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Chicken Alfredo is a dream-team combination of juicy, golden-brown slices of chicken breast and long, slurp-able strands of thick fettuccine pasta in a luxuriant creamy Alfredo pasta sauce. Brown and cook the chicken in a skillet, then make the sauce in the same pan, using just heavy cream, butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Learn how to make this Italian restaurant-style dish at home — it cooks in about 25 minutes, and is much easier to make than you might think!
Super-luxe is the best way to describe chicken Alfredo pasta. I mean, what’s better than rich, creamy sauce coating thick pasta strands and slices of juicy chicken?
This pasta dinner recipe is always a family favorite. It’s definitely rich-tasting and indulgent, something of a treat to cook at home, along with homemade pasta carbonara and real-deal penne alla vodka.
I worked in homestyle Italian restaurants when I was learning to cook. Any kind of creamy pasta with Alfredo sauce with chicken, shrimp or salmon added to them were always a hit with customers. And along the way, I learned there’s really nothing complicated involved to make it. I’m happy to share the “secret” to nailing this fantastic chicken pasta recipe.
What you need to make the recipe:
- Chicken breasts: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are seasoned with a simple rub, then seared in a skillet. They cook quickly to juicy perfection.
- Seasonings: To make the savory rub for the chicken, combine garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and season the chicken breasts before cooking or up to 8 hours ahead.
- Fettuccine pasta: This long, thick noodle is classic shape for making the best fettuccine Alfredo, but any long pasta shape (fresh or dried) will work in this recipe. Instead of fettuccine noodles, try linguine, spaghetti, or pappardelle.
- Heavy cream: The key ingredient of the most sumptuous Alfredo sauce is heavy cream. Its high fat content creates a luscious coating for the pasta, so there’s no need to use added thickeners (such as flour or cream cheese). For that reason, milk or half-and-half won’t work for this recipe. When shopping for cream to make Alfredo sauce, choose containers labeled “heavy whipping cream” or simply “heavy cream” which has a fat content of up to 38%. Plain “whipping cream” is about 35% fat, but can also be used.
- Parmesan cheese: Use the best freshly grated Parmesan you can afford, or buy a chunk of cheese and grate it yourself in a food processor or by hand using a rasp or box grater.
- Butter: Use your choice of salted or unsalted butter. Good Irish or European-style butter is amazing in this recipe.
- Garlic: A small clove of grated fresh garlic (about a teaspoon) infusing the cream with flavor.
- Parsley: I love the fresh color and flavor that fresh parsley adds as a garnish. If you don’t have any on hand, just leave it out.
Seasoning the chicken
Before cooking the chicken and adding to the Alfredo sauce, the first step is to make a simple seasoning rub to give it lots of flavor:
Cooking instructions (visual guide)
Cook the seasoned chicken breasts until golden brown and tender, then make the sauce in the same pan:
While the chicken and sauce are cooking, cook fettuccine (or your pasta of choice) in a large pot of boiling, salted water.
Tips for serving and storage
- If you have leftovers, transfer them to a storage container and refrigerate up to 3 days. Keep in mind that the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta as it sits. Reheat in a skillet until warm, with enough chicken stock or more cream to loosen the sauce.
- Serve chicken fettuccine Alfredo with grilled romaine caesar salad and buttery garlic bread for a date night dinner at home.
Homemade Chicken Alfredo Pasta
- ½ teaspon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound (450 g) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 2 breast halves
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 8 tablespoons (113 g) butter, cut into cubes
- 2 cups (475 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces (225 g) fettuccine pasta, or other long pasta shape such as linguine, pappardelle or tagliatelle
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta, and salt it generously (1 tablespoon salt per quart of water)
Season and cook the chicken
- Stir together the garlic powder, onion powder, ½ teaspoon salt and about ¼ teaspoon of fresh black pepper in a small bowl until combined. Sprinkle the mixture evenly on both sides of the chicken breasts. (The chicken can be seasoned and refrigerated up to 8 hours ahead).
- Place a large (10-12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Drizzle in a layer of oil (about 1 tablespoon) and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken breasts and cook until the first side is golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip the chicken over and cook on the second side another 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to medium and cover the pan. Cook 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken feels firm to the touch and is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a cutting board to rest while you cook the sauce. Wipe out the pan if it has any burned or dark bits in it.
- While the chicken is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes. Pour into a colander and shake to drain excess water.
Make the Alfredo sauce
- Turn the heat up back up to medium-high under the skillet. Add the butter pieces. When the butter is melted and no longer bubbling, add the cream, garlic and salt. Bring the cream to a low boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to reduce and thicken — it should take about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese until the sauce looks smooth.
- Add the cooked, drained pasta to the skillet, using tongs to toss it around in the sauce until it's coated. Transfer to a serving bowl, or keep it in the skillet for serving, if you like.
- Slice the chicken into ½-inch pieces and arrange over the pasta, adding in any juices that might have exuded while it was resting. Sprinkle the Parmesan and parsley over and serve right away.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- When you’re shopping for cream to make Alfredo sauce, choose containers labeled “heavy whipping cream” or just “heavy cream” both of which have a fat content of up to 38%. “Whipping cream” has about 35% fat, and can also be used. Because the rich sauce doesn’t rely on thickeners (like flour or cream cheese) I don’t recommend using milk or half-and-half for this recipe.
- Refrigerate any leftovers up to 3 days. Keep in mind that the sauce will be absorbed by the pasta as it sits. Reheat in a skillet until warm, with enough chicken stock or more cream to loosen the sauce.