Creamy Pasta and Tomato Sauce

Creamy tomato pasta

The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 1 pound
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
294 Calories
17g Fat
30g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 294
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 22%
Saturated Fat 7g 37%
Cholesterol 35mg 12%
Sodium 1566mg 68%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 9mg 47%
Calcium 83mg 6%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 555mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Creamy tomato pasta is an easy main dish recipe. It's an excellent use for cream cheese, simply combining it with a classic tomato sauce and spaghetti. It may sound a little unusual to add cream cheese to a pasta recipe, but it adds a tangy note and rich creaminess to the sauce. You can also add extra seasonings and other ingredients to the base recipe to fit your personal taste.

Ready in under 30 minutes, this creamy spaghetti is pure comfort food and a delicious meat-free weeknight dinner. It's also a great choice for a last-minute dinner party when served with toasted garlic bread, a crisp green salad, and rosé or red wine. The recipe makes a large batch of pasta, and it's likely that you'll have leftovers for lunch or another night's side.

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"For a quick dinner that ensures everyone leaves the table full, this is a good choice. It’s very simple and easy, and the cream cheese is a tasty addition. It’s also highly adaptable, and I found that some classic Italian seasoning and a little salt and pepper gave it a nice flavor boost." —Colleen Graham

Creamy Pasta and Tomato Sauce/Tester Image
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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 medium coarsely chopped onion

  • 1 (26-ounce) jar tomato pasta sauce, or homemade tomato sauce

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

  • 1 pound spaghetti or fettuccine

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cubed

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients to make creamy tomato pasta

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  2. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

    large stainless steel pot filled with water

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  3. Meanwhile, heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring often until the onion is tender and just starts to brown around the edges, 5 to 6 minutes.

    saute onions in a pan

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  4. Add the pasta sauce to the onion mixture. Add the water to the empty jar, close and shake to loosen the rest of the pasta sauce. Add to the skillet with the canned tomatoes. Lower the heat to a simmer, stirring frequently, so the mixture doesn't burn on the bottom.

    tomato sauce in a skillet

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  5. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in the large pot of boiling water according to the package directions until al dente.

    pasta boiling in a pot of water

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  6. A few minutes before the spaghetti is done, add the cream cheese to the pasta sauce. Whisk continuously until the cheese melts and the sauce is creamy. The cream cheese may not dissolve completely in the sauce because the sauce is acidic, but that's OK. It will add the desired creamy texture and flavor.

    tomato sauce in a skillet

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  7. Drain the pasta and immediately add to the skillet with the sauce.

    cooked pasta in skillet with tomato sauce

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

  8. Toss to coat, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, then serve.

    creamy tomato pasta

    The Spruce/Julia Hartbeck

Tip

  • When cooking the pasta, be generous with the salt because it adds flavor to the pasta. As a general rule, use 2 tablespoons of salt per 1 gallon of water.
  • This recipe produces a large amount of pasta that can easily feed up to eight people when served with side dishes. If you'd like to make a smaller batch, reduce all of the ingredients by half and refrigerate the excess sauce, tomatoes, and cream cheese to use in another recipe.

Recipe Variations

  • Add whatever you like to this recipe. Good choices include minced garlic added just before the tomatoes, sliced mushrooms browned with the onion, grated carrots, black olives, or even some baby spinach leaves. It's delicious when topped with Parmesan cheese.
  • When adding the tomato, stir in a few teaspoons of dried herbs, such as basil, oregano, and parsley, or Italian seasoning (triple that amount when using freshly chopped herbs). You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to taste before tossing in the pasta.
  • Vary the pasta shape if you like. For more of a casserole-style dish, use rigatoni or ziti and sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese on top. Add a few fresh basil leaves for fresh flavor.
  • To make this dish vegan, substitute silken tofu or vegan cream cheese and switch to vegan butter or use extra oil. If you use tofu, you may want to add a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to give it the tangy sourness of genuine cream cheese. 

How to Store

Leftover pasta can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days. Keep it refrigerated and reheat gently in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop mixed with a few tablespoons water. Stir in a little more water if the pasta continues to sticks together.

Can Pasta Be Cooked in Sauce?

While you can cook pasta in a sauce, it really is best to cook the two elements separately. The time needed for perfectly cooked spaghetti doesn't always coincide with the sauce. By cooking the pasta on its own, you can pull it as soon as it's al dente and have it drained and ready to add to the sauce when it's needed.