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Cheese/ Lunch/ Pasta

Cream Cheese Pasta

April 8, 2019 (Last Updated: July 1, 2023) by Chris Collins

Here I’ll show you a secret tip to getting truly creamy Cream Cheese Pasta without the sauce drying up. With just 5 ingredients, this easy pasta dish is a total winner!

This truly is the easiest pasta recipe of all time. Plus it’s freaking delish. If you’ve got a spare 20mins and your belly is rumbling, you’ve come to the right place. Follow me…

Cream Cheese Pasta served in a white bowl on a marble surface

Pasta with Cream Cheese

I don’t know about you, but if you’ve ever tried cream cheese pasta before, you’ve probably felt a little lacklustre afterwards. Well, same. I’ve seen so many recipes where it’s simply just pasta and cream cheese mixed in. It’s a nice idea, but in reality it just doesn’t taste that great. I was determined to make cream cheese pasta work, so I did a little experimenting, and here’s the result.

It’s kind of like a cream cheese Alfredo sauce. Better still, you only need 5 ingredients!

Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce Ingredients

  • Cream Cheese – I usually go for Philadelphia, but any full fat quality brand works great.
  • Butter – Adds a richness to the sauce. I usually go for unsalted butter, just so you can control the amount of salt better.
  • Parmesan – Freshly grated, not the sandy stuff!
  • Garlic – Where there’s a cheesy sauce there’s gotta be garlic. It’s just the rules 🤷‍♂️
  • Ham – Great because it doesn’t need to be cooked (and it’s usually what I’ve got knocking about in the fridge). Can sub this out (see below).

What Pasta to use?

I usually go for spaghetti because it’s the most economical, so fits in well with this recipe. In all cases though I recommend a long-cut pasta, just to allow the sauce to wrap itself around the pasta!

What else can I add to Cream Cheese Pasta?

If you haven’t got or don’t like ham, you can really add most things in this sauce! Here’s some of my faves:

  • Bacon
  • Mushrooms
  • Leftover Chicken
  • Smoked Sausage
  • Roasted Veggies

A pinch of fresh thyme also works nicely, or even a pinch of chilli flakes to add a kick of spice!

Cream cheese sauce ingredients with arrows and labels

Cream Cheese Pasta Sauce

Okay, so we’ve added some more flavour to the classic cream cheese pasta, but there’s also a second problem. By adding cream cheese straight to pasta it just ends up dry and clumpy. Even thinning it out with milk doesn’t particularly help. So, meet your new best friend.

Starchy Pasta Water

By stirring through some pasta water into melted butter you create an emulsion. This will be the base of your sauce and result in a silky, creamy sauce. A lot of traditional Italian pasta sauces actually only use pasta water and butter, purely because that’s all you need to create a creamy sauce base. But hey, I promised you cream cheese pasta, so that’s what we’re getting 😋

How to use Starchy Pasta Water in Cream Cheese Pasta

Two really important factors to consider. First is you want the pasta water to be properly seasoned with salt. This ensures it doesn’t dilute the flavour of the sauce. Second, you’ll want to scoop the pasta water out JUST before draining. This will ensure the water is nice and starchy, which in turn is what ensures the sauce goes nice and creamy.

How to make Cream Cheese Pasta (quick summary, continue for full recipe)

  1. Fry garlic and ham until lightly browned, then melt in butter.
  2. Completely melt butter and keep on a medium heat.
  3. Stir in pasta water to create an emulsion.
  4. Add cream cheese and parmesan. Season to taste.
  5. Toss through spaghetti.
  6. Thin out with pasta water as needed.

How to make Cream Cheese Pasta - 6 step by step photos

Serving Cream Cheese Pasta

Serve right away with a sprinkling of extra parmesan, just for good measure. If you want to go wild you could add some garlic bread (or cheesy garlic bread, or even cheesy pesto garlic bread!).

Can I make this ahead of time?

This is best made fresh, but with the same token don’t waste any leftovers. Just tightly cover in the fridge then reheat on the stove using a splash of milk or cream to thin out as needed.

If you’re looking for another easy cheesy pasta recipe check out my Four Cheese Pasta!

For more similar recipe check out these beauties too:

Creamy Pasta Recipes

Right, let’s tuck into the full recipe for this cream cheese pasta shall we?

Cream Cheese Pasta in a white bowl with a silver fork sticking out the top

How to make Cream Cheese Pasta (Full Recipe and Video)

Cream Cheese Pasta served on a curved white plate on a marble surface

Cream Cheese Pasta

Here I'll show you a secret tip to getting truly creamy Cream Cheese Pasta without the sauce drying up. With just 5 ingredients, this easy pasta dish is a total winner!
5 from 21 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings (click & slide): 2
Course: Lunch / Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Calories per serving: 761kcal
Cost per serving: £2.50 / $3

Equipment:

  • Large Frying Pan & Wooden Spoon
  • Large Pot & Colander
  • Pasta Tongs
  • Fine Cheese Grater
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board
  • Mug or 1 cup Measuring Cup (for scooping pasta water)

Ingredients (check list):

  • 7oz / 200g Spaghetti
  • 3.5oz / 100g Cream Cheese
  • 3.5oz / 100g Ham, chopped (see notes for subs)
  • 1/4 cup / 20g freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1 clove of Garlic, finely diced
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
  • dash of Olive Oil, for frying

Instructions:

  • Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente. Right before draining, reserve a cup of starchy pasta water.
  • Meanwhile, in a large pan add a drizzle of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds (careful it doesn't burn), then stir in the ham and fry until it just starts to turn golden.
  • Melt in 2 tbsp butter, then add about 80ml / 1/3 cup of starchy pasta water. Quickly whisk in a circular motion to create an emulsion and combine the starchy water with the butter. The water should go cloudy and thicken slightly.
  • Turn the heat down slightly and stir in cream cheese until it melts, then stir in the parmesan until it blends into the sauce. Season to taste then add the cooked spaghetti. Toss the spaghetti until the sauce thickens around and clings to it. If it dries out at all just toss in more starchy water a splash at a time. If you go overboard just continue tossing the pasta until the sauce re-thickens.
  • Serve with extra helpings of parmesan. Enjoy!

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) What Cream Cheese to use? - I use Philadelphia (not sponsored) but use a good quality brand. The cream cheese is the main event so don't skimp out on something low quality. 
b) How much pasta water to use? - Start off with 1/3 cup to create the emulsion, add in all of your other ingredients and then adjust accordingly. Important to scoop the water out JUST before draining to ensure it's nice and starchy (the starch is what helps turn the sauce creamy). Also important to heavily salt the water so you don't dilute the flavour of the sauce.
c) What Can I add to Cream Cheese Pasta? - I use leftover ham because that's usually what's knocking about in my fridge, but you can really add anything you fancy! Just keep it to around 3.5oz/100g so you don't overload the pasta. Other ideas are:
  • Bacon
  • Mushrooms
  • Leftover Chicken
  • Roasted Veggies
  • Smoked Sausage
Seasoning wise this creamy sauce takes on fresh thyme nicely. You could also spice it up with a pinch of chilli flakes!
d) Can I reheat this pasta? - I wouldn't make this ahead of time for the purpose of reheating. Fresh is certainly best. BUT, don't waste leftovers. Just tightly cover in the fridge for 2-3days then reheat on the stove over a low heat with a splash of milk or cream to loosen up the sauce again.
e) Calories - based on using 1 tsp olive oil for frying and shared between 2 people.

Your Private Notes:

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Cream Cheese Pasta
Amount Per Serving
Calories 761 Calories from Fat 308
% Daily Value*
Fat 34.22g53%
Saturated Fat 17.928g90%
Trans Fat 0.146g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2.142g
Monounsaturated Fat 10.108g
Cholesterol 95mg32%
Sodium 994mg41%
Potassium 417mg12%
Carbohydrates 82.53g28%
Fiber 3.2g13%
Sugar 4.27g5%
Protein 30.02g60%
Vitamin A 2300IU46%
Vitamin C 0.8mg1%
Calcium 220mg22%
Iron 4mg22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart
Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'

If you loved this Cream Cheese Pasta recipe then be sure to Pin it for later! Already made it or got a burning question? Give me a shout in the comments below and pick up your free ecookbook along the way!

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Recipe Rating




44 Comments

  • Reply
    Sue Barclay
    April 29, 2023 at 8:32 pm

    5 stars
    Used up what I had in the fridge. Saint Augur creamy and pancetta. Made a superb meal, Thank you for the recipe/

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      April 30, 2023 at 10:57 am

      That combo sounds bliss! Will have to try it myself! C.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Paterson
    November 26, 2021 at 5:41 pm

    5 stars
    What can I say – even I had a success with this and I’ve had some disasters in the kitchen ‍
    I used raw prawns and really enjoyed it. Keep the recipes coming, they’re superb.
    Lizzie

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      November 27, 2021 at 1:55 pm

      So glad it went down well! Will have to try it with prawns myself! Thanks for the review 🙂 C.x

  • Reply
    Suzy
    November 3, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve always messed up carbonara until I tried this recipe! 100% perfect .. I swapped ham for pancetta cubes. Thanks I’ve made this many times now, always a hit! X

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      November 3, 2021 at 7:04 pm

      Hey Suzy! So glad you enjoyed the carbonara recipe (you’re currently on my cream cheese pasta recipe ). Thank you for the review either way 🙂 C. x

  • Reply
    Elly
    October 27, 2021 at 9:20 pm

    5 stars
    Many thanks for this. Am vegetarian and I am always looking for new and easy ideas as I love pasta. Had a pack of cheese and onion flavoured soft cheese which was too soft for crackers so this was perfect. I adapted with what I had in and used Flora plant instead of butter, a handful of grated cheddar and dried Parmesan as I had no fresh. Also added fake bacon lardons, courgettes and onions and a good shake of black pepper. It was delicious and will definitely be added to my favourites.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      October 28, 2021 at 2:38 pm

      Sounds like a great combination! So glad you enjoyed the recipe 🙂

  • Reply
    Jen
    October 14, 2021 at 3:45 am

    5 stars
    I just made this for dinner and it was a huge hit! Due to dairy allergies, I made it with Trader Joe’s vegan cream cheese, Trader Joe’s vegan shredded parmesan, and earth balance instead of butter. I also used ground chicken italian sausage and added green peas. It was decadent and creamy, exactly the type of dish I’ve missed since having to avoid dairy. Thanks for a fantastic recipe, it’s definitely a keeper!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      October 14, 2021 at 2:00 pm

      So happy to hear the recipe went down well, Jen! The adjustments sound great 🙂

  • Reply
    AnnMarie
    January 27, 2021 at 2:34 am

    5 stars
    Made this tonight… used chopped up spicy hot links and shrimp….. so good!!! Thank you for this super easy recipe!!!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      February 1, 2021 at 6:02 pm

      That’s awesome to hear! And thank you so much for the review 🙂 Chris.x

  • Reply
    Eglė Milavickas
    October 16, 2020 at 2:37 am

    5 stars
    OMG!!! Soo simple & soo delish.
    Some differences, I used Fettuccine noodles, whipped cream cheese & added a good splash of milk.
    Next time, going to fry up bacon & also add in peas.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      October 16, 2020 at 10:09 am

      Oooo yum! Bacon and peas sound like a fab addition! 🙂

    • Reply
      Natasha R Doyel
      January 16, 2021 at 12:05 am

      5 stars
      I added bacon Instead of ham. It was delicious.

  • Reply
    Craig P
    June 30, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    5 stars
    Brilliant and simple recipe! Have made this a few times and the whole family love it. I used smoked sausage and spring onion

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      June 30, 2020 at 3:49 pm

      Love it! I’m gonna have to try smoked sausage and spring onion now, sounds like an awesome combo!

  • Reply
    Mamatotwo
    May 18, 2020 at 2:20 am

    5 stars
    5 star recipe! I used bacon, and hubby said it was better than restaurant pasta. Easy, quick comfort meal. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      May 18, 2020 at 10:14 am

      That’s awesome! Happy to hear it went down well! 🙂

  • Reply
    Diana
    April 20, 2020 at 1:19 am

    5 stars
    Delicious and super easy to make. This is going to be a regular in our home now.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      April 20, 2020 at 9:47 am

      Woo hoo! So glad it went down well, Diana 🙂

  • Reply
    Natalie
    April 10, 2020 at 12:17 am

    5 stars
    Tasty and super simple recipe. Will make it forever.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      April 10, 2020 at 9:59 am

      Woo hoo! 🙂 Thanks for popping back and leaving a review!

  • Reply
    Lee
    March 30, 2020 at 2:05 am

    5 stars
    While “sheltering in” I was desperate to use up a half box of pasta and some leftover bacon and mushrooms. This was really simple, satisfying and will go into my recipe box for sure!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 30, 2020 at 11:54 am

      Thanks, Lee! Glad it went down well 🙂

  • Reply
    Amy
    March 18, 2020 at 7:06 pm

    5 stars
    I had cream cheese that was about to expire and wanted to make a savory dish. i am sooo happy that i came across your recipe. it was so much better than i was expecting. absolutely delicious!! i am sure i will be making this quite often in the future! thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 18, 2020 at 9:51 pm

      So glad it turned out well, Amy! Thanks for popping back to leave a review 🙂

  • Reply
    Susan
    March 7, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    I’m a vegetarian so instead of ham, mushrooms and zucchini. Follow all the ingredients. Yummy.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      March 7, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      Mushrooms and zucchini sound like a yummy addition! 🙂

  • Reply
    Zee
    January 20, 2020 at 3:24 am

    5 stars
    This is the easiest and most practical way to make a pasta, but you can’t underestimate the result… my kid loved it so much she wants me to make it again for her and her friends
    Since I’m not someone who loves spending much time cooking this recipe is super to me Thank you for sharing this!

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      January 20, 2020 at 12:26 pm

      So glad it went down well, Zee! I actually had this for dinner last night, reminded me how easy it is!! Thanks for popping back and leaving your feedback 🙂 Chris x

    • Reply
      Mahmud
      April 18, 2021 at 3:40 pm

      5 stars
      This is really awesome.

  • Reply
    Kelly
    December 1, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    5 stars
    This dish was delicious and super easy to make. I used ham from thanksgiving dinner. You won’t be disappointed. ❤️

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      December 2, 2019 at 9:28 am

      Such a good idea using leftover ham! Glad it was enjoyed 🙂

  • Reply
    Neli Howard
    April 9, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    5 stars
    This pasta look so classic and easy yet perfect for a nicer dinner too! That sauce looks incredibly creamy and flavorful!!

    • Reply
      Chris
      April 9, 2019 at 4:27 pm

      Thanks Neli ! 🙂

  • Reply
    Katherine Hackworthy
    April 9, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    5 stars
    I really like an easy to make tasty meal, ideal for busy mid-week days. This looks delicious and perfect for those days when you need good comfort food. No fussing, but always tasty.

    • Reply
      Chris
      April 9, 2019 at 4:27 pm

      Yes! So good for busy mid-week days!

  • Reply
    Rosa
    April 9, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    5 stars
    Wow this sounds decadent!! I bet my kiddos would love this. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Chris
      April 9, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      Definitely kid approved! 🙂

  • Reply
    Nicolas Hortense
    April 9, 2019 at 11:49 am

    What I love is that pasta clearly doesn’t need much else! It’s just perfect like that. Looks so creamy and delicious! (:

    • Reply
      Chris
      April 9, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      Yup, you’re totally right there!

  • Reply
    Dannii
    April 9, 2019 at 10:52 am

    5 stars
    We make a variation of this for our toddler and it always goes down well. You can’t beat cheesy pasta.

    • Reply
      Chris
      April 9, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      You’re so right, you really can’t beat cheesy pasta!

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