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This cream cheese pasta sauce is super simple, fast, and great for when you don’t have many ingredients in your fridge! Ready in about 20 minutes.
Why you’ll love it
Who doesn’t love a ridiculously simple pasta recipe? I’m a big fan of using cream cheese in pasta sauces. It adds a delicious tanginess and velvety quality to the sauce. If you’ve got a block in your fridge that needs using up, give this recipe a try! This creamy pasta is also a must for college students and anyone on a budget since it’s an inexpensive meal.
For convenience and fewer dishes, the sauce is made in the same pot the pasta was cooked in. I use this time-saving technique in other one pot pasta recipes such as my Spinach Goat Cheese Pasta, this Boursin Pasta, and my Brie Pasta. The hot, starchy pasta water helps to emulsify the sauce so it’s silky and delicious!
Ingredients you’ll need
- Pasta – I used rotini, but you can choose your favorite shape
- Cream cheese – the base for the creamy sauce. I used Philadelphia, but use whichever brand you prefer
- Butter – a touch of butter boosts the flavor and richness of the sauce even more
- Garlic powder and onion powder – two of my go-to seasonings to enhance the savory flavor in pasta sauces, and you probably already have them in your pantry!
- Red pepper flakes – it’s optional, but they give this pasta a little kick
- Italian seasoning – a dried herb blend that typically includes rosemary and thyme to give the sauce more depth
- Parsley – fresh parsley gives a pop of color and freshness
How to make cream cheese pasta
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Boil a pot of water and cook the pasta according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the water. Drain the pasta and quickly return it to the pot it was cooked in, then add the cream cheese and butter. Cover it and let it sit for about a minute, then add in the seasonings.
Add in about 1/4 cup of the pasta water to start, then toss and add more water as needed until the cheese has melted into a smooth sauce.
Tips for success
- The key to this recipe is not letting the pasta get cold after you drain it! Its heat (and the reserved hot pasta water) is what melts the cheese and makes the sauce. Ensure everything is ready to go for when the pasta is cooked.
- This dish is best eaten right away since cream cheese sauces don’t tend to keep the same texture as they cool down.
- Use two spoons or cooking tongs to effortlessly toss the pasta with the sauce.
Substitutions and variations
- This is meant to be a flexible pantry ingredients recipe, so feel free to change it up and use what you’ve got on hand! Cajun seasoning would be delicious in here, for example.
- Any pasta shape will work for this recipe. It would be great with a longer noodle like spaghetti or a shorter one like rotini/penne/bows/shells/etc.
- You could add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese in if you happen to have some. I’d add it in during step 2 of the recipe.
- Feel free to throw in some cooked or leftover chicken, and crispy bacon would be tasty as well!
Leftovers and storage
- Leftovers of this cream cheese pasta will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days in a covered container.
- To warm it up, do so in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally until warm.
- I wouldn’t recommend freezing this one because dairy doesn’t hold up well in the freezer.
Questions about this quick pasta recipe? Let me know in the comments!
Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce
- 8 ounces uncooked pasta
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1 tablespoon butter softened
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley optional, or to taste
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Boil a pot of water for the pasta and cook it al dente according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of the hot pasta water.
- Meanwhile, cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces and microwave it until very soft (try 20-30 second intervals). Prep all ingredients so they're ready to go as soon as the pasta is cooked.
- Return the drained pasta to the pot it was cooked in, and quickly add the cream cheese and butter. Cover the pot and let it sit for about a minute (this helps it soften up more).
- Uncover the pot and add in the garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, and parsley.
- Add about 1/4 cup of the hot pasta water to the pot, and start tossing it, gradually adding more of the water until the cheese has melted into a creamy sauce. You may not use up the entire cup of water.
- Season with salt & pepper to taste and serve. This pasta is best enjoyed right away.
- Serves 2-4 depending on portion size/what else it’s served with.
- This recipe is very flexible. You can adjust the herbs/spices to taste or even add in others like Cajun seasoning, for example. Use what you’ve got… this is meant to be an easy pantry ingredients recipe. Some freshly grated parmesan would be delicious in here… I’d add 1/4-1/2 cup at the same time as the cream cheese and butter.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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