Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce
Made with fresh tomatoes, milk, and Neufchatel cheese. This fresh tomato cream sauce is tossed with hot penne for an easy, light, and meatless meal.
Love creamy dishes? Try our 3-Ingredient Alfredo Sauce.
Try this 30-minute pasta in a silky tomato cream sauce for dinner with just a few simple steps to a dish bursting with fresh flavors. The fresh tomatoes, spinach, and herbs infused this sauce with savory, creamy goodness in every bite.
It’s creamy with a slight kick from the spices. Fresh tomatoes and spinach add the perfect amount of balance to the creaminess in this dish.
Reasons to Love Pasta with a Tomato Cream Sauce
- Irresistibly creamy and flavorful. The base is full of delicious flavors from the vegetables cooking together and made creamy with cream cheese and milk. This creates a wonderfully velvety sauce that adheres to the pasta perfectly. Think alfredo but so much more!
- Easy to make. This pasta with tomato cream sauce starts by cooking the tomatoes with garlic, red pepper flakes, and basil to infuse the sauce. Then, this herby veggie mixture is made into a simple roux before adding the cheeses, followed by spinach and a bit of pasta water.
- Meat-free vegetarian meal. I love creating recipes that stand alone without the need for meat, just like our cajun cream sauce recipe. It’s delicious to enjoy a light recipe that still packs on the flavor!
To make pasta cream sauce with milk, you will need the following ingredients:
- Tomatoes: Beefsteak or plum tomatoes work the best. You want to use tomatoes that are firm.
- Garlic: Nothing beats fresh garlic. It tastes the best.
- Red pepper flakes: Pepper flakes add the perfect amount of heat. Add more if you like!
- Basil: Dried basil or fresh basil works here.
- Flour: Flour is going to thicken the sauce. I’ve made the sauce without the flour completely and it was just not thickened enough.
- Milk: Whole milk or 2% milk works great. I would not use anything lower in fat than that. You want the creaminess of the milk.
- Cream Cheese: I used Neufchatel cheese, which is 1/3 less fat cream cheese. But feel free to use regular cream cheese. Just make sure it’s the one in a brick and not the spreadable kind.
- Parmesan cheese: Buy a wedge of real Parmesan cheese and shred it yourself. It’s going to taste fresh and it melts better than the pre-shredded cheese.
- Spinach: I’ve only made the recipe with fresh spinach but I would imagine frozen spinach can work too. Make sure to thaw out the spinach completely and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
- Parsley: Don’t like parsley? Substitute with fresh basil instead. You can chop the basil or thinly slice it.
- Pasta: Use what you like! I love penne just because it’s something I have on hand all the time but just about any type of pasta works.
You will also need pantry staples, such as olive oil, kosher salt, and fresh black pepper.
How to Make Pasta Cream Sauce with Milk
Step 1: In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, and basil for about 3 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and some of the liquid has reduced. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.
Tip: After you get the tomatoes in the pan and wait for them to cook down, get started on your pasta. That way the pasta finishes cooking around the same time as the sauce.
Step 2: Reduce heat to medium and gradually whisk in the milk. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in cream cheese and Parmesan and cook until melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Step 3: Add spinach and stir until wilted, and then, add the parsley. Add cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Serve immediately with more Parmesan cheese, if desired.
- Use another leafy green. I love the soft bite of spinach in this creamy red pasta sauce, but you can use other greens such as kale, collards, or Swiss chard. They have a bit more chew, but they still taste great.
- Swap the pasta. I love penne pasta, but feel free to use any pasta you have on hand. It’ll also vary the recipe so you can enjoy it more often but in different ways.
- Add a protein. If you’re not worried about this being a vegetarian dish, serve it with chicken or steak, or Italian sausage to cook with the veggies at the beginning, similar to our cajun pasta with sausage recipe. Alternatively, you can keep it meat-free by adding chickpeas or tofu.
This pasta with tomato cream sauce tastes delicious on its own paired with fresh salad, such as:
It’s also a great pasta recipe to serve as a side with lighter protein such as grilled chicken tenders when you’re craving a little something extra. Try these chicken recipes:
How to Store
Store leftover creamy tomato pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To reheat, transfer the pasta to a skillet and warm over medium heat. Include a bit of liquid such as water, milk, cream, broth, or white wine to loosen the sauce and keep it silky smooth.
You can swap out the fresh tomatoes for canned whole or diced tomatoes. You may need to remove some of the excess liquid. A 14.5-ounce can of tomatoes replaces 1 pound of fresh tomatoes.
Yes, replacing this lower-fat type of cream cheese with regular is easy. Use the block cream cheese, not the whipped kind in a tub.
The red pepper flakes, especially when added at the beginning to cook into the sauce, will give this pasta sauce recipe a bit of a bite. If you’re not interested in any spiciness, you can leave the flakes out, and if someone wants to, they can add it to their individual serving.
More Meatless Pasta Recipes
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta with Spinach
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta Sauce
- Margherita Pasta
- Whole Wheat Mac and Cheese
Made with fresh tomatoes, milk, and neufchatel cheese. This fresh tomato cream sauce is tossed with hot penne for an easy, light, and meatless meal.
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. fresh firm tomatoes, such as beefsteak or plum, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil or 2 tsp. fresh basil
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 oz. Neufchatel cheese (1/3 less fat cream cheese), cubed
- 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach, lightly packed
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
- 8 oz. dry penne pasta
- Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
- In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, and basil. Cook for about 3 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and some of the liquid has reduced.
- Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and gradually whisk in the milk. Let simmer 2-3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
- Stir in cream cheese and Parmesan and cook until melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add spinach and stir until wilted, and then, add the parsley.
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain reserving some of the pasta water. Add pasta to the sauce. Thin out with pasta water as needed. Serve immediately.
- Tomatoes: This sauce is great to make with fresh tomatoes that are on the firm side, whether from the supermarket or your own garden. Beefsteak, plum, or even tomatoes on the vine work great.
- Milk: Whole milk or 2% milk works the best. I wouldn’t use anything lower in fat than that.
- Cream Cheese: Neufchatel cheese is basically lower fat cream cheese. Regular cream cheese can be substituted. Just make sure it’s the brick kind and not the spreadable one.
- Spinach: I’ve never made this dish with frozen spinach but I would imagine it will work. Just make sure to thaw out the spinach completely and squeeze out as much moisture as you can before adding to the sauce.
- Parsley: If parsley is not your thing, add fresh basil instead.
- Pasta: Any type of pasta works here. Just remember to reserve some of that pasta water to thin out the sauce.
- Leftovers: Leftovers will keep refrigerated up to 4 days in an airtight container. Reheat over medium-low heat with a splash of some type of liquid, such as milk, cream, chicken broth, or even white wine.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 397
- Sugar: 8.6 g
- Sodium: 163.4 mg
- Fat: 13.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 56 g
- Protein: 14 g
- Cholesterol: 16.5 mg
Keywords: cream sauce with milk, easy, summer