When many people think of Alfredo sauce they picture a super thick, heavy pasta dish that involves spoonfuls of heavy white sauce. Some popular Italian restaurants in the states are very well known for their buckets of alfredo pasta.
But, a real, homemade alfredo sauce can be a lighter affair. Good alfredo sauce, while rich, hangs onto the pasta and lightly coats everything. It’s not soupy at all. If you walked by a bowl of properly prepared alfredo, you might not even notice the white sauce on the pasta!
I particularly like serving alfredo sauce with sauteed chicken and penne pasta. The pasta holds onto the sauce better than spaghetti would and the chicken adds needed protein to the dish.
Let’s dig in and make this dish from scratch! I think I can turn anybody into an alfredo penne lover with this recipe!
Making the Italian Chicken
I started with thin cutlets of chicken. If you have whole chicken breasts, slice them into cutlets that are a few inches long and 1/2-inch thick so they cook relatively quick. Marinate the chicken with Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Cook the chicken cutlets in a large skillet, which will ultimately be used to toss together the entire recipe. The chicken will need to cook for 5-6 minutes per side. You can always test a piece to make sure it’s cooked through, of course.
Once the chicken is cooked, it’s time for the alfredo sauce!
How to Make the Skillet Alfredo Sauce
I make the sauce in the same skillet at the chicken. No need to wash the pan, but I would wipe it out with a paper towel. Then add the butter and garlic and cook until butter is melted and garlic is sizzling. Then add in the cream an bring it to a simmer.
It might look like the butter and cream are separating, but they will eventually combine into a creamy, smooth sauce.
Simmer the sauce over LOW heat, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes until the sauce coats a spoon. Add the Parmesan right before adding the penne.
Once the sauce is thicken, add in the cooked penne.
IMPORTANT TIP: Reserve some pasta water from cooking the penne. If the sauce gets too thicken after you add the penne, drizzle in some reserved pasta water and it’ll thin out the sauce.
If the sauce is too thin (unlikely) then just cook for a minute or two over low heat and it’ll thicken very quickly.
Once the penne is coated with the sauce, then you can add in the reserved chicken. I like to chop my chicken into big chunks.
This chicken alfredo penne is best served immediately!
Divide it between some bowls and serve it right away garnished with fresh basil.
How to Store and Reheat Alfredo Penne
This pasta does keep okay in the fridge for about three days. To reheat, add to a skillet with some hot water and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until sauce loosens and the dish is warmed through. Microwaving it will destroy the sauce. Also, freezing it will make the sauce curdle and you probably won’t be able to get it back to it’s original glory.
Making a Vegetarian Alfredo
No problem if you want to skip the chicken in this alfredo penne. I would use some hearty veggies like mushrooms, squash, and/or asparagus and sear them in a skillet until they are tender. Then fold them in at the end of the alfredo penne just like you would with the chicken.
Chicken Alfredo Penne
- 1 pound chicken cutlets
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 12 ounces penne pasta, al dente
- Fresh basil, garnish
- Cut chicken into cutlets that are a few inches long and an even 1/2-inch thickness. Add Italian seasoning, olive oil, salt, and pepper to bowl with chicken and stir to coat. Let marinate for a few minutes.
- Cook penne according to package in salted water until it is al dente. Drain and reserve some pasta water for later.
- Add chicken to a large skillet over medium heat. If skillet is really dry add an extra drizzle of oil. Cook until chicken is cooked through, 5-6 minutes per side.
- Remove chicken from the skillet once it is just cooked through and wipe out skillet to remove any large pieces but don’t wash it. Add butter for alfredo sauce along with chopped garlic. Cook until butter is melted and garlic softens, maybe 1-2 minutes. Then add cream and bring to a slight simmer. Turn heat down to low and continue to simmer the sauce until it thickens and coats a spoon, maybe 4-5 minutes. Add parmesan after the sauce thickens.
- Once sauce has thickened, add in cooked penne pasta and toss to coat. If the sauce seems very thick, add reserved pasta water by the 1/4 cup to thin the sauce. Stir in cooked chicken and stir to combine.
- Divide alfredo penne between bowls and garnish with basil. Serve immediately.