Penne Alfredo is a super quick and easy pasta recipe perfect any night of the week! With a simple creamy, cheese sauce and chewy al dente pasta, it works perfectly on its own or as a side to meat dishes. Penne alfredo pasta is a dish that the whole family will love!
🤍 Recipe Highlights
I have summarised everything that you will come to know and love (LOVE ❤) about the recipe in the points below:
- 8 total ingredients: which includes the black pepper and parsley to garnish. Simple, easy to get your hands on at the local grocery store or you might already have them in the pantry and fridge.
- 15 minutes: if you don't have a lot of time, you need recipes that will work and not take hours to prepare. This fast to cook recipe will be done start to finish in 15 minutes.
- Versatile: you can serve the pasta as is and it is a meal in one. Or you can add some cooked shrimp and bulk it up a little. Penne with alfredo sauce offers a customisable dish that works for many occasions.
- Budget friendly: the most expensive ingredient for the pasta will be the cheese. Other than that it is a pretty cost effective recipe, not requiring meat and cutting down on premium ingredients.
- Family friendly: the whole family will love the cheesy creamy flavour of this dish. It has great taste with a little richness but nothing spicy or hot as to deter little kids from diving in!
The photo below is to show you everything you need to make the recipe. Please refer to the printable recipe card for specific ingredient measurements as well as detailed instructions.
As you can see the recipe calls for:
- Penne pasta: this will be in the dried pasta section of the supermarket. Or you can use fresh penne pasta from the fridge section.
- Cream: heavy pouring cream is the main ingredient for the creamy alfredo sauce.
- Parmesan cheese: bold and sharp in flavour. This cheese melts into the cream and butter, bringing a delightfully bold flavor to the alfredo.
- Butter: unsalted is good as we add salt to the sauce as a separate step.
- Garlic: chunky minced is my recommendation. Or you can use a couple of fresh garlic cloves (2-3) and finely chop them up. This gets cooked for a minute in the melted butter with the salt.
- Salt: cooking salt is best. We only need a small amount which is added to the sauce ingredients.
- Garnish (optional): the parsley and black pepper are an easy way to finish the dish, adding a pop or 2 of colour also.
Tasty Tip: I like to offer a number of substitutions and variations to give you options when making the recipe. If in doubt of any of the above ingredients, or wanting alternatives, read this section before diving into the instructions on how to make the recipe below 👍😉.
Here are the step by step instructions to make the recipe. We start by melting the butter in a large sauté pan.
- Melt butter (Photo 1)
- Add garlic and salt, cook 1 minute (Photo 2)
- Pour in cream (Pour 3)
- Add parmesan cheese (Photo 4)
👩🍳 How to Make Penne Alfredo
The 1st thing we do is create the alfredo sauce. Place a large sauté plan on the stove, turn the heat to high and add the butter.
Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and salt and cook for 1 minute, stirring as it cooks.
Next, pour the cream into the pan and reduce the heat to low. Give it a stir then add the parmesan cheese to the pan. Stir occasionally as the cheese melts and mixes in.
- Stir to combine (Photo 5)
- Cook pasta and reserve some of the water (Photo 6)
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce (Photo 7)
- Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water (Photo 8)
You can also use this time to cook the pasta. Simply place a medium sauce pan on the stove, add water and a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Then read and follow the instructions on the package to cook the penne.
Moments before serving, use a heatproof jug to scoop out some of the starchy pasta water. We will be adding this to the sauce.
Then use a colander to drain the rest of the pasta and discard the remaining water.
Add the cooked drained pasta to the alfredo sauce, then pour in ½ cup (125 ml) of the pasta water. Use a wooden spoon to toss and combine.
Once that is done, liberally garnish the dish with finely chopped parsley, black pepper and additional parmesan cheese.
- Garnish (Photo 9)
Now that the dish is ready to serve, you can grab some bowls and forks and call the eaters to the table!
🍽 Serving Suggestions
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Store leftovers of the penne alfredo on a plate with cling wrap or in sealed, airtight containers in the fridge. They will last up to 3 days.
How to Freeze
Allow the dish to fully cool. Then portion into zip lock bags that you squeeze the air out of and then lay flat in the freezer. They can be frozen for up to 3 months.
How to Reheat
Thaw frozen penne alfredo in the fridge overnight as you will get the best results if you reheat from frozen and not try and defrost using the microwave. Once the alfredo is thawed, you can add it to a sauce pan on the stove and use medium heat to stir till heated through. It will take between 5 to 6 mins. Or you can reheat the leftovers in the microwave, this will only take about 2 to 3 minutes on high.
😉 Substitutions and Variations
Here are my sub ins and outs that you might be thinking about as you read the post and I will tell you if I think they will work or why they won't:
- You can use pecorino romano cheese in place of the parmesan cheese if you wish to.
- Basil leaves can be used in place of the parsley to garnish the dish.
- You can use different pasta types, be it macaroni, linguine, spaghetti or your favourite pasta.
- Choose to add some spinach or arugula (rocket leaves) for colour and to tick the vegetable box.
- If you want more protein in the dish you can add some cooked bacon or chopped ham.
- Or you can add some peas for a vegetable component. If wanting to do so, I would microwave them in a heatproof jug from frozen and then simply add to the pasta. This way we avoid getting any excess moisture or liquid in the sauce.
💡 Tasty Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks that I want to share with you so that you master the recipe from the get go:
- We start using high heat, but we want to turn the heat down to low after adding the cream when making the sauce. This will allow the cheese to slowly melt.
- You will want to stir the sauce regularly to help it combine consistently. If you see bubbles, turn the heat down lower.
- Test a piece of the penne pasta as it nears the end of the package cook time. We want it to be a little bit chewy, also known as 'al dente'.
- I usually scoop out about a cup of the pasta water, simply as it is easier than measuring when doing that step. However, I do then stop and specifically measure out the ½ cup (125ml) needed for the sauce. This helps to achieve results as we are being spot on accurate with our measurements 😉👍.
- Wondering what to do with that leftover rotisserie chicken? Shred it with 2 forks and add it to the creamy pasta. It will be a great way to use up of the leftovers.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
Is Alfredo and bechamel the same?
No alfredo and bechamel sauces are different. Alfredo uses a combination of cream and cheese, whereas béchamel uses flour and milk.
Does Alfredo pasta mean white sauce?
Alfredo pasta is the combination of a creamy parmesan cheese sauce with cooked pasta.
Why do people add pasta water to Alfredo?
Adding pasta water to alfredo is a common technique to bind the cooked pasta and alfredo sauce. The starchy pasta water also has the effect of thickening the pasta sauce.
😍 More Easy Dinner Recipes
Making dinner can be the most enjoyable thing you do each day when you have some recipes up your sleeve that you know will work and tick the delicious box. Here are some more ideas for you to try, offering variety through taste, texture, cook time and ingredients:
- Crumbed Lamb Cutlets
- Mongolian Beef Noodles
- Macaroni Alfredo
- Rigatoni Alfredo
- Meatball Pesto Pasta
- Italian Short Ribs
- Garlic Pepper Beef
- Tagliatelle Pesto
- Pesto Rigatoni
- Meatball Bolognese
- 1 Measuring Spoons
- 1 Micro plane zester
- 1 Large saute pan
- 1 Wooden spoon
- 1 Medium sauce pan
- 1 Heatproof measuring jug
- 1 Colander
- 40 grams/3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon garlic chunky, minced
- ¼ teaspoon salt unsalted
- 1 cup/250ml heavy cream
- 1 cup parmesan cheese finely grated using a micro plane zester
- 500 grams/16 oz penne pasta
- ½ cup/125ml reserved pasta water Note 1
- parsley finely chopped
- black pepper
- parmesan cheese
- Butter: place a large sauté pan on the stove, turn the heat to high and add the butter. Allow this to melt and then add the garlic and salt. Cook for 1 minute, stirring as the garlic cooks.
- Cream and cheese: pour in the heavy cream and stir. Then add the cheese to the centre of the pan and turn the heat to low. Stir occasionally as the cheese melts.
- Penne: place a medium sauce pan on the stove, fill with water and a pinch of salt and bring it to the boil. Read and follow the instructions on the package to cook the pasta. Moments before it is ready, use a heatproof jug to scoop out some of the pasta water. The use a colander to drain the remaining pasta and discard the water.
- Combine: add the cooked pasta to the creamy alfredo sauce, then measure ½ cup (125ml) of the pasta water and add that to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to toss and combine the pasta, sauce and starchy pasta water.
- Garnish: liberally garnish the dish with a combination of black pepper, parmesan cheese and parsley.
- Note 1 - Reserved pasta water: we scoop this out of the saucepan moments before draining the pasta. This starchy pasta water helps bind the pasta and sauce together. Measure ½ cup (125ml) and then add this to the pan.