cloves minced garlic with the butter before adding the flour.
You can use 2% or skim milk for this recipe, but the sauce will be thinner.
This recipe can be scaled up to make larger batches. Just keep the ratios of flour, butter, milk, and cheese the same.
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk, plus extra as needed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (3 to 3 1/3 ounces, 85 to 128 grams)
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
1 Warm the milk: In the microwave (30-second bursts) or on the stovetop, warm the milk until it's warm to the touch and a bit steamy. (It does not need to be boiling hot; just warm.) Set aside.
2 Make the roux: Melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over top, then whisk together using a whisk.
Continue to cook the roux, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. This cooks off the raw flour flavor. It's ok if the roux turns a golden color, but continue immediately to the next step if it starts to brown significantly.
3 Whisk in the warm milk: Add about 1/4 cup of the warm milk to the roux and whisk. Add another 1/4 cup and whisk some more. The roux will seize up into clumps.
Continue adding the milk in small 1/4-cup increments, whisking continuously. The clumps will eventually smooth out and look like mashed potatoes, then a thick puree, and then a sauce. Once it looks like a sauce, whisk in any remaining milk. This step should only take about a minute. You can move through the phases fairly quickly.
4 Cook the sauce: Once all the milk has been added, continue to cook the sauce over medium heat while whisking, for 3 to 5 minutes. It's ready when it looks like heavy cream -- slightly thickened and silky.
5 Stir in the Parmesan: Add all of the cheese at once. Whisk until the cheese has melted into the sauce and is no longer visible. At this point, the sauce should look quite thick and creamy.
You can cook it a little longer, whisking occasionally, to let it thicken a little more if you like, but it's better to err on the side of a too-thin sauce at this point. It will thicken a bit more when you reheat it.
6 Store the alfredo sauce: Transfer the sauce to storage containers and cool completely. A skin will form on the surface of the sauce and the sauce will thicken to a paste-like consistency; this is normal. Refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to a month.
7 Reheat the sauce: If your sauce was frozen, transfer it to the fridge to thaw overnight before reheating.
Transfer the sauce into a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl. Gently warm over low heat, or in 30-second bursts in the microwave, until warmed. Stir occasionally, or between every 30-second burst in the microwave. It will start off very thick and paste-like, but will soften and return to a sauce as it warms.
If the sauce seems too thick, whisk in a splash of milk, broth, or water until the sauce is as thinned as you like.
8 Use reheated sauce immediately: Toss with cooked pasta or pour over cooked vegetables, chicken, or fish.