Easy Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta You’ll Make on Repeat

5 from 4 votes
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This creamy Alfredo sauce with penne pasta screams comfort food. Its a quick and easy recipe, great for mid-week madness when you need a crowd-pleaser.

Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta in Sauce Pan

Why You’ll Love This Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta Recipe

Here’s why this is going to be a firm favorite from here on out:

  • Creamy indulgence: This recipe delivers a luxuriously creamy Alfredo sauce that coats each penne pasta perfectly.
  • Quick and easy: With simple ingredients and straightforward instructions, this recipe is fuss-free.
  • Customizable: You can easily customize this dish by adding your favorite proteins, such as grocery store rotisserie chicken, ham, shrimp, pancetta, or sausage, as well as vegetables, like broccoli, spinach, or sun-dried tomatoes.
  • A make-ahead option: The Alfredo sauce can be made and stored in the refrigerator, making it convenient for meal prep or entertaining guests. Simply reheat the sauce and toss it with freshly cooked penne pasta when ready to serve.
  • Family-friendly: Your kids will be dishing up seconds, so double up.

Let’s make it!

What You Need for Penne Alfredo

Let’s get into cooking this cozy Alfredo; here’s what to gather up:

Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta Ingredients


These are the basics to gather for your penne Alfredo:

  • Minced garlic: Fresh garlic adds a rich and pungent flavor to the sauce. 
  • Heavy cream: 35% milkfat, a.k.a. whipping cream or double cream.
  • Black pepper and kosher salt: Don’t skip the seasoning – your sauce needs to be well-seasoned.
  • Finely-grated Parmesan cheese: Grate it finely to ensure it melts smoothly into the sauce, creating a creamy texture and adding a savory, nutty taste. While freshly grated cheese is preferred for its flavor and texture, you can substitute it with pre-grated Parmesan cheese if needed. However, the pre-grated cheese may not melt as smoothly into the sauce.
  • Dry penne pasta: Penne pasta works well with Alfredo sauce, as its shape holds the creamy sauce nicely.
  • Minced parsley for garnish: Fresh parsley adds color and freshness to the dish. You can use other fresh herbs if you like. 
  • Butter: For sauteing the garlic.

Substitutions and Variations

This recipe is perfect as is, but here are a few twists and turns you could take with it:


  • Evaporated Milk: If you prefer a lighter sauce, try evaporated milk. It’s thicker than regular milk and less likely to curdle under heat. You can use it as a one-to-one substitute for heavy cream.
  • Garlic powder: If fresh garlic is not on hand, you can substitute it with garlic powder. Use about 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder for every clove of garlic called for in the recipe.
  • Other pasta shapes: Feel free to use different pasta shapes instead of penne noodles. Fettuccine, linguine, or spaghetti are classic choices for Alfredo sauce.
  • Herby infusion: Infuse other fresh herbs like thyme, fresh basil, oregano or rosemary. You could even use a little italian seasoning, if you like. Simmer the herbs in the sauce for a few minutes to release their aroma before serving.
  • Vegetable additions: Add vegetables like broccoli, spinach, peas, or sun-dried tomatoes. Sauté or steam the vegetables before adding them to the sauce.

Tools to Grab

You’ll need to set aside the following:

  • Large pot: To cook the pasta in.
  • Saucepan: To make the sauce in.
  • Whisk

How to Make Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta: An Easy Guide

Here’s a blow-by-blow to the perfect Alfredo sauce with penne pasta:

Cook pasta and melt butter in pan

Cook the pasta

  • Start by cooking the pasta in boiling water with a teaspoon salt until it is al dente. Just follow the package instructions to cook the penne pasta (usually 8-10 minutes).
  • Drain the pasta in a colander.

Make the sauce base 

  • While the pasta is boiling, add the butter to a saucepan and melt it over medium-high heat.
  • Add in the fresh garlic and saute it for about 1 minute. Keep an eye out so it doesn’t overcook. 
  • Lastly, stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently over a low heat. 
Add cream in butter and sprinkle black pepper and salt

Add the cheese

  • At the point of simmering, turn down the heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese until the sauce is smooth and creamy.

Finish the dish

  • Add the tender cooked pasta (fully drained) to the sauce, tossing to coat the pasta evenly. 
Add pasta in cream and serve

Make Ahead and Storage Notes

Want to make this alfredo pasta sauce and pasta in advance and store it? No problem, here’s the story:

Make ahead

  • You can make the Alfredo sauce ahead of time and store it in jars or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • When ready to serve, reheat the Alfredo sauce in a saucepan over low heat until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of milk or cream to loosen the sauce if it has thickened in the refrigerator. Once the sauce is heated, add the cooked penne pasta and toss gently until the pasta is coated and heated through.

Storing Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta

  • Leftover Alfredo sauce with penne pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. 
  • Allow the pasta to cool completely before transferring it to the container. When reheating, you may need to add a little extra cream or milk to the sauce to prevent it from drying out.
  • You can reheat it on the stovetop in a skillet or in the microwave.

While Alfredo sauce can be frozen, it may lose its texture when frozen and reheated.

  • To Freeze: Transfer the cooled Alfredo sauce to a freezer-safe container, leaving some room for expansion, and store it in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. 
Green salad.

How to Serve this Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta 

Serve your Alfredo penne pasta with a side of warm bread like these cheesy garlic bread fingers or a simple garlic loaf.

To lighten the meal a little, serve a crunchy green salad or a strawberry spinach salad with almonds. 

3 Common Mistakes When Making Alfredo Sauce

Steer clear of these issues, here are 5 typical trip ups:

  1. Overcooking the garlic: Guys, this is a no-no. Overcooked garlic will turn your sauce bitter. Make sure to sauté the minced garlic just until fragrant, usually for about 1 minute, being careful not to let it brown.
  2. Boiling the sauce: Adding cheese to a boiling sauce can cause it to clump and become grainy. Remove the saucepan from the heat before adding the cheese, and stir continuously until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is smooth. Don’t let the sauce boil again once the cheese has been added.
  3. Not seasoning enough: Taste the sauce as you season it, and adjust the amount of salt and pepper. Remember that the Parmesan cheese also adds saltiness, so be cautious not to oversalt.
Penne alfredo with a spoon.

Final Notes, Pro Tips + Science-Based Secrets

As a food scientist, I’ve got to share my secrets and tips with you:

  • Grate cheese finely: Grate the Parmesan cheese finely to ensure it melts smoothly into the sauce, creating a creamy texture. Pre-grated cheese often contains anti-caking agents that can affect the texture of the sauce.
  • Adjust consistency: If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of pasta water or cream to thin it out. If it seems too thin, let it stand for a few minutes. It thickens right up as it rests a bit.
  • Serve immediately:Alfredo sauce is best served immediately after tossing with the pasta to prevent the sauce from thickening up too much or the pasta from becoming mushy.
  • Cheese melting: Cheese contains proteins and fats that change when heated. When making Alfredo sauce, melting the cheese slowly and gradually over low heat helps prevent it from becoming grainy or stringy.

FAQs About Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta

Are you whizzing through? Here’s a quick glance at the top queries:

What is Alfredo sauce? 

Alfredo sauce is a rich and creamy pasta sauce made primarily with butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan cheese. It originated in Italy and is typically served with fettuccine pasta, although it can be paired with various pasta shapes, including penne.

Can I make Alfredo sauce ahead of time? 

Yes, you can make Alfredo sauce ahead of time. Prepare the sauce, then allow it to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

How do I prevent Alfredo sauce from curdling? 

To prevent Alfredo sauce from curdling, avoid boiling it vigorously once the cheese has been added. Instead, simmer the sauce gently over low heat, stirring continuously until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is smooth.

Can I make Alfredo sauce without heavy cream? 

While heavy cream is traditional in Alfredo sauce, you can substitute it with half-and-half or whole milk for a lighter version of the sauce. Keep in mind that the sauce may not be as rich and creamy without heavy cream.

How do I reheat Alfredo pasta? 

To reheat Alfredo pasta, transfer it to a saucepan and add a splash of cream or milk to help loosen the sauce.

Can I add vegetables or protein to Alfredo pasta?

Yes, you can customize Alfredo pasta by adding vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peas, or sun-dried tomatoes for added flavor and nutrition. Additionally, cooked chicken, shrimp, or sliced sausage can be added for extra protein and heartiness.

Other Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

Try these other fan-favorite pasta dishes to try:

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5 from 4 votes

The Easy Alfredo Sauce with Penne Pasta You’ll Make on Repeat

This quick, easy Alfredo sauce with penne pasta is the weeknight recipe you'll wish you'd known about sooner. Everyone asks for seconds!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp minced garlic about 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup finely-grated parmesan cheese
  • 12 oz dry penne pasta
  • Minced parsley for garnish
Save this recipe!
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  • Cook the penne pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the package instructions until al dente. Then drain.
  • While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Watch closely so that the butter and garlic don’t brown.
  • Stir in the heavy cream, black pepper, and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
  • Once simmering, reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in the parmesan cheese until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
  • Add the cooked and drained penne to the sauce, tossing to coat the pasta evenly.



The sauce will appear thin at first but thickens right up within a few minutes.
To thin the sauce (for leftovers or if it has sat too long before serving fresh) add more cream by splashes while gently stirring over low heat.


Calories: 773kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 131mg | Sodium: 854mg | Potassium: 283mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1611IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 366mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating


  1. G says:

    5 stars
    So good!

  2. Jenny says:

    5 stars
    i make alfredo a lot and yours is the best I’ve tried. Thank you!

  3. Don L. says:

    where do you get the pasta from?

  4. Tom R. says:

    5 stars
    tried this recipe, it’s delicious. Added some wine, maybe 1/4 cup.

    1. Lily K. says:

      Wine in alfredo? Genius! Gotta try that myself.

  5. Sandy McDonald says:

    5 stars
    This recipe reminds me of my favorite Italian restaurant. Thank you!!!

  6. Emma_T says:

    Looks yummy but gotta find a way to cut down those calories, any ideas?

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      You could use evaporated milk in place of the heavy cream! It is more stable than regular milk so it won’t curdle. It also has a thicker, creamier texture.

  7. Gary_N says:

    are you sure about the cheese quantity, seems a lot?

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      Oh yes, my friend. Very sure. Enjoy!

  8. Kathy S. says:

    Can i use pre grated cheese for this or is it better to grate it myself? not good with cooking but this seems easy.

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      I generally always recommend grating yourself but sometimes I sneak in grated parmigiano reggiano and it’s ok 🙂 Just not the powdery Kraft kind that doesn’t have to be refrigerated.