Cheese/ Lunch/ Pasta

Cream Cheese Pasta

April 8, 2019 (Last Updated: November 18, 2020) 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

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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 13 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Lunch / Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 2
Calories: 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)
  • 1/3 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 spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente. Right before draining, reserve a cup of starchy pasta water.
  • Meanwhile, in a pan heat a drizzle of olive oil over a medium heat and fry garlic and ham for a few minutes until lightly browned.
  • Melt in 2 tbsp butter, then add about 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 heat down slightly then stir in cream cheese and add parmesan. Season to taste then add spaghetti. Toss through the sauce, using your starchy water to thin out the sauce if needed. 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.

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.
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