Learning to be a competent home cook is mostly about learning which shortcuts are worth it and which aren’t. For me, cream-based pasta sauces are generally a “make it at home” situation because:
- They aren’t as hard as many people think.
- They don’t take that long.
- The difference in flavor is pretty noticeable.
A homemade alfredo sauce will be rich, but still somehow lighter than what you would find in a jarred version. It should just hang on to the pasta without being gloopy.
To make up for the homemade sauce and still make this a very doable, kid-friendly weeknight recipe, I use a rotisserie chicken rather than cook the chicken from scratch. It cuts way down on the prep with no noticeable taste difference, in my opinion!
WHAT IS ALFREDO SAUCE?
Alfredo is a creamy pasta sauce. It’s basically just cream and butter, slowly simmered together. (You do not need any thickeners to make it.) When you add pasta to it the starch from the pasta further thickens the sauce, making it just thick enough to coat the pasta.
People will be impressed if you serve them a homemade alfredo sauce, even though it only takes 15 minutes and three ingredients to make. Don’t worry – your secret is safe with me!
ROTISSERIE CHICKEN VS CHICKEN BREASTS
As I said, I like to use a rotisserie chicken for this just because it’s easier, but you can also poach medium-large chicken breasts and then shred that. There won’t be much difference in finished taste. Most of the flavor comes from the sauce, anyway! The chicken just adds a little protein to the dish and gives it some extra body.
THE BEST PASTA FOR CHICKEN ALFREDO
In theory you could use any pasta for alfredo but I think wider noodles work best for thicker sauces like this. I would go with fettuccine or linguine, but a spaghetti will work fine as well.
VEGETABLE ADD-INS AND SUGGESTIONS
The only vegetables I would consider adding to my alfredo are peas (which you can stir in near the end of cooking) or sautéed mushrooms, which fold in beautifully.
Personally, I like to keep my alfredo clean with just pasta, sauce, and chicken, and then serve it alongside a big hearty salad.
MAKE-AHEAD AND STORAGE TIPS FOR CHICKEN ALFREDO
This sauce and recipe comes together very quickly and is great fresh, but if you are in a serious pinch, alfredo sauce keeps surprisingly well. Check out this make-ahead version for tips on that!
Leftovers keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheat well. Whatever you do, just don’t microwave them! Reheat the cold alfredo pasta in a pot with a splash of water over low heat. Gentle heat is the key to bringing this pasta back to life!
THE DAD ADD: Lemon Arugula Salad
This is a rich dish, no doubt about it. To balance it out, I like to serve it alongside a bright, peppery arugula salad. It’s borderline if you can get kids to eat this. Mine tried it, and passed, but adults will absolutely appreciate the combination.
Rather than make a dressing, I just toss the ingredients together, divide them between a few bowls, and then sprinkle each bowl with a little good olive oil, a spritz of fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of coarse salt. YUM.
Pasta is generally a hit at house Macheesmo so I had high hopes for this alfredo sauce! The kids were very skeptical of it at first. I realized that I haven’t served them many white pasta sauces. They are used to either red sauces or butter sauces (naked pasta), so they were a bit leery of this situation.
Once I got my more adventurous eater to give it a shot, though, both decided that white pasta is, in fact, worth scarfing down without a tantrum.
Wins all around, although less leftovers for me the next day.
MORE GREAT WEEKNIGHT PASTA DISHES
Rotisserie Chicken Alfredo Recipe
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 12 ounces fettuccine
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or cooked chicken
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- Fresh parsley, garnish
For the arugula salad (Dad Add):
- 4 cups baby arugula
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- Thin strips of parmesan cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Fresh lemon juice, for drizzling
- Coarse salt (optional)
1 Boil a pot of water: Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Salt liberally.
2 Start the sauce: Add the butter, cream, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg to small or medium-sized sauce pan. Heat over medium-low heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a slight simmer. Then turn heat down to low and simmer the sauce, stirring regularly to prevent scalding, until the sauce thickens slightly, enough to coat the back of a spoon easily.
3 Cook the pasta: Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until it’s al dente, according to package. I always like to test it a minute or two before the package says it will be done to avoid overcooking. When pasta is cooked, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and then drain pasta.
4 Finish the alfredo: Return the cooked pasta to the pot and add the alfredo sauce and shredded chicken. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly to combine ingredients. Add cheese and continue to stir (I like to use tongs for this part).
Sauce will thicken as you stir it with the pasta. If sauce seems too thick or gloopy, add reserved pasta water by the 1/4 cup to thin out the sauce slightly. You might not need any pasta water or you might need a good amount of it.
5 Make the arugula salad: This is the ideal salad to serve alongside alfredo. It’s bright and peppery and cuts through the richness of the alfredo. Toss together the arugula, tomatoes, and pistachios. Divide between bowls and top with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, a spritz of fresh lemon, and a sprinkle of coarse salt. Top with shaved parmesan.
LEFTOVERS! Leftover chicken alfredo will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat the alfredo gently in a pot over low heat with a splash of water. Do not microwave.
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