This Cream Cheese Pasta is simple, cheap, and comforting. Ready in under 15 minutes, this makes the perfect weeknight dinner!
Simple and cheap weeknight meals are a win-win. If you've had a hectic day, you shouldn't settle for cereal or unhealthy takeaways! This creamy and cheesy pasta is super simple, and very low cost. It's also super flavorful and comes together in under 15 minutes!
This cream cheese pasta recipe requires just 9 basic ingredients. It's also a versatile recipe and you can add your favourite toppings to go with this creamy sauce!
Ingredients and Variations
Pasta - Use your favourite dry pasta. If in doubt, go for spaghetti, it's always a great choice!
Cream Cheese - Use your favourite cream cheese. Full-fat cream cheese is ideal for a creamy sauce.
Garlic - Always a great flavor enhancer in any pasta sauce!
Olive Oil - Base for the sauce. Use good-quality EVOO.
Spices and Herbs - For this recipe, I added a pinch of chilli flakes for a spicy kick. Feel free to eliminate this if you don't like a slightly spicy sauce. You'll also need salt and pepper, to taste.
Bacon/Tomatoes/Salmon - For bacon lovers, cubed bacon or pancetta works wonderfully here. If you prefer a vegetable option, try cherry/grape/plum tomatoes. For fish lovers, smoked or flaked salmon also pairs beautifully with a cream cheese sauce.
Pasta Water - Don't forget to reserve some pasta water for the sauce.
Parmesan Cheese - Use freshly-grated parmesan cheese or parmeggiano reggiano.
How to Make Cream Cheese Pasta
- Boil pasta in salted water until al-dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
- If using bacon, heat cubed bacon or pancetta in a small saucepan until crispy and set aside (place on kitchen towel to absorb extra oil). If using cherry tomatoes, slice them in half and place them and some olive oil in a small saucepan. Saute for 5-7 minutes until soft and browned. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and saute garlic and chilli flakes for 30 seconds.
- Add cream cheese and ⅓ to ½ cup of pasta water and stir until combined.
- Add parmesan cheese and salt and pepper, to taste.
- Toss in drained pasta and mix well to coat with sauce.
- Serve with bacon or tomatoes and enjoy!
Making Ahead and Storing Cream Cheese Pasta
While I don't recommend making this dish ahead, you can also store leftover cream cheese pasta for up to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Simply add a splash of milk, cream, or water to thin the sauce and reheat in a microwave before serving.
What Type of Pasta Should I Use?
Any type of pasta works here, so use whatever you prefer and/or have available. If in doubt, go with spaghetti; it's cheap, easily accessible, and works perfectly with cream cheese sauce!
Why Use Pasta Water for the Sauce?
Pasta water helps to "glue" the sauce with the pasta, in addition to making the sauce more creamy and giving it more flavor. Make sure to reserve pasta water after you've finished cooking the pasta, as this will contain starch that will make your sauce stick to the pasta.
You will need ⅓ to ½ cup of pasta water for this recipe.
Can I Use Other Ingredients for the Sauce?
Yes! Feel free to use any topping, ranging from bacon, pancetta, or parma ham to chicken, sundried tomatoes, sausage, roasted vegetables or leafy greens. You can also top this pasta with some pine nuts or crushed nuts such as pistachios!
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Cream Cheese Pasta
- 320 g dry pasta
- 120 mL reserved pasta water (½ cup)
- 150 g bacon sliced/cubed, or pancetta (or tomatoes for vegetarian)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ tsp. chilli flakes (optional)
- 200 g cream cheese
- 2-4 tbsp. parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil pasta in salted water according to package instructions. Reserve around ½ cup of pasta water before draining. In the meantime, prepare sauce.
- Heat bacon in small pan until brown and crispy. Set aside. If substituting with tomatoes (for vegetarian), heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small pan and saute for 5-7 minutes until browned and soft. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan and add minced garlic and dried chilli flakes. Saute for 1 minute on medium heat.
- Stir in cream cheese and ⅓ to ½ cup pasta water and mix until smooth. Add parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.
- Toss in drained pasta and mix well to coat with sauce. Add bacon/tomatoes and serve.