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Please explain what's wrong with this sauce...

My buddy at work has asked me to help him figure out why his Alfredo sauce looks like curds and whey. He has tried making it all sorts of ways...He's varied the liquid (half and half versus whole milk), the temperature (high versus low heat), and the cheese quality (grated parm from Sam's versus other brands of grated parm). No matter what he does it always turns out looking curds and whey. Please help to explain what's gone wrong with his sauce. Also, if you have a tried and true recipe, would you please include it also? Many thanks!!!

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  1. It sounds like he's not stirring it enough. There are several great recipes for Alfredo on epicurious.com and foodnetwork.com amongst others.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bayoucook

      He says that he stirred it quite well. His exact description of what the sauce looked like was adding sawdust to water...no amount of stirring would get it into solution. Thanks for the response!

    2. Two easy fixes:1) use evaporated milk for all, or at least half, of the liquid (if the latter, blend the cheese with the evap before stirring in the other liquid).
      2) Add a little flour - enough to make the hot liquid the consistency of thin catsup. Easiest way is to add Wondra flour, which doesn't lump, to the cold liquid and gently heat while stirring.
      I've forgotten the biochemistry (Cooks Illustrated has written pieces explaining this) but either technique allows the proteins to blend.

      1. It's curdled. He may have cooked it too hot or too long. Also, he should use cream. Half and half may be ok, but plain milk will be very thin, missing the point of an alfredo.

        Try the below:


        Remember, it should be *simmered briefly* only.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Louise

          Louise - that's my go-to sauce, always adding stuff into it....

        2. It sounds like the sauce broke, as Louise said. This explains it in detail:


          1. everyone is one the right track - heat is part of the isuue - . So is fat - need cream - milk can not take a boil and then shock of cheese.( Thats why the evaporated works, not my 1st choice but a good one if cutting calories) Cheese should be added at the end and not brought up to high heat - - it will break. Also - already grated cheeses have a starch coating to prevent clumping. It really changes how smoothly a sauce comes together. You definitly can use the cheese pre-grated, it leaves a different feel and shine to the sauce.

            1. To be honest, I have never heard of using milk - or half-and-half - in Alfredo. The original Alfredo only has two ingredients, actually - butter and parmesan. You just cube up cold butter and grate cheese - equal parts - and throw it on top of hot, just-cooked pasta, then stir.

              However, most recipes - this is the Alfredo you're thinking of - I've seen involve cream, and certain restauranteurs will thicken it with egg yolks, but milk won't work.

              The only way to incorporate milk successfully is to build the sauce on top of a bechamel (milk thickened with a roux) then adding parmesan, as my mom does, but this is not really Alfredo.

              Also, as a couple others have mentioned, add the cheese off the heat.

              1. I concur with earlier posts that the original Fettuccine Alfredo has only three ingredients: egg noodle, butter and grated parmigiano cheese plus salt. It has NO cream. The most common version found today has this addition of cream. With just these ingredients, the sauce should not curdle. Just melt the butter, add cream and reduce slightly. Add salt to taste. Cook the fettuccine and immediately toss with the sauce and grated parmigiano cheese. Can't understand where the over stirring comes from. This dish has been bastardized to no end.
                Using milk or half-and-half then reducing it will curdle because there is not enough fat. Egg yolk (reserve this for carbonara) will curdle if it is heated too much, causing the egg to scramble. And evaporated milk? All these ingredients do not belong to Alfredo sauce.The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity: hand cut fresh fettucini, excellent unsalted butter, the best Parmigiano Reggiano, rich heavy sweet cream if using and a delicate touch.

                1. use butter. it's much more foolproof.