Easy, cheesy and comforting, this cream cheese pasta recipe makes the perfect week night supper! This easy Philly spaghetti is ready in the time that it takes to cook the pasta. It comes with a silky smooth creamy cheese sauce thanks to my simple pasta hack that every Italian knows!
Easy cream cheese pasta
Creamy, cheesy and so moreish, a plate of Philly pasta is one of my favourite suppers, especially good when you are craving carbs.
Fuss free, and effortless, it is a go-to for midweek meals, eaten curled up on the sofa with a box set and a glass of wine.
This creamy cheese pasta is endlessly adaptable, so you can add in all sorts of flavours. It is equally good with bacon or ham, mushrooms or a different cheese.
If you are feeling grand, fold through some rocket, or make it with black squid ink pasta for a restaurant quality date night meal.
As every Italian knows, the secret to a silky smooth pasta sauce is to add some of the starchy pasta cooking water. This will make your cream cheese pasta sauce go further, and helps it cling to and coat the pasta.
I was taught this trick by a chef in a restaurant kitchen in the back streets of Venice many years ago, and it has now become a habit to scoop out a cup of the cooking liquid from the nearly cooked pasta.
Trust me, it will elevate every single pasta dish you make to the next level!
Why make pasta with cream cheese?
- It is seriously easy, using just a few everyday ingredients.
- Creamy cheesy pasta is FAST – ready in the time it takes the spaghetti to cook.
- My classic Italian pasta sauce trick delivers restaurant quality.
- It is adaptable – easy enough for a simple family supper but also smart enough for date night.
- Satisfies all your carb cravings but lighter than a cream based sauce.
- It is frugal – nothing fancy and expensive here, unless you want to buy artisan pasta!
Philly pasta ingredients
- Pasta – Spaghetti, linguini, tagliatelle or noodle type of pasta are all perfect for this dish. To elevate to another level try something like a squid ink pasta.
- Cream Cheese – Choose your favourite brand. Full fat regular is far better than reduced fat.
- Parmesan – or other Italian hard cheese (Grana Padano is equally good), always freshly grated.
- Garlic – to taste.
- Olive Oil – Use just a splash for frying. I prefer extra virgin unrefined.
Starchy pasta water – the secret ingredient
It isn’t that much of an exaggeration to call this the liquid gold of Italian cooking. Once the pasta is nearly cooked, scoop out a ladle or cup of the rich starchy water.
It is perfect for stretching out the sauce and it adds a luxurious richness and silky smooth texture. If your sauce seems a bit flat, or you need it to go further, the pasta water will work wonders, without adding the heaviness and calories that extra oil or butter does.
The starch in the water creates an emulsion with the fat or oil in the pasta sauce, so for best results take the water out of the pan at the end of the pasta cooking time.
When draining your pasta shake the sieve or colander over the cooking pan to reserve a few last spoons of the rich pasta water. I nearly always add these to the sauce.
How to Make Cream Cheese Pasta – Step by Step
Gather all your ingredients. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Fill and boil the kettle so you have hot water to cook the pasta in.
Step One – Melt the butter in the oil in a large pan over a low heat, and sauté the garlic until it is fragrant. Add the cream cheese and stir until it is melted.
While you are doing this, fill a large pan with the freshly boiled water, add a teaspoon of salt, bring back to a rolling boil and start to cook the pasta.
Step Two – Once the pasta is nearly cooked, scoop out a cup of the pasta water.
Step Three – Add about a third of a cup of the pasta water to the cream cheese sauce. Then bring to a simmer, stirring all the time, to make a thick coating sauce.
Step Four – Drain the pasta, give it a good shake and fold into the creamy cheese mixture, with half the grated parmesan, and a generous seasoning of freshly ground black pepper and salt. Give it a all a good toss to mix. Check the consistency of the sauce and add some more pasta water to loosen it if necessary.
As the pasta cools, the sauce will thicken – make it slightly runnier than you think it needs to be.
Step Five – Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan, serve and eat immediately.
Cream Cheese Pasta Recipe FAQs, Hints & Tips
What pasta do I use?
Any long noodle like pasta. Most people have spaghetti in the cupboard. Linguini or tagliatelle would both work as well.
You can also use a flavoured pasta, such as black squid ink, or even wholemeal pasta.
What else can I add?
I like this dish simple and plain with just the creamy cheese pasta sauce. But this recipe is ideal for using up leftovers and tailoring to your taste. Try adding any of the following to your cream cheese pasta sauce:
- Ham or bacon – chop and fry along with the garlic.
- Leftover roast chicken – again, add with the garlic.
- Sausage, salami or chorizo – add at the start with the garlic.
- Roasted vegetables – add with the cream cheese.
- Sun dried tomatoes – add with the cream cheese.
- Peas & corn – cook along with the pasta.
- Blue cheese – add in with the cream cheese.
- Mushrooms – slice and fry with the garlic.
This dish needs lots of pepper and salt, but you can also add in chopped leafy herbs, and or some chilli (I love dried chilli flake, with all the flavour but not the heat).
Can I make this ahead?
You can but it is so easy I’d never bother. If you want to make this cream cheese pasta recipe ahead, then slightly undercook the pasta and add a glug of water or milk when reheating.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
- Pressure cooker pasta puttanesca
- Easy mac and cheese
- Creamy salmon pasta
- BLT pasta salad
- Garlic chicken pasta
- More pasta recipes
Cream cheese pasta (Philly Pasta)
- 80 g pasta (Any long pasta – spaghetti or tagliatelle. Adjust quantities to your preference.)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 15 g butter
- 100 g cream cheese
- 20 g grated parmesan (1/3 cup)
- 1 tsp salt
- salt and pepper to season.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan on the stove over a medium heat.
- Boil a kettle full of water for the pasta. Pour into a large saucepan, season with a teaspoon of salt, and add the pasta. Cook according to packet instruction until al dente.
- Chop or crush the garlic clove, and cook in the oil and butter until fragrant. You don't want it to start turning brown. Add the cream cheese and stir in until melted.
- When the pasta is nearly cooked, scoop out at least half a cup of pasta water and reserve.
- Add about a third of a cup of pasta water to the cream cheese and stir in. Keep the sauce at a simmer.
- When the pasta is cooked, drain well – give it a good shake – and add it to the cream cheese sauce. Add half the grated cheese, and season generously with salt and pepper. Stir together well, to coat the pasta in the sauce.
- If needed, add more pasta water to the sauce. The sauce will thicken as it cools, so make it slightly runnier than you think it needs to be.
- Serve, sprinkling with the rest of the grated parmesan. Eat immediately.
- small pieces of ham or bacon – cook with the garlic.
- mushrooms – slice and fry with the garlic.
- leftover roast chicken, sausage – cook with the garlic.
- sausage, salami or chorizo – cook with the garlic.
- roasted vegetables – add with the cream cheese.
- sun dried tomatoes – add with the cream cheese.
- peas & corn – cook along with the pasta.
- blue cheese – add in with the cream cheese.
- chopped leafy herbs – add just before serving.
- chilli flakes – for some chilli flavour with a little heat.