When it comes to deciding what to make for dinner, a bowl of creamy pasta offers the best of both worlds. It’s quick and easy to prepare, making it a great choice if you’re busy and don’t have much time for cooking. On the other hand, that rich, creamy sauce makes it feel like a deeply indulgent treat.
How to make creamy pasta sauce
There are many different recipes involving creamy pasta sauce, and several different ways to make it. It can be as simple as adding heavy cream or sour cream to stock, wine or sautéed vegetables, but most creamy pasta recipes are made using variations on either Italian Alfredo sauce, or French béchamel.
Alfredo sauce originated with the dish Fettuccine Alfredo, which was created by 19th century chef Alfredo di Lelio, and used a simple sauce of melted butter and Parmesan. When the dish spread to the US, people began adding heavy cream to the recipe, and most versions nowadays include cream. You can buy Alfredo sauce in jars from your local store to use in various creamy pasta recipes, but homemade is much tastier, and doesn’t really take too much time to make.
To make your own Alfredo sauce, simply heat 1 part butter and 3 parts heavy cream over a low heat for around 2 minutes, then stir in 4 parts freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add seasonings like garlic, herbs or black pepper according to the dish you want to make.
Béchamel is one of the French ‘Mother Sauces’, and is made using milk and a roux of flour and butter. It also makes a deliciously creamy addition to pasta, and is particularly popular in oven-baked dishes like mac n’ cheese, lasagne or cannelloni. It is also known as ‘white sauce’ in English-speaking countries.
Now you know the basics, it’s time to get cooking with our Top 10 creamy pasta recipes to tantalise your tastebuds without tying you down in the kitchen.
Tagliatelle With zucchini, peas and basil cream
Fine Dining Lovers’ very own recipe for tagliatelle with zucchini, peas and basil cream is a celebration of the flavours of spring, with sweet garden peas, mellow zucchini and a fragrant basil cream. The dish is perfectly balanced, with fresh vegetable flavours and a squeeze of zesty lemon keeping things light, while the creamy sauce adds a touch of luxury. In fact, this dish has an extra-special sauce that is part béchamel, part Alfredo, with a roux for added depth of flavour, and heavy cream and Parmesan for extra richness.
Creamy artichoke and blue cheese fettuccine
Made using a classic Alfredo sauce, this artichoke and blue cheese fettuccine from Taste of Home balances savoury mushroom and salty blue cheese with fresh and tender artichoke hearts. It’s perfect for lunch or supper, and takes just 20 minutes to make from start to finish. The recipe calls for store-bought Alfredo sauce, but you may also choose to make your own, which will add five minutes or so to the overall cook time.
Creamy prosciutto pasta
An instant family favourite, this creamy prosciutto pasta recipe from Taste of Home is full of big flavours like mushrooms, onions and salty prosciutto ham. It’s packed with healthy spinach, too, so it’s a great way to tempt your kids to eat their greens. It takes just 25 minutes to prepare, making it perfect for busy weeknights. As before, add an extra 5 minutes if you want to make your Alfredo sauce from scratch. Make a huge bowl for everyone to help themselves, and serve with salad and crusty bread.
Creamy pasta salad
Perfect for barbecues, buffets and potlucks, this perfect pasta salad from Cooking for Keeps is full of crunchy Mediterranean vegetables and can be adapted to include your - or your guests’ - favourites. The secret to this dish is all in the sauce, which is made with mayonnaise, sour cream, tangy buttercream, and the special ingredient - beef bouillon. The addition of beef bouillon adds an irresistibly savoury, umami-rich layer to the sauce, and gives the dish real depth of flavour. Your guests will never guess the secret behind your perfect pasta salad, but do make sure that your vegetarian and vegan friends are aware it contains meat.
White sauce pasta
This 15 minute white sauce pasta recipe from Lil’ Luna can be enjoyed by itself or used as a basic sauce for all your creamy pasta creations. You can spice it up with chilli flakes or black pepper, add Mediterranean vegetables like tomatoes, olives and peppers, or fresh garden produce like broccoli, peas and spinach. Boost your protein with grilled chicken, ham or shrimp, or make it extra cheesy with mozzarella or crumbled blue cheese.
This versatile white sauce is based on the classic French béchamel, with a few notable additions such as garlic and chicken broth. Béchamel, also known as white sauce, is one of the five French ‘mother sauces’, so-named because they can be built upon, just as this recipe does, to make new sauces.
If you want to make your own béchamel-based white sauce, take a look at our guide to how to make white sauce like a pro, which includes regular, vegan and gluten-free options.
Creamy garlic chicken pasta
This fast and flavourful creamy garlic chicken pasta from Gimme Delicious is another 25 minute wonder, and works equally well as a busy weeknight dinner or as a treat for dinner guests. The creaminess of the homemade, Alfredo-based sauce is complemented with sweet, juicy tomatoes, smoky paprika and plenty of garlic, while pan-fried chicken breast adds a deliciously savoury element. If you have any leftovers, cook them up with some eggs the next morning for an extra-special frittata brunch.
Creamy shrimp pasta
The fresh, delicate flavour of seafood is just perfect with rich, creamy sauces, and this simple but elegant creamy shrimp pasta from Natasha’s Kitchen is a great example. Based on an old favourite from a popular chain restaurant, it is made with juicy shrimps and a customised Alfredo sauce with white wine and smoky paprika. This is another dish that’s great for entertaining, and because it only takes 25 minutes to make, you’ll have more time to spend with your guests.
Creamy pasta with crispy mushrooms
A vegetarian dish with an intensely meaty flavour, this recipe for creamy pasta with crispy mushrooms from Bon Appetit is made with a mixture of different mushroom varieties, all pan-fried until crispy. This adds a deep umami flavour to the dish, along with a contrasting texture to the creamy, Alfredo-based sauce.
Creamy tomato pasta
Sweet, juicy tomatoes and creamy pasta sauce are a classic combination, and this creamy tomato pasta from The Kitchn gets the balance just right. Essentially an alcohol-free, kid-friendly version of penne alla vodka, it makes the perfect, no fuss midweek meal. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a touch of spice, or keep it sweet and simple.
Bow ties with gorgonzola sauce
This indulgent and hearty recipe for bow ties with Gorgonzola sauce from Taste of Home uses an extra rich béchamel, or white sauce, made with half and half cream instead of milk, flavoured with creamy Gorgonzola cheese and chunks of pork sausage.
Geranium's Rasmus Kofoed has decided to stop serving meat at the restaurant currently ranked number two on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list. But the Danish chef isn't yet willing to go purely plant-based.