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Easy, quick and inexpensive, this creamy penne pasta recipe makes a delicious meatless family meal that uses 6 ingredients and it’s ready in less than 15 minutes.
This is another terrific and easy pasta to add to your arsenal, ready?
There’s few things that can rival the feeling of satisfying a craving for some creamy pasta. It’s one of those comforting family meals that is filling, delicious, and so easy to whip up with minimal ingredients.
I’m all in with the silky sauce made of aromatic garlic, rich cream cheese, parmesan and a bit of the pasta starchy water. I’ve used the same combination in these yummy cream cheese pasta and tomato pasta with cream cheese, and they are a huge hit in my house.
In this recipe, thanks to fresh lemon juice and zest, not only is the pasta sauce quick to make and so beautifully creamy, but it’s also fresh, tangy, and full of flavor.
Trust me, this is the creamy penne pasta recipe that you’ll want to keep in your back pockets for busy weeknight meals. Everyone will come back for seconds!
List of the ingredients
- Penne pasta
- Butter or olive oil
- Cream cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Salt & pepper
How to make this creamy penne pasta recipe
(Note: this is a quick description, the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)
- Gently cook the garlic with the butter until smells good.
- Cook pasta until al dente and reserve some of the starchy pasta water.
- Add cream cheese, pasta water, parmesan, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper to the skillet.
- Stir until nice and smooth.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet.
- Toss until well combined and nicely coated. Enjoy!
Ingredients for this creamy penne pasta
Butter: salted or unsalted butter works great, but olive oil works well too.
Garlic: go for fresh garlic, not garlic powder. It’s an essential flavour base for this simple pasta sauce.
Penne: I used good-quality penne pasta, and if you love those chunky tubes and their sauce-capturing ridges check this collection penne pasta recipes. But you’re welcome to use another similar pasta shapes if you wish.
Cream cheese: full-fat soft cream cheese is the way to go for the best creamy pasta sauce. I used Philadelphia, but whichever brand you prefer will do. And if you have any cream cheese leftovers, why don’t you make some yummy sweet cream cheese dip?
Parmesan: it adds umami (savoury flavour) into this otherwise very simple pasta sauce. Best if you use freshly grated if you can because it melts much better than the pre-grated stuff. I always prefer to grate my own parmesan.
Pasta water: in this recipe the starchy cooking water is used to thin out and emulsify the cream cheese and the parmesan turning them into a pasta sauce.
Lemon: finally, the bright lemon zest and juice balance the richness of the cream cheese sauce. To grate the lemon zest, I always use this microplane, it’s brilliant and lasts for ever.
Salt and pepper: taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning to your liking before adding the penne pasta.
Add-ins for this creamy penne pasta?
This is a quick pasta recipes that tastes great on its own but it’s also versatile and easy to customize! Add-ins like spinach pesto, sun-dried tomato paste, fresh arugula, roasted cherry tomatoes, grilled chicken, sautéed peas make delicious options!
If you look for more easy pasta recipes…
I’m happy to share this terrific collection of 13 Super Quick Pasta Recipes ready in less than 15 minutes. But you might also want to check my vegan pastas and Italian pasta recipes or penne pasta recipes as well for more cooking inspirations!
Below more favorite pasta recipes to inspire you!
- Pappardelle pasta
- Pasta with artichokes
- Tomato basil pasta
- Mushroom ricotta pasta
- Penne arrabbiata
- Penne with pesto
- Lemon garlic pasta
- Baked penne
- Creamy spinach tomato pasta
Lastly, I hope you’ll love this luscious creamy penne pasta recipe, and if you have any questions, let me know! Leave a comment, send me a message, or rate it. I would love to hear from you!
Creamy Penne Pasta Recipe
- 8 oz (225 grams) penne pasta
Creamy pasta sauce
- 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 oz (140 grams) full-fat cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) cloudy starchy pasta water
- ¼ cup (30 grams) parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 small lemon, zest
- ½ teaspoon fine salt, or to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted until al dente (follow the package directions). Just a couple of minutes before draining, scoop out some cloudy starchy pasta cooking water (approx ½ cup is fine).
- While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes until it smells good and fragrant.
- Stir in the cream cheese, ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water, the parmesan cheese, and the lemon zest. Stir until well combined and emulsified, it takes seconds. Reduce the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and adjust the seasoning to your liking (I add ¼ tsp of salt and about ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper).
- Drain the pasta, add it to the skillet, toss to coat (it takes about 8-10 seconds).
- Turn the heat off and serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese and extra lemon zest or freshly ground pepper if you wish. Enjoy!