Should You Make Or Buy Pasta Sauce?

Homemade Alfredo sauce: worth the fuss

There's nothing quite as comforting as a big bowl of fettuccine enrobed in Alfredo sauce. Simultaneously creamy, cheesy and oh so satisfying, it's a classic. And for good reason.

So what is Alfredo sauce exactly?

The traditional recipe for Alfredo sauce calls for butter, Parmesan cheese and reserved pasta water. Chef Alfredo di Lelio initially debuted the dish as fettuccine al triplo burro at his mother's restaurant in 1892 before making it famous at Alfredo's, his namesake restaurant in central Rome. Back then, the sauce was prepared tableside (with considerable flourish), and the finished dish was served with golden cutlery.

Why buy it?

Cost and convenience are the most compelling reasons to buy any premade item, and Alfredo sauce is no exception. Several grocery store brands that contain approximately six to seven servings are available for less than $4. Store-bought sauce couldn't be easier to prepare: Just pop open a jar, heat for a few minutes and serve with your favorite noodles.

If you choose to buy your sauce, Bertolli Alfredo sauce is a worthy option. A quick scan of the label reveals that it has the highest fat content of the budget-friendly grocery store brands and that there's nothing alarming in the list of ingredients: Water, cream, butter and aged Parmesan cheese are the first listed. It also won the Best Taste Award for Alfredo Sauce from ChefsBest in 2015.

Its flavor and texture are actually quite good, but more than a few bites in, it can quickly become monotonous. Plus, the calorie content (110 calories and 10 grams of fat in a serving—if you can stop at a quarter cup of sauce) is not a good thing. If you're going to consume such indulgence, it had better be delicious.

Why make it?

Making Alfredo sauce from scratch requires spending a bit more on ingredients, but not much more time—especially if you use Tasting Table's chicken fettuccine Alfredo recipe, which comes together in less than 30 minutes and doesn't require much prep.

Simple recipes really shine with best-quality ingredients, so don't cheap out on the Parmesan cheese, and consider splurging on organic heavy cream. You'll taste the difference immediately.

Another important benefit of making the sauce from scratch is that you can easily fine-tune it by adding a smidge more red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon zest or all of the above.

Bottom line: The store-bought stuff is OK in a pinch, but if you're going to eat fettuccine Alfredo, you owe it to yourself to eat the best fettuccini Alfredo possible. Alfredo sauce made from scratch with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, quality cream and the right mix of aromatics might not be as convenient as popping open a jar, but the extra effort makes it good to the last bite. Even the best supermarket sauce just can't compete.

Erin Jackson is a food-obsessed writer/photographer in San Diego who probably posts too many photos of her cat on Instagram at @ejeats.