May 28, 2024
A well made Alfredo sauce elevates everything it touches. We taste tested 13 brands, from Rao's to Trader Joe's, and found the very best ones -- and some very terrible ones.

When it comes to jarred Alfredo sauce, there are two camps: Those who do, and those who don’t. And to be clear, those who don’t, really, truly don’t. Ever. They don’t buy it because they either prefer to make it from scratch, or they have no idea why they might want a jar or two in their pantry, especially if they are not fans of fettucine Alfredo.

That brings us to those who do, which is clearly a huge contingent of home cooks, as store shelves are stacked with Alfredo options. For these people, what’s inside the jar is not just a creamy, comforting alternative to tomato-based pasta or pizza sauce. It’s an appetizer, a meal starter, a finish sauce.

Alfredo can be slathered on pasta, chicken or fish or drizzled on cauliflower or roasted vegetables. It can be stirred into marinara, used as a base for soup or a creamy casserole or poured into a fondue pot for an instant hot dip.

The problem with jarred Alfredo, of course, is that it requires such things as stabilizers and gums, ingredients not typically used when the sauce is made fresh. The challenge is to make sure that those additives don’t dull the flavors of the star ingredients — cream and cheese — and that the texture is as luxurious and velvety as authentic Alfredo.

Good Alfredo sauce is a decadent, cheese-forward cream sauce that delivers layers of flavor, a touch of salt and umami richness. Bad Alfredo sauce is salty, flavorless or so full of additives, it’s just plain gross.

Here’s the scoop on rich, comforting, pre-made Alfredo sauces that will transform food into a more delicious version of itself — and the sauce fails that should never have made it into the jar, much less to store shelves. Nutrition info refers to 1/4 cup of sauce.

Rao’s Homemade Alfredo

Creamy, buttery and packed with cheese flavor, this rich, mouthwatering sauce wins. It’s dense, complex flavor will upscale any dish. 100 calories, 9 g fat, 420 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 3 g protein. $10.99 for 15 ounces at Safeway. (4 stars)

Bertolli D’Italia Four Cheese Alfredo

Delicate seasonings and four different kinds of cheese make this thick blend a yummy, velvety choice. It’s clean, rich and altogether worthy. 110 calories, 10 g fat, 360 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein. $6.49 for 16.9 ounces at Safeway. (4 stars)

Dave’s Gourmet Aged White Cheddar Alfredo

Fans of black pepper may enjoy this cheddar-based, peppery blend. It’s thin, but the cheese is pungent enough to play well with veggies and more. 100 calories, 10 g fat, 340 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 2 g protein. $9.99 for 15 ounces at Whole Foods. (3½ stars)

Trader Joe’s Alfredo Pasta Sauce

Fresh cream dusted with a hint of parmesan and pecorino make this luxurious sauce a terrific choice for true fans of Alfredo. The cheese flavors are understated, but the sauce tastes truly authentic. 80 calories, 6 g fat, 280 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 2 g protein. $3.49 for 16 ounces. (3 stars)

Signature Reserve Pasta Sauce

This sauce is so peppery and acidic, it tastes like salad dressing with a massive hit of cheese. Reserve this one for casseroles and soups, as heat will naturally neutralize the acid and help balance the flavors. 50 calories, 3 g fat, 430 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 2 g protein. $6.99 for 13 ounces at Safeway. (2½ stars)

Prego Homestyle Alfredo

Generous cream, a rich butter note, and a sprinkle of cheese almost make up for the evaporated milk flavor in this sauce. It’s edible, but would be best used in highly flavored dishes. 80 calories, 7 g fat, 390 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein. $4.49 for 14.5 ounces at Safeway. (2½ stars)

Classico Creamy Alfredo

In a pinch, this sauce could work, as it delivers both cream and salt, but it’s sorely lacking in cheese. 50 calories, 3.5 g fat, 400 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein. $3.99 for 15 ounces on sale at Raley’s. (2 stars)

O Organics Classic Alfredo Sauce

This thin, minimally cheesy blend tastes like canned milk and misses the mark. It requires serious culinary adaptation to be of any use. 70 calories, 7 g fat, 420 mg sodium, 1 g sugar. 1 g protein. $4.49 for 14.5 ounces at Safeway. (1½ stars)

Whole Foods Roasted Garlic Premium Alfredo Sauce

Why this is labeled “Alfredo” when it isn’t a bit creamy is a mystery. The primary flavors are salt and pepper. 80 calories, 7 g fat, 370 mg sodium, no sugar, 1 g protein. $4.99 for 14.5 ounces. (1½ stars)

Ragu Classic Alfredo Sauce

If rich, cream-forward Alfredo sauce is what you want, this is not it. The mix has a nutty, cheesy flavor, but it tastes like canned cream that’s been on the shelf far too long. 90 calories, 9 g fat, 320 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein. $2.39 for 16 ounces at Target. (1 star)

Good & Gather Alfredo

Despite the initial aroma of parmesan, this thick, gloopy sauce delivers precious little flavor, and the salt level is literally punishing. 60 calories, 4.5 g fat, 370 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein. $1.89 for 15 ounces at Target. (1 star)

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Sonoma Gourmet Creamy Alfredo Sauce

An overpowering punch of garlic plus a massive hit of herbs make this a majoy disappointment. The label claims it’s “crazy good.” We beg to differ. 100 calories, 9 g fat, 350 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 2 g protein. $5.99 for 15.5 ounces at Raley’s. (½ a star)

Botticelli Premium White Alfredo Sauce

This salty sauce is an utter failure. It’s the texture of mayonnaise. There’s no trace of cream, and its wonky sweet notes are distinctly off-putting. 100 calories, 8 g fat, 400 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 3 g protein. $5.99 for 14.5 ounces at Raley’s. (No stars)

Reviews are based on product samples purchased by this newspaper or provided by manufacturers. Contact Jolene Thym at [email protected]. Read more Taste-off columns at www.mercurynews.com/tag/taste-off.

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