This creamy penne pasta recipe is a super quick and simple dish that's ready in about 20 minutes! It's great for a meatless main course or side.
Love penne recipes? Try my Penne alla Vodka Recipe, this Chicken Penne Pasta, or my Baked Penne.
Why you'll love it
A piping hot bowl of this creamy garlic penne recipe can be on your table in as long as it takes to boil and cook the pasta. It uses ingredients you're likely to have on hand already in your fridge and pantry. My kinda weeknight meal!
While you can dress up this penne pasta recipe with a protein, it's absolutely delicious as-is with balanced flavors in the irresistibly creamy sauce. This one might be the very definition of a quick and easy pasta, and it's a favorite among kids and picky eaters too.
What you'll need
- Penne - this tube-shaped pasta is the perfect vessel for the sauce
- Butter and flour - to make a quick roux
- Garlic - we're pretty generous, but add even more if you're a garlic lover. This garlic press makes it simple to mince the cloves.
- Wine or broth - a dry white wine like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio adds a fancy touch, but chicken broth works just fine too
- Lemon juice - a tiny amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice helps the sauce taste a little less one-dimensional. It adds acidity and brightness.
- Heavy cream - for that luscious quality in the sauce
- Italian seasoning - my favorite variety of dried herbs that's really versatile and all in a single jar
- Parmesan - I recommend grating your own parmesan cheese. The powdered stuff is no comparison! I always keep a block in my fridge and use my Microplane to grate it.
- This is a pretty basic garlic cream sauce, so you can definitely add more seasonings if you feel like it. You need a decent amount of salt in cream sauces (or else they can be a bit bland), so don't be shy. Taste and adjust!
- If the sauce gets too thick, add in a splash of the hot pasta water to thin it out. Keep in mind that cream sauces thicken up more as they cool.
How to make creamy penne pasta
This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Melt the butter in a skillet, then add flour to make a roux, followed by the garlic, wine (or chicken/veg broth) and lemon juice. Cook it down until it's somewhat thickened.
- At that point, you whisk in the cream and add Italian seasoning in. Continue cooking until it's thickened up some more. Once the sauce has reached your desired thickness a few minutes later, take the pan off the heat.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese, season generously with salt & pepper, and then add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss until coated. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
Substitutions and variations
- I don't recommend subbing the cream with a lower fat alternative as the sauce may curdle and/or not thicken as well.
- You could definitely add some Cooked Chicken or shrimp to this sauce. Readers have also added in crumbled Oven Cooked Bacon to make it extra special.
- Feel free to swap out the penne for another shape of pasta if you wish. Rigatoni or a similar size would be best.
What to serve with creamy penne
- If serving it as a main course, round out the meal with Cheesy Garlic Bread, garlic knots, or breadsticks.
- A side salad is a great fresh complement. My Easy Caesar Salad Dressing is always a good idea.
- As a side dish, pair this easy penne with Easy Baked Chicken Breast, this Easy Baked Pork Tenderloin, or Salmon Patties.
Leftovers and storage
- Store any leftovers of this penne pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days max.
- When reheating, you may need to give it an extra splash of wine or broth. Warm it up in a saucepan over a low heat.
- I don't suggest freezing leftovers of this one. The texture of the garlic cream sauce won't be the same.
Questions about this simple penne pasta recipe? Talk to me in the comments below! I'd love it if you left a review. You can also tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram.
Creamy Penne Pasta
- 8 ounces uncooked penne
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 tablespoon flour
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken/veg broth
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley optional, to taste
- Boil a salted pot of water for the pasta and cook it al dente according to package directions.
- When the pasta is about 10 minutes away from being done, add the butter to a skillet over medium-high heat. Once it melts, sprinkle the flour in and cook for about 1 minute, stirring fairly often.
- Add in the garlic, followed by the wine (or broth) and lemon juice. Let it bubble until it's reduced by half (about 30 sec - 1 minute).
- Whisk in the cream so the flour dissolves completely, then stir in the Italian seasoning. Cook it for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened up to your liking.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese and take the skillet off the heat. Season with salt & pepper as needed (I am generous with both).
- Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss until coated (I like to add a tablespoon or so of the pasta water to the sauce prior to draining it, especially if it's become a tad too thick). Garnish with more parmesan and a bit of chopped parsley if you like. Serve immediately.
- Serves 2-4 depending on how hungry people are/what else you serve it with.
- This is a very simple garlic cream pasta sauce. You can definitely jazz it up more by adding additional seasonings if you wish.
- I don't recommend subbing the cream for a lower fat alternative. It may not thicken the same, so you may need to adjust cooking time/add more flour.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
Fantastic taste , very easy to prepare for those on a time frame .
I added Elk ribeye sautéed in red wine and butter with garlic. Slices and added to finished pasta.
That sounds awesome!!
Delicious recipe, fast & easy! Added carrots, green beans, and broccoli because that is what was in the refrigerator. My family loved it! Thank you!
You're very welcome!!
Thanks so much for this recipe!! Delicious. The only complaint I had, is I followed the instructions for the sauce, but it ended up burning right away. Not sure if it's just my stove top or sauce pan, but next time I'll start the butter and flour maybe on a lower heat.
That being said, it still turned out just fine!
I'm so glad it worked out. Yes, cookware can definitely vary as can stoves (like gas runs hotter, for example). Definitely try at a lower heat next time. Thanks for your review!
OMG. I LOVE THIS RECIPE. No need for any type of meat. If you follow the recipe as how It Is It's amazing
Miranda @ Salt & Lavender says
Aw we appreciate that, Natalie!! 🙂
Absolutely delicious, as good, if not better, as any Penne I have had in any Italian restaurant. That’s saying something, as I have eaten in some of the best up and down the California coast, especially San Francisco. Natasha never disappoints in her flavors.
Aww thanks so much!! I'm so happy you liked it!
I love this recipe. Easy to add seasonings and great to finish with bacon and extra Parmesan. I appreciate your sharing this!
Miranda @ Salt & Lavender says
Wonderful to hear, Betty! So glad you liked it!
I looked up quick and easy meals to make for dinner while my husband is out of town. My picky 8 year old who NEVER eats dinner is on his second serving of this pasta. It’s so good and easy.
Well that's fantastic to hear!! 😀 Thanks for letting me know!
Easy & Tasty dish, which I prepared with sausage & broccoli..
Thankfully I had all the ingredients on-hand..
I made this and it was sooooo yummy but i did not have italian seasoning, so i subbed italian dressing instead... thank you for sharing
Stasha Simon says
Would this recipe freeze well?
Hi! I don't think so, unfortunately. Creamy sauces don't reheat too well (they often separate), and the pasta itself will likely go a bit puffy/soggy.
Delicious and easy! Perfect comfort meal. Always love your recipes, Natasha! Thank you 🙂
I'm so happy you enjoyed it (and the other recipes). Thank you, Sam! 😀
I’ve never left a review on a food blog before but I just have to say you’ve really helped me to level up my pasta game! I love how simple and easy to follow your recipes are. They serve as a great foundation to be served as is or built upon.
I made this one tonight and, inspired by some of your other recipes, added bacon and grilled chicken seasoned with ranch mix. It really hit the spot.
I also regularly make your creamy tomato pasta recipe and love the tortellini with butter, mushrooms and crispy sage.
That makes me so happy. I really appreciate you taking the time to write a review... it helps us food bloggers (and our readers) out! 🙂