16 Things You Can Put in Alfredo Pasta
Alfredo pasta is one of the most amazing dishes, hailing directly from Italy and rapidly becoming a worldwide favorite. It’s a simple combination of noodles (primarily fettucine or angel hair pasta) bathed in a creamy white sauce that’s made from milk or cream, parmesan cheese and/or ricotta cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion. The taste is absolutely heavenly, so it’s no wonder that the dish is a popular choice and easily mixed with other ingredients to meet an individual’s tastes.
Here are 16 things you can add to this delicious meal to make it even tastier. Among these are artichoke hearts, asparagus, bacon, broccoli, chicken, French-style green beans, mushrooms, pancetta, peas, pine nuts, roasted red peppers, shrimp, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, turkey, and zucchini.
We’ve put this into a convenient list below of the things you can put into your Alfredo pasta dish to make it even more appealing. You may even want to toss in two or three of these ingredients at once for a flavor and texture overload! Of course, these are mere suggestions—you can add anything you think will be fitting. These are our recommendations for a fantastic starting point, though.
Quick Ingredient Overview
- Artichoke Hearts
- French Green Beans
- Pine Nuts
- Roasted Red Pepper
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Read on to learn a bit more about these delicious complements to your Alfredo pasta dish, how to use them, and the overall flavor profile they offer.
Jarred or pickled artichoke hearts are a delicious way to zest up Alfredo pasta. You can add these straight from the can or jar after you’ve finished cooking your Alfredo sauce. You can also use fresh artichoke hearts, but this will require a little more prep time.
If you’re wanting to cook the artichokes fresh, boil or roast them until tender. Remove all the leaves and gently remove the center, taking care to avoid the fibrous material of the stem. Chop these up and add them onto the top of the dish, sitting atop the sauce, before serving.
A delicious and fresh ingredient you can add to Alfredo pasta is asparagus. You can approach this in various ways depending on your preferences. Adding frozen and chopped asparagus towards the end of cooking your Alfredo sauce is a quick and easy way to include the vegetable, but you could also oven roast the asparagus beforehand, chop it into small pieces, and then add it at the very end of making your pasta sauce.
Alternatively, you can include your asparagus along with the pasta itself and let the sauce rest on top of the noodles and asparagus together. This will be the ideal preparation if you like your asparagus on the softer, mushier side of the spectrum.
Bacon goes well on just about anything, and Alfredo pasta is no exception. Make sure you cook it well enough to ensure every bit of the bacon is crispy, then break it apart into bits and put it on top of your sauce prior to serving. Don’t cook the bacon with the sauce, however, as this will give the bacon a soggy and slimy texture.
You can use frozen or fresh broccoli and cook it along with the sauce you’re preparing for your Alfredo pasta. If you use frozen broccoli, add it into the sauce when you add the cheese. However, if you choose to use fresh broccoli, add it early on in the sauce preparation. When exactly you choose to add your broccoli to the sauce will depend on how firm or soft you like your veggies to be.
Chicken is a very common and popular ingredient for adding to Alfredo pasta. You will have to cook your chicken separately from both the sauce and the pasta, but you have a couple of options regarding its preparation. You can grill, bake, fry, or broil the chicken, depending upon your preferences.
You could even just partially cook the chicken, chop it up, add it to the Alfredo sauce, and allow it to finish cooking. However, this will also make it difficult to ensure your chicken has reached the proper cooking temperature to reduce foodborne illness, so this is only recommended if you’re very familiar with poultry cooking practices.
Additionally, you can bread whole chicken breast filets or cutlets with Italian seasonings, then bake or fry the chicken and top your pasta with it. Tempura-style breading can provide an interesting texture too, for those who prefer it.
Regardless of your method, it’s best to season the chicken with the same seasonings you will be using for the sauce (unless you plan on breading it before cooking). Also, you will want to make sure that you cook it thoroughly to remove the risk of contracting Salmonella poisoning, which is common when chicken is left undercooked.
French Green Beans
French green beans are a fantastic thing to add to Alfredo pasta. They provide a green and earthy taste and are packed with vitamins and nutrients. You can get these green beans either fresh, canned, or frozen. Canned and frozen varieties won’t need as much cooking time as their fresh counterparts, so keep this in mind when preparing your overall meal.
You can add nearly any kind of mushroom, and these edible fungi will provide a unique flavor to your Alfredo pasta. Morels are a great option for this use. You can fry these up in a little bit of butter or olive oil, then add them towards the end of cooking your sauce. Additionally, you could also top your pasta sauce with them.
Mushrooms are incredibly interchangeable in most dishes, so you may also want to try white buttons, shiitake, wine cap, oyster, or lion’s mane mushrooms in your Alfredo pasta. These options also are capable of providing a just as delicious and rich flavor to your Alfredo sauce as morels. However, it’s best to go with the freshest options (not frozen, canned, or otherwise processed) in regard to mushrooms to preserve their texture.
This cured type of bacon-like pork makes a great and delectable addition to Alfredo pasta. It’s also a very common ingredient in Italian dishes, so there is no doubt that the flavors will match up beautifully. When it comes to pancetta, you simply cook it and add this meat to your dish in a similar way to using regular bacon. Be sure that you cook it fully crisp and crumble it on top of the sauce before serving for the best possible taste and texture.
If you’re looking to boost the nutritional benefits of your Alfredo pasta, try adding half a package of frozen peas into your Alfredo sauce. You can add them once the parmesan cheese melts during the process of cooking your sauce. Since they’re small, they heat up quickly, so adding them to your sauce will not significantly impact the overall cooking time.
For another nice Italian-style additive, pine nuts are something different to try with your Alfredo pasta. Use them in their raw form, and toast them in the pan or pot you plan on using for making your sauce. Use one tablespoon of olive oil with ¼ cup of pine nuts. Roast them until brown, then add your garlic and onion to the mix.
After roasting your pine nuts, continue making the Alfredo sauce according to your favorite recipe. By the time you’re done, the pine nuts should be simultaneously crunchy and soft with a woody yet nutty flavor. However, if you end up with leftovers, you may want to reheat your sauce on the stove or in the oven as microwaving will make the pine nuts soggy.
Roasted Red Pepper
The smoky, peppery aroma and taste of roasted red bell pepper is an ideal thing to add to Alfredo pasta. You can make your own roasted red peppers with fresh red bell peppers, or you can buy some from your local deli or supermarket. Simply gut the red peppers of all their seeds, then slice them lengthwise into edible-sized pieces.
Preheat your oven to 425°F, and pour a little bit of salt and olive oil over the pieces. Roast them in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly charred and dark brown. Add them into your sauce toward the end of cooking or place them atop the sauce covering your pasta prior to serving.
Deveined shrimp with the shells removed is an excellent ingredient to add to Alfredo pasta. You can opt to cook these and then add them after making the sauce, but alternatively, you could also add them cold (like cocktail shrimp) on top of your pasta before eating.
Additionally, like chicken, you can bread your shrimp tempura-style and then deep fry or bake them. This will add a delightful crunch which provides a nice texture against the soft creaminess of the Alfredo sauce and pasta.
Fresh or frozen spinach is not only a flavorful option for Alfredo pasta, but it’s also a wonderful way to get more healthy minerals into your diet. It’s also a fairly quick and inexpensive addition without requiring too much extra prep.
Because of the delicacy of spinach though, you will not want to add it to your sauce too soon before finishing. Otherwise, the spinach will rapidly become slimy and soggy. The same is true if you cook the spinach beforehand, too. Spinach simply doesn’t require a lot of cooking time, so avoid adding it until the very end.
If you like sun-dried tomatoes, these really give Alfredo pasta a pop of flavor. You can use dried ones or the ones that come stored in oil—whichever you like best. Either way, you will simply add these on top of the Alfredo sauce right before you devour your pasta.
You can also add them toward the end of cooking your sauce, but this may leave the tomatoes with a strange texture if they sit too long in any moisture. They won’t be as good in the case that you have leftovers the next day, either; it simply doesn’t reheat the same. Of course, though, some people like their food that way, so it’s really up to the individual.
There are quite a few people that attest to how much they love adding turkey to their Alfredo pasta recipes. This would be a great option for using up any extra turkey leftovers from the holidays. Regardless, you will need to prepare your turkey in a similar way to how you would prepare chicken for this use. You can either add it toward the end of making the sauce or you can top your pasta with it before eating.
Zucchini provides an interesting flavor and texture to Alfredo pasta that will dance on your taste buds like angels on the head of a pin. You have several options for preparing and cooking it, too. First, you can chop it up and add it fresh toward the end of cooking your Alfredo sauce. However, you can also roast the zucchini and add it after you’ve made the sauce, amplifying the delicious flavor of this vegetable. Lastly, another possible option is breading and frying zucchini pieces. You can use these as a topper for the pasta before serving it up.