Tomato Pasta Sauce with Cream cheese

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This quick and easy tomato pasta sauce with cream cheese recipe is pure comfort food. It’s deliciously creamy, filling, and ready in about 15 minutes!

Great for a meatless main course or side, and sure to please everybody.

Close-up of a plate full of linguine with tomato pasta sauce with cream cheese.

I love great no-stress pasta recipes that are creamy, satisfying and ready in no time like my popular cream cheese pasta, ricotta pasta and spinach pasta.

And if you dream about a scrumptious pasta dish that can be on your table in as long as it takes to boil and cook the pasta, this recipe is for you.

This is a pretty basic tomato cream sauce, very straightforward to make and perfect for busy weeknights or when you have friends around but you don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen. 

The pasta sauce itself calls for minimal ingredients that you’re likely to have on hand already, but the magic of this recipe is in how each of these ingredients together bring out flavors and create a rich pasta sauce that’s super delicious.

And one of my favorite tricks here is the starchy pasta water that helps to thin out the cream cheese so it creates a creamy tomato sauce that coats everything nicely.

Finally, all you have to do is add the pasta to the skillet, toss until well combined, luscious, and ready to be devoured!

List of the ingredients

  • Pasta
  • Garlic & onion
  • Butter or olive oil
  • Tomato passata (aka tomato puree)
  • Cream cheese
  • Dried or fresh basil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper (chili flakes, optional)
The ingredients to make this tomato pasta with cream cheese are arranged over a white background.

How to make it

(Note: this is a quick description, the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)

  • Cook pasta until al dente and reserve some pasta water.
  • Gently cook garlic, onion, and chilli flakes (optional) in butter.
  • Add the tomato sauce, the dried basil, and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream cheese and grated parmesan.
Top view of a skillet with sautéed onion, garlic, tomato passata and cheese.
  • Stir in some pasta cooking water and toss until combined and creamy.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • Drain the pasta, add it to the skillet, toss until nicely coated, and serve!
Top view of a skillet with the creamy tomato pasta sauce with linguine.

Recipe notes

The ingredient list for this recipe is short, but I recommend investing in quality ingredients. Here is a quick overview… 

Ingredients & substitutions

Pasta: I love thick quality pasta that offers a good bite for this recipe, especially durum wheat semolina pasta, possibly made with brass or bronze dies. Any pasta shape will do here, from spaghetti to chunky rigatoni.

Butter: I used unsalted butter, but alternatively salted butter or olive oil work fine too. But if you use salted butter adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Garlic and onion: I used them both for more flavor, but you can skip one of them if you wish.

Dried basil: for more flavor, but a touch of oregano or your favorite herbs works fine as well. Also 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil leaves works well, and you can add it along with the cream cheese.

Tomato passata: what is tomato passata? It’s simply pureed plain tomatoes with a thicker, smooth texture that makes a lovely pasta sauce. You can find it in all major supermarkets and usually it’s not canned, but it’s sold in glass bottles.

Cream cheese: full fat cream cheese turns the tomato sauce into a rich creamy pasta sauce. I used Philadelphia, but whichever brand you prefer will do. And if you have any leftovers, you might want to try this sweet cream cheese dip ready in minutes!

Parmesan cheese: aged Parmesan cheese with its nutty, umami flavor is the best. But more important is to use Parmesan that has been freshly grated so that it will melt well into the sauce, for this reason I recommend grating your own cheese. The grated stuff is no comparison.

Salt & pepper: make sure you salt the pasta water properly and adjust the seasoning to your liking when you toss the pasta and the creamy tomato sauce.

Chili flakes: to add a very subtle kick. If spicy food is not your thing, just skip them.

Close-up of some creamy, luscious linguine with tomato pasta sauce with cream cheese.

Tips to make a creamy tomato pasta sauce

For a quick amazing result – and minimal effort – simply use some of the pasta cooking water to mix the tomato sauce and the cheese. Toss everything together until you get that delicious creamy richness you’re looking for.

It’s that easy and the pasta water is for free! : )

This is a classic Italian technique that uses starchy pasta water to bind and thicken the sauce. Usually, the water is added to toss the pasta before serving, but in this easy pasta recipe it’s also used to thin out and emulsify the creamy tomato sauce. And it works like a charm.

Top view of a plate with pasta with creamy tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.

More quick pasta recipes?

I’ve got you covered with this terrific collection of 13 Super Quick Pasta Recipes that make the perfect family meal ready in less than 15 minutes. Also you might want to check my vegan pastas and Italian pasta recipes as well for more cooking ideas!

Below more favorite pasta recipes to inspire you!

This scrumptious tomato pasta sauce with cream cheese is one of our staples, and if you make it or 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!

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Close-up of a plate with spaghetti with tomato pasta sauce with cream cheese.
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Tomato Pasta Sauce with Cream Cheese

This quick and easy tomato pasta sauce with cream cheese recipe is pure comfort food. It's deliciously creamy, filling, and ready in about 15 minutes!
Recipe yields to 4 small servings.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Tomato sauce with cream cheese
Servings: 4
Calories: 371kcal
Author: Katia

Ingredients

Pasta

  • 8oz (225 grams) Pasta (long or short pasta will work…)

Tomato pasta sauce with cream cheese

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ brown or white onion, finely diced
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • ¾ cup (200 ml) tomato passata (aka tomato puree)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 tbsp of chopped fresh basil)*
  • ½ cup (120 grams) cream cheese (I used philadelphia)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) reserved pasta water
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt, or to taste
  • black pepper, plus more to serve

Instructions

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted until al dente (follow the package directions). A couple minutes before draining, scoop out approx 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
  • While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, chili flakes, and cook gently for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the tomato passata, the dried basil, give a stir, lower the heat, and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream cheese, the parmesan cheese, and ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water (start with ¼ cup and add more later when you toss in the pasta if you need to). Stir until well combined and emulsified, it takes seconds. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking (I add ¼ tsp of salt and freshly ground black pepper).
  • Drain the pasta, add it to the skillet, toss to coat (it takes about 10 seconds).
  • Turn the heat off and serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese is you wish. Enjoy!

Notes

Herbs:  1 tablespoon of chopped fresh basil leaves work too, and you can add them along with the cream cheese.
Storage: you can store the tomato pasta sauce with cream cheese leftovers in airtight container in the fridge for up 3 days. Reheat it before adding to cooked pasta, and toss well until combined. 
Nutrition facts: the nutrition values are for one serving and they are based on an online nutrition calculator. It’s an estimate only and it should not be considered as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice (extra parmesan cheese to serve is not included). Please see my disclosure policies.

Nutrition

Calories: 371kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 38mg | Sodium: 283mg | Potassium: 445mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 774IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 2mg

24 Comments

  1. hello ,can I use crushed tomatoes or tomatoes sauce ? I don’t have puree.thanks

    1. Hi Erika! They are fine. : )

  2. Is tomato puree “tomato sauce” or “tomato paste” in the US?

    1. Tomato sauce is fine. Tomato paste is a thick concentrate, it’s fine to add texture and tomato flavor, but not suitable as a main ingredient for a pasta sauce. x

  3. 5 stars
    This was such a hit with my pasta loving family! We’re typically just red sauce lovers, but I had my husband follow the recipe, when we added the pasta we added some shredded chicken too. It was fantastic!

    1. That’s great, Sarah! Thanks for rating the recipe, I’m very pleased. : )

  4. 5 stars
    I’m 15 and baking has always been my strong suit. I have only cooked a few times but I always get so stressed. my dad was tired when he got home from working. I decided to make this recipe for him and couldn’t believe how delicious and easy it was! thank you for this recipe. my dad was very proud! I didn’t have fresh parmesan so I used the little bit of dried parmesan we had and threw in some mozzarella, turned out great!!!

    1. You are amazing, Mable! Well done. : )
      Thanks so much for sharing your lovely feedback. x

  5. 5 stars
    Looks delicious and easy. I don’t have cream cheese, do you think I could sub in mascarpone instead?

    1. If you love mascarpone, why not? : )
      But make sure you don’t skip the parmesan cheese as you need its savory flavor, especially if using mascarpone. And season to taste. x

  6. thank you, I want to try this tonight but I don’t have parmesan cheese, can I omit this?

    1. You’re welcome : )
      You can skip the parmesan cheese, just keep in mind the tomato sauce will be less flavorful. x

  7. 5 stars
    Love love this recipe super quick to throw together and super tasty 😋 thank you for sharing this

    1. That’s awesome, Kimberly! Thanks for sharing your feedback. x

  8. 5 stars
    LOVED this recipe! The chili flakes really give it a kick. I’ll definitely be trying it again and add some sort of protein to it.

    1. Fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing, Myrna. x

  9. Ruth King says:

    5 stars
    ThIs is a very good and very quick to put together recipe. My son devoured it. This is getting added to my cookbook under favorites. Thank you for such a great recipe!

    1. You’re welcome, Ruth! I’m so pleased it turned out so good and I appreciate your feedback, thank you.
      Cheers x

  10. 5 stars
    just made this and it was absolutely delicious! I think I’ll throw in some shrimp next time I make it!! so creamy and delicious. so simple and took me less than 30 mins to make!

    1. That’s great to hear, Bella!
      Glad it was delicious, thanks so much for sharing your feedback. xx

    2. 5 stars
      Super amazing recipe will definitely try again

    3. I’m so glad you loved this recipe, Kali.
      Thanks so much for sharing your feedback! x

  11. 5 stars
    LOOOOVE this recipe!!Looks so hard to get wrong for me.:)I would like to try it for the packed lunch in the rush morning time.Hope it will not affect the taste if I put it in the thermos.Thanks Katia!

    1. I’m so glad you like it, Steph! If you use the thermos (as I do for my son’s packed lunch : ), go for chunky pasta like rigatoni or penne and make sure to drain the pasta when it’s still very al dente (this tip just to avoid that the pasta gets too soft when you keep it coated in that delicious warm tomato sauce. : )
      Enjoy!

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