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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.
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
- Garlic & onion
- Butter or olive oil
- Tomato passata (aka tomato puree)
- Cream cheese
- Dried or fresh basil
- Parmesan cheese
- Salt & pepper (chili flakes, optional)
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.
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
- Creamy penne pasta recipe
- Pappardelle pasta
- Pasta with artichokes
- Tomato basil pasta
- Pasta with black beans
- Mushroom ricotta pasta
- Penne arrabbiata
- Lemon garlic pasta
- Baked penne
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!
Tomato Pasta Sauce with Cream Cheese
- 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
- ⅛ black pepper, plus more to serve
- 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!