• The American version of Alfredo sauce consists of cream, butter, parmesan, plus salt and pepper.
  • Upgrade jarred Alfredo sauce with simple additions like fresh herbs, or infused oils.
  • Beyond fettuccine, Alfredo sauce can be used for many dishes, like chicken Alfredo or white pizza.
  • Visit Insider's Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

When you have the time, making a big batch of pasta sauce from scratch is a lovely idea. But not every dinner can be the dinner of our dreams. 

Sometimes you just need to get some food on the table for yourself and your family before everyone gets hangry. In that case, you may find yourself reaching for something like a jarred Alfredo sauce.

In the time it takes pasta to boil, there are a few things you can do to zhuzh up the jarred sauce to the point that it may even taste homemade. Joshua Resnick, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education offers tips below to brighten and freshen the flavor of your favorite jarred Alfredo sauce.

What is Alfredo sauce made of?

Classic American Alfredo sauce is made with cream, butter, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Some iterations add Pecorino Romano, herbs, or garlic. 

Cream and butter are gently simmered, then cheese is whisked in and salt and pepper are added. Alfredo is known for being a creamy, cheesy, and comforting sauce that's perfect for a weeknight dinner. 

For a truly customized Alfredo sauce, feel free to mix and match any of the below ingredients. 

Sautéed garlic and spinach

Add both flavor and texture with garlic and spinach. Foto: fermate/Getty Images

You could just add garlic powder, sure, but quickly sautéeing fresh garlic while your pasta cooks is a great way to layer flavor. Resnick likes to add spinach as a way to cut the richness of the sauce. 

Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a few cloves of minced garlic in a sautée pan over medium heat. You'll know your sautéed garlic is ready when it's a very light tan color and the scent of cooking garlic has filled your kitchen, about 1 minute. 

Once the garlic is fragrant, turn off the heat and add a few handfuls of fresh spinach and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Gently mix as the spinach wilts over the residual heat. Stir until the spinach is evenly distributed. 

Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano, the name-protected Italian cheese, is a surefire way to add a umami and depth of flavor to a jarred Alfredo sauce. 

Freshly grate a few inches of the cheese, then whisk  it right into the sauce as it's warming on the stove. For extra impact, grate some more Parmigiano Reggiano over each serving of pasta once you've tossed the noodles with the sauce. 

You can do this with other Italian hard cheeses as well, like Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, or Asiago. 

White balsamic

After heating your sauce, Resnick suggests drizzling some white balsamic in to brighten the flavor. The acidity will help cut through the richness of the sauce. Start with about a half a tablespoon, then taste and adjust if needed. 

If you don't have white balsamic, classic balsamic or a good squeeze of lemon juice will also work, though balsamic will darken the sauce slightly. 

Fresh herbs

Herbs like parsley, thyme, and basil add freshness to the sauce. Foto: istetiana/Getty Images

Fresh herbs will brighten and freshen the flavor of the sauce. Resnick suggests using parsley, thyme, oregano, or chervil, or mixing and matching depending on what you like. 

To use them, finely mince 2 tablespoons of your chosen herbs. Heartier herbs like thyme or oregano can be added in to simmer with the sauce. Add delicate herbs like parsley, basil, or chervil at the end to maintain their delicate, aromatic flavor.

Infused oils

If you have infused oils, such as truffle oil or basil-flavored olive oil around, use them to add richer flavor to your jarred Alfredo sauce. Drizzle whichever oil you're using over the pasta at the end. These oils are potent, so start with a few drops, taste, then see if you'd like to add more. A fruity and zippy extra virgin olive oil could also do the trick. 

Best ways to use jarred Alfredo sauce

Try making a white pizza, a creamy crab dip, or go the classic route with fettuccine or chicken. Foto: Cavan Images/Getty Images

  • Fettuccini Alfredo: It's a classic for a reason! Toss cooked fettuccine noodles with your newly freshened Alfredo sauce.
  • Chicken Alfredo: Use your sauce to add flavor to cooked chicken breast or chicken thighs. Once you've prepared your chicken using your preferred method (whether baked, pan-seared, poached, or otherwise), toss the cooked chicken in the sauce. Serve with a side of broccoli or pasta. 
  • White pizza: Use the Alfredo sauce as white sauce for a personal pizza of your choosing. Use homemade or store bought dough and shape into a 10 or 12 inch circle or rectangle. Pour the sauce on, top with an extra melty cheese like mozzarella or fontina, and add any additional toppings you'd like. Bake according to the instructions, then top with some freshly cracked black pepper. 
  • Cheesy creamy crab dip: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the Alfredo sauce with a can of crab meat and a small jar of drained marinated artichoke hearts. Transfer to an oven-proof casserole dish and sprinkle with approximately 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Serve with pita chips or crusty bread. 

Insider's takeaway 

There's no reason why a quick dinner using jarred Alfredo sauce needs to be boring. In the time it takes to boil your pasta, you can sautée some aromatics plus a veggie to add in, or you can simply drizzle some balsamic or infused oil over the plated pasta. Use your customized sauce for fettuccine Alfredo, a low-carb chicken dish, or a white pizza.

Read the original article on Insider