Traditional Alfredo sauce is a rich and indulgent mixture of butter, pasta water and Parmesan cheese. Seriously, that’s it!
However, for those who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply find themselves without any Parmesan cheese in their pantry, there’s still hope for a delicious Alfredo experience.
In this article, we are going to discuss the role of Parmesan cheese in Alfredo sauce and list out alternatives you can try out in its place when making Alfredo sauce.
What Role Does Parmigiano Cheese (Parmesan Cheese) Play in Alfredo Sauce?
Parmigiano cheese is an essential component in Alfredo sauce as it adds both thickness and an irresistible cheesy flavor to it.
It’s one of the key components that makes Alfredo sauce taste exactly the way that it does.
But let’s pull back a bit.
In order for you to really experience the real deal, authentic Alfredo sauce, you need to make sure you’re using 100% authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, which may not always be the case with the US varieties as the law permits any type of cheese or cheese-like product (imitation) to be marketed under the name Parmesan cheese.
In Europe however, there a strict law that ensures the preservation of the original Parmesan cheese, so whenever you buy Parmesan, it’s 100% Parmesan and nothing else.
Because of it’s ambiguity in the us market, chances are, you’re more than likely to have been using the non-authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano all your life to make Alfredo sauce.
If you’re substituting another cheese in place of it for your next recipe, i don’t see a big deal with that since you’re already strayed too much from the authentic Alfredo sauce in the first place.
Just remember that when crafting Alfredo sauce, or a tasty and near-authentic version, genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano or at least imitation parmesan is your safest and best bet.
Alongside butter and pasta water, these ingredients form the base of this iconic Italian dish and any other additions are simply extra flourishes to enhance or personalize your sauce.
Alternatives To Parmesan Cheese In Alfredo Sauce
You might be tempted to simply dump out the Parmesan cheese, and continue to make your Alfredo sauce like that, but because cheese is a key ingredient in the sauce, taking it out from the recipe would completely destroy how it ends up tasting, and the texture you get at the end of the day.
So instead of completely removing cheese from the equation, you should substitute it with some other type of cheese instead, but don’t expect the taste to be similar.
When it comes to selecting cheeses, make sure to go for cheese that matches or nearly matches Parmesan cheese in all respects to ensure that the substitution works good, and the overall flavor of the sauce would not be affected that much.
Below are some of the cheeses that you can use in place of Parmesan cheese in Alfredo sauce.
Gruyère is a creamy, nutty, flavorful cheese originating from Switzerland (named after the town of Gruyère Cheese in Fribourg), that can bring a unique twist to your alfredo sauce.
While it’s relatively mild in taste compared to parmesan (which makes it a perfect cheese to not overpower your sauce), Gruyère still packs a delicious punch and melts beautifully into the sauce thanks to its semi-firm texture.
Depending on the age of the cheese however, the taste of the cheese can differ, with younger varieties tasting somewhat creamy and nutty while more aged varieties having a more earthy and complex flavor, but overall, the cheese leaves a slight sweetness and saltiness in every plate.
Piave cheese hails from the northernmost tip of the Veneto region of Italy and shares some similarities with young Parmigiano Reggiano in terms of flavor profile and texture.
However, there’s still some subtle difference that still sets it apart from its more famous counterpart when it comes to how it tastes overall — it’s slightly sweet flavor.
Piave melts smoothly into your alfredo sauce, to give it an irresistible creaminess and truly Italian essence. When you decide to get one, make sure you’re getting the authentic one.
Grana Padano is often compared to parmesan due to their similarities in texture and taste, and the way that they are made (from cow’s milk, cooked and allowed to ripen for a minimum of 9 months).
This Italian cheese is slightly milder and less crumbly than parmesan, yet still offers a well-balanced and savory flavor that works wonderfully in alfredo sauce.
Hailing from the Czech Republic, Gran Moravia is a delightful alternative for those seeking a cheese with a slightly milder taste than parmesan.
Its nutty, fruity notes blend seamlessly into alfredo sauce, while its excellent melting properties guarantee a rich and smooth texture.
If you’re craving an alfredo sauce with a touch of European flair, Gran Moravia is the way to go.
Originally created by Italian immigrants in Argentina as their take on the classic Parmigiano-Reggiano, Reggianito provides an interesting twist for your alfredo sauce.
This hard cow’s milk cheese has a strong flavor profile similar to authentic Italian parmesan but introduces subtle grassy notes unique to its Argentinian origin.
Reggianito melts beautifully into alfredo sauce while retaining its distinct taste and not overpowering the rest of the ingredients in the sauce. Sometimes, you can find the sauce marketed as Parmesan cheese in the United States.
Aged Asiago is another Italian cheese worth trying in your alfredo sauce if you’re looking for something robust and full-flavored like parmesan.
This versatile cheese possesses both mild, buttery notes when young and tangier, more complex flavors as it matures, making Asiago an exciting option to experiment with!
Its excellent melting qualities will ensure your alfredo sauce remains velvety smooth without sacrificing on taste.
Pecorino Romano Cheese
Although Pecorino Romano is made from sheep’s milk, unlike Parmesan made from cow’s, it can still give your alfredo sauce a taste similar to Parmesan.
While its saltiness may be more pronounced than parmesan, Pecorino Romano still boasts a rich, creamy texture that blends seamlessly into the sauce.
If you’re looking to add a bolder flavor to your alfredo without straying too far from its Italian roots, this cheese is definitely worth considering.
If you’re in the mood for something a bit milder and softer, mozzarella could be just the ticket!
Mozzarella is known for its smooth, milky flavor and incredible meltability—perfect qualities for an alfredo sauce that’s both luxuriously lush and gentle on the palate.
Opt for fresh mozzarella or even buffalo mozzarella if you want an extra touch of creaminess in your sauce; just be mindful of the added moisture content when incorporating it into your dish.
Making Alfredo Sauce Without Parmesan Cheese
- 1 lb fettuccine noodles, dry or fresh
- ½ pound alternative cheese (such as Pecorino Romano or Gran Moravia), freshly grated
- ½ pound unsalted butter, sliced.
- Salt to taste
- Start by cooking the fettuccine noodles according to package instructions until they reach an al dente consistency. Drain, retain about 1 cup of the pasta water in a cup and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, gently melt the unsalted butter over medium-low heat, then add in salt and the pasta and try to coat it with the butter mixture.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and then add in about half the quantity of cheese and ¼ cup of pasta water while generously coating each strand with the mixture to enable the cheese to melt.
- Add more cheese, until a little at a time with some mixing in between until you no longer have cheese.
- Serve immediately.