The Simple Ingredient That Will Improve Store-Bought Alfredo Sauce

Everyone likes a simple shortcut in the kitchen from time to time, and store-bought sauces are an easy way to make a quick meal. Even top chefs and TV personalities are not immune to the allure of picking up a jar of sauce, as Giada De Laurentiis said her vodka sauce can be made a store-bought base.

Alfredo sauce is one of the most popular products made by pasta sauce brands. Made with butter, cream, and cheese, the creamy sauce paired with fettuccine pasta makes for the ultimate speedy and comforting dinner. Even though Alfredo is not especially difficult to make, there's no shame in opting for pre-made for an even quicker fix. But if you want to ramp up the flavor and make a jar of Alfredo taste more complex and delicious, try adding a little white balsamic vinegar.

Less strong and syrupy than regular balsamic vinegar, white balsamic doesn't add color to pale dressings or sauces such as Alfredo, nor does it overwhelm the simple sauce. This vinegar is much-loved by chefs for the bright taste it brings to a range of dishes, and just a small amount of the ingredient can transform store-bought Alfredo into something much more flavorful, without compromising its color or delicious simplicity.

Add white balsamic for a brighter Alfredo

White balsamic vinegar is not the same as regular balsamic, and the two vinegars are produced in quite different ways. They are both made from grapes, but while real balsamic vinegar is traditionally aged for at least 12 years, white balsamic is aged for a much shorter time. White balsamic isn't caramelized to a deep, dark color, and the grape pressings are also blended with white wine vinegar, so white balsamic isn't really a balsamic in the truest sense — but it's still delicious.

White balsamic has a taste that is often described as cleaner and less sweet than regular balsamic, with bright, sometimes slightly floral notes. If you add about half a tablespoon to creamy Alfredo while heating it up in a pan, the acidic vinegar serves to cut through the richness of the sauce. It also imparts a variety of light yet complex flavors, which takes store-bought sauces — which can be a bit one-note — to the next level.

If you can't get ahold of white balsamic, then you could use regular balsamic, but bear in mind that the darker color and more intense flavor will add a different taste to the dish, as well as adding a deeper color to the sauce. Another alternative is to add fresh lemon juice, for a touch of acidity as well as a fresh, bright citrus flavor.

Other ingredients to elevate Alfredo sauce

White balsamic or lemon are not the only ingredients that can be used to enhance Alfredo sauce. It's easy to add additional flavors and textures by using other common kitchen ingredients, giving the sauce more depth of flavor with more of a homemade feel.

Adding sautéed minced garlic, garlic powder, spices such as cayenne, nutmeg, or red pepper flakes, or fresh herbs can all add an extra dimension to jarred Alfredo sauce. Try heating a little dry white wine in a pan before adding the sauce for another layer of deep, aromatic flavor which pairs perfectly with pasta. Or really ramp up the creaminess or cheesiness of the sauce by stirring in cream cheese, heavy cream, or some extra Parmesan.

If it's a more dynamic texture you're after — as well as an extra portion of vegetables — then try adding sautéed mushrooms to the sauce. You can even cook the mushrooms in garlic butter for a next-level addition, or go for spinach instead for a burst of freshness. Want a little extra protein? Cooked chicken breast, smoky pancetta, or shrimp all pair well with Alfredo. Get creative, and with just a little extra effort, a store-bought sauce will feel just like a homemade bowl of comforting goodness.